LSE-Berkeley Undergraduate Student Exchange

LSE is now offering students the opportunity to spend a full academic year studying in the College of Letters and Science at Berkeley, which is one of the best public universities in the world.

LSE is committed to producing global citizens and providing students with opportunities to enhance their degrees. We believe that a year abroad exchange enhances LSE's students experiences by instilling increased confidence, and providing a different academic perspective and better understanding of another culture. In short, it will make students more productive and engaged citizens at home and abroad. 

This is why we are now offering students the opportunity to spend a full academic year studying in the College of Letters and Science at Berkeley. It is highly rated for the quality and breadth of its research and the distinction of its faculty. It also has well-established arrangements for undergraduate exchange programmes and currently offers them with some 290 universities worldwide. 

The sections below cover all the information you need and should guide you through the process of application. If you have any additional questions, please email us

An information session for students interested in applying to the LSE-Berkeley undergraduate exchange took place on Friday 1st November 2019. If you were not able to attend, please take a look at the two sets of slides used on that day.

Completed application forms should be submitted by:

Friday 29 November 2019 at 11.59pm.


Academic Information

You will need to: 

  • Take a full course load within the College of Letters and Science at Berkeley;
  • Complete a “Study Plan” listing the classes you would be interested in taking during your year abroad which includes at least 13 units each semester (this normally equates to around four classes); 
  • The Study Plan should include your proposed major that reflects your interests whilst on exchange (please note however that the major and your classes should be selected from within the College of Letters and Science, and you will not be able to enrol in Bioengineering, Design, Computer Science, Electrical Engineering, Engineering Mathematics, Exercise Biology, Industrial Engineering and Operational Research or Statistics, or any classes in the Haas School of Business); 
  • When considering a course, you will also need to review the UC catalogue for course descriptions and information on prerequisites;
  • You should discuss your course choice with your LSE Academic Adviser in advance; and
  • Ensure you don't take courses that directly overlap with courses you have taken or are going to take at LSE.

How does this fit with my LSE Degree?

The scheme is open to all LSE students who are currently in the second year of their undergraduate programme or students in the third year of their PPE degree. We would normally require you to have passed all your first year exams without needing to retake any of them, and have an average of 60% from your first year courses. Please note that if you are offered a place on the scheme but fail one or more of your second year exams, you may be withdrawn from the scheme. 

The Berkeley exchange is additional to the requirements of your LSE degree. Having completed the year at Berkeley, you will then return to LSE to study the final year of your undergraduate degree. Your year at Berkeley will not count towards your final classification, although we still consider the year abroad to be a very useful learning experience for students. Berkeley will also issue you with a transcript providing details of your results.

Fees and Finance

Students are not required to pay any tuition fees to Berkeley to participate in the exchange, although you will still need to continue paying tuition fees to LSE. The tuition fee for the exchange year is, however, significantly discounted. For home and EU students the fees will be 15% of your normal fee and if you are an international stduent it will be 50%. 

For example if students began their degrees in 2017/18 and go abroad in 2019/20, the fees rates would be as follows:

  • UK/EU students: £1,350
  • International students: £4,625

If you are eligible, you will be able to apply for a loan to cover these tuition fees through the Student Loan Company.

The estimated cost of living in 2018-19 was US$18,900 (or £13,960 based on the exchange rate on 8th January 2018), excluding travel and visa costs. We will update this amount as soon as we have an accurate figure for 2019-20. For planning purposes we suggest you factor a potential 5% increase. As part of Berkeley’s own application process, you will need to confirm that you have access to sufficient funds to cover your cost of living whilst in the USA. 


Financial Support available: 

  • If you are a UK/EU student and receive support from Student Finance, you will continue to be eligible for support for the year in the USA but will need to notify Student Finance of your exchange year.
  • If you are a UK/EU student in receipt of an LSE Bursary, your award will be renewed at its current rate for the year in the USA (subject to assessment by the Financial Support Office). This does not include LSE scholarships.
  • International students who have loans or scholarships from their home countries will need to check with their lenders/sponsors whether funding can be extended to the year in the USA. Please note that LSE can help with providing official documentation to confirm that students will be participating in a recognised exchange.     

Housing, Health, Insurance and Visas

Students are eligible to apply for Berkeley housing on- or off-campus (many of which include meal plans), although accommodation is not guaranteed. Student
accommodation is in shared rooms and further information about housing options can be found on the University of California’s reciprocity webpages (note: the term ‘Reciprocity’ is used by the University of California to refer to their incoming exchange students). Many campus housing facilities are closed during term breaks, so students may have to travel or make alternate living arrangements during these periods. 

Students who are not successful in applying for Berkeley accommodation can arrive up to 30 days before the start of term to look for housing in the local community. Additionally, Berkeley’s Community Housing Office provides information about external rental resources and advice about your rights and obligations as a private renter.

What about healthcare?

Students must ensure that they have suitable insurance for the year abroad. Medical treatment in the USA can be very expensive and exchange students will be enrolled in Berkeley’s mandatory campus insurance plan. The cost of this insurance will be confirmed in due course, but is normally in the region of $2,580 for the academic year (approximately £2,030) and is included in the estimated cost of living calculated by Berkeley.


LSE students are eligible to apply for cover under LSE's Travel Insurance policy, however, this is not a substitute for Berkeley’s insurance plan and cannot be used for general medical expenses in the USA. Rather, students may use this policy for travel insurance to and from the USA (for example, in case of lost luggage, for example) and/or for emergency medical care. To qualify for coverage, students who are selected for the LSE - Berkeley exchange will be required to complete a Risk Assessment form before they are issued with the policy cover note. Further information will be provided to relevant students as appropriate.


Most students will need to apply for a J1 exchange visitor visa to study at Berkeley (exceptions for U.S. and Canadian citizens can be found in the ‘Visa Information’ section here). J1 visa holders can arrive up to 30 days in advance of the start of term and stay up to 30 days after the programme dates (NB: the latter 30 days is called the “grace period” - students must stay in the US during the grace period, ie, no trips to Mexico or Canada unless you are counting on departing from there).

You should apply for your visa as soon as you receive your Certificate of Eligibility (the DS-2019) from Berkeley. To apply for your visa, contact the U.S. Embassy to confirm application procedures and application fee information, and to arrange your interview.

If you are not a UK citizen, you may need to plan for a longer visa application processing time. You should also contact the U.S. Embassy to explain your situation and to check whether they will require you to apply for a visa from your home country.

To comply with U.S. immigration policy, you will be required to study full-time and take at least 13 semester units each term, which equates to roughly four (4) classes. You can also participate in ‘academic training’, i.e. internships, during the year abroad.

Further information can be found on Berkeley’s Reciprocity and Visa Resources web pages. We advise that you read these carefully to check if you will be able to meet the requirements to be sponsored by Berkeley for your visa application.

How will the exchange affect my Tier 4 visa?

International students who are studying at LSE on a Tier 4 visa should note that any additional time spent on an exchange will count towards the five-year cap on degree level studies in the UK. During your time at UC Berkeley, LSE will withdraw sponsorship of your Tier 4 (General) visa. You will only be able to apply for your new Tier 4 visa to return to your studies at LSE from outside the UK. You should also note that the time taken to curtail your previous Tier 4 visa will also count towards the cap. The extra year abroad will not make your programme a four-year degree to be able to extend the cap to six years at degree level. If you are a four year PPE student or are planning to study a Masters programme of more than 12 months in length in the UK, we strongly recommend that you consider the possible implications of adding an additional year abroad to your programme of study on your future plans.

How will the exchange affect my status as an EU/EEA national in the UK post-Brexit?

If you are an EU/EEA/Swiss national and are considering attending the exchange, we recommend that you contact the International Student Visa Advice Team for more information on the EU Settlement Scheme and your status during a year abroad. Further information can be found on this webpage

How to apply

The exchange is open to all second year undergraduate students and third year PPE students. As only ten places are available for the LSE - Berkeley undergraduate exchange each year, selection for participation will be on a competitive basis. As a first step, LSE will scrutinise applications before deciding which candidates to nominate to Berkeley.

For the internal (LSE) process, the panel are looking for candidates who will represent the LSE to the best of their ability during the exchange and who want to take part for the opportunities it will bring academically and personally. In assessing your application, the panel will be looking for:

  • evidence that you have given this opportunity careful thought and  have strong reasons for wanting to take advantage of it;
  • you have undertaken suitable research, for instance by reviewing the Berkeley website; and
  • a detailed explanation of why you would like to study at Berkeley and how the year would contribute to your future work and/or study plans.

To be considered for the internal application process, you will need to submit the online application form - this should include the name of your referee and all of the marks from the first year of your studies at LSE. Please inform your referee that we may contact them if you are successfully shortlisted. We are unable to accept Graduate Teaching Assistants (GTAs) as referees. We regret that only applicants with an average grade of 60 will be considered due to UC Berkeley requiring a 2:1 average.

Completed application forms should be submitted via email to by Friday 29 November 2019 at 11.59pm, quoting ‘Berkeley Undergraduate Exchange Application' in the subject line of the e-mail.

We are unable to accept any applications after this date. 

Shortlisting of 30 applicants will take place after the closing date for submission of applications. Shortlisted candidates will be contacted by LSE's Christmas closure (20th December). After shortlisting has been completed, referees will be contacted and will be required to submit a reference.

Successful students will then be required to complete the University of California Education Abroad Program application process, including completion of an intended Study Plan, outlining which courses you would like to take in each semester at Berkeley (to be submitted by Saturday 1st February 2020).

Further information will be provided to relevant students in due course.