UWC Exchange Program

Ricardo De Luca Tuma and Phillipa Hawke (UWCAC,'11-'13). Edited by Anna Yamaoka-Enkerlin and Jeremie Boivin-Cote (UWCAC, Canada '13-’15)

A group of students from UWC Atlantic College have undertaken the task of creating an exchange program between UWC schools. However, they need your help to make this possible!


The UWC movement

“United world colleges make education a force to unite peoples, nations and cultures for a peaceful and sustainable future”. This is the mission statement that has guided the UWC movement, it is the reason why such a diverse mix of students with different political views, religions and ethnicities come together and strive to achieve. This simple statement was designed to prevent a third world war and unite a world under extreme turmoil. Ultimately it changed the way education was viewed and used forever. The United World College of the Atlantic was the first UWC to be set up. With a small diversity of nationalities, an uncertain future and curriculum, the school slowly grew to achieve renowned, funding and interest from many countries that swiftly sent their best students to partake in the experience. The United World College of South East Asia was next to be set up in 1971 although it was different to Atlantic College, it provided a UWC experience to a students that ranged from four to eighteen years of age. The name after being strongly supported Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson of Canada and UWC Pearson College was opened in West Canada in 1974. The island in which the school was built was chosen following the traits that marked the AC campus: isolated but still accessible, close to nature where sports and physical activities could be done, and close to a body of water where navigation and rescuing could be carried out. This expansionist trend continued when the Southern African UWC was opened in 1981.

The school had caught the attention of the UWC movement as one of the few in Southern Africa where African and Caucasian students could study side by side as equals during the era of Apartheid and for sharing the same ideals as those of Kurt Hahn, and was therefore “converted” and incorporated into the UWC movement. More and more UWCs have opened around the world, built from the ground up or converted from “regular” schools. New environments were conquered from the dry landscapes of Mahindra and the American West to the urban settings of Li Po Chun and South East Asia.

It is wonderful that the UWC experience has been able to reach an increasing amount of people, having today some 50,000 alumni and over 1000 current students. All UWCs share a common mission and ideals and try to provide a life-changing experience while committed to create a peaceful and sustainable future. Despite this, it is undeniable that each campus has something different to offer. Each United World College is unique and holds its own identity dependant on its geographical location and local culture in which it is immersed, allowing and encouraging its students to have as many experiences in their two years as possible.


This is why we as students excel at all we do at Atlantic College, whether it be in community service, academics or in the arts. The fact that we are surrounded by people from all over the world gives a chance to take on a new perspective in what we normally do whilst giving us all a global view on what we learn every day.  The experiences that are offered to us engage us with the local environment, be it in the sea with the lifeboats and rescue service, or fire safety in the Indian dry lands. We engage with the local community through social service, and try as much as possible to assimilate into the local community, while still preserving our international richness and diversity, making us proof of the ideal “Think Globally act Locally”.

In the fifty years that the movement has existed, the individual schools have faced a lot of change. Dealing with the local laws and communities, changes in staff and ideals from the student body have lead schools to adapt their policies and day to day lives. New ideas and initiatives have been taken up, while others have ceased to exist. While trying to provide the best experience possible within their own walls, the UWCs have steered away from each other. Although we present ourselves as a united, cohesive movement that belongs to a broader community, when we leave out school during out time here the UWC “ movement” within colleges seem more like separate cells, articulating themselves independently. Not only are we deviating from each other, but it has also come to the attention of many students that the schools are perhaps moving away from the initial set up of UWC.

Change is natural, necessary and sometimes wanted, but as a movement it is our duty to guarantee that we preserve that what is most precious to us: our values and the founding ideals of Kurt Hahn. We must remain a united movement, as our name suggests, and begin to think together and share our experiences.

Within the UWCs there are different curriculums, academics and extra-curricular activities, and which concentrate on the seven ideals, set out by Kurt Hahn1 and follow the international baccalaureate diploma programme. We can mention the recent implementation of the co-curricular program at Atlantic College by Dave Booker and the excellent arts program at UWC Adriatic. Both are great ideas that enrich the education of their pupils but fail to permeate the remainder of the schools. It is also important to recognise that each UWC has something special about it that only those students that attend that UWC can experience, this is evident as the students at Atlantic College experience the engaging diploma periods such as the recent diploma period focused on the young voices of the Middle East, or the establishment of the Bartos Institute for the Constructive Engagement of Conflict at UWC-USA.  Each UWC is special and unique and offers different aspects of the UWC experience. There is a need to have more interaction between the UWCs so that each aspect can be experienced by the movement as a whole, and hopefully these initiatives could be taken by students to their own schools.

Our Proposal

It is possible to create this shared experience and dissemination of ideas through the use of an exchange program, where students are sent to another UWC for a month or less so that they can be exposed to another UWCs curriculum, activities, service, students, staff and campus. The students will be selected by staff and then will be sent to a specific UWC.

For this exchange program to work it is incontestable that there needs to be a selection committee that is comprised of staff (we recommend the student’s teachers, tutors and house-parents) that will decide whether or not the students that show interest will be able to cope with the experience academically and emotionally. Academically speaking, the students would be sent at the beginning of the second term, when the workload isn’t that large and the students are acclimated with their own UWC and the IB, and would be made to take the subject they are currently enrolled in their original UWC. This would happen with the exception of subjects that are not offered in all UWCs. For example the fact that Atlantic College offers three exclusive humanity subjects; political thought, Global Politics, studies and world religions that are not offered at other UWCs displays how it will be difficult to substitute those subjects at other UWCs. In a case like this, the selection board would probably recommend a shorter stay abroad, and prepare a work pack for the student to complete and study while travelling. Although all IB subjects share a syllabus and at the beginning of a new term most schools will probably be at the same stage, it is necessary to consider that the stage at which a course is being taught may be different to that of the student’s home UWC, in this case the student would also need be given work for them to do from their teachers.

The students that come to Atlantic College could experience the different subjects that are not offered at their UWC such as the aforementioned humanity subjects, as well as experiencing all that is offered in our college on a day to day basis, whether it is service, unique activities or the different food served by the canteen.  Of course the exchange student might have limited access to the activities and services, as some of them require training or prior knowledge, but all in all there will be a lot that can be learned and a lot of great ideas and experiences that only exist in one college. A great example of this is the Kurt Hahn experiential core that was set up in AC last year. It has been a great success and has touched the lives of some 100 students already, bringing them closer to Kurt Hahn’s ideals and pioneering education philosophy. Such an initiative could not be forced onto another UWC, as great as the idea is, but if students were to come here and take a part in it, learning and engaging in it, they would be able to carry that idea and experience to their own school and initiatives like this would spread organically throughout the movement.

It is clear that each UWC comprises of different fees and so there might be a difference in the balance, this is not a problem as the two students that are being exchanged will be continue paying ( or having their National Committees or sponsors paying) their fees, they would be “eating each other’s food and sleeping in each other’s beds, basically living each other’s lives’’, this means that there is no loss or gain in money and there will be no need to transfer money to another UWC. The only matter that would arise is that the students selected will need to pay their way to the other UWC, covering travel costs on their own. Although John Walmsley, head of Atlantic College, suggested that funding could be sought out to pay for students that cannot afford the travel expenses of going to the other UWCs and in future such a fund could be permanently set up. One should keep in mind that the benefit of sending a student and receiving a student is that those students who are left at the school will be exposed to the student they receive, and they will not miss out on the experience. Students will learn not only by being an exchange student, but also by living with one.

We suggested that the exchange be during the second term of the first year so that it would not perturb as much in the academic year, but if this is still seen as too hindering then the exchange of students could take place during project weeks so that there is no loss of ‘school time’. This will work extremely well if the project weeks are at different time so that the different schools could be seen whilst the curriculums are in motion. If it is not possible to send students away for two weeks then it may be possible to hold an event at AC that can be run like a Diploma period, a similar idea already works within the MUN activity every February where students come to a conference from UWC Adriatic and UWC Maastricht, and all UWCs are invited.

Aims of the exchange program

Ø     To promote the interaction and collaboration of students from different United World Colleges

Ø     To share the unique student lead initiatives that exist within each UWC school with other schools

Ø     To promote the idea that you can pursue the same ideals with different methods

How we aim to:

Ø     To promote the interaction and collaboration of students from different United World Colleges

The aim of the exchange is to promote the interaction between the UWCs so that it can be seen that it doesn’t matter where you are, you can make a difference within your community as well as others. With the immersion of the exchange student in each college there will be a better understanding of the other school and of the movement in general.

Ø     To share the unique student lead initiatives that exist within each UWC school with other schools

This aim is extremely important as it supports the spread of old ideas, set out by Kurt Hahn, in a modern context and with the exchange of students ideas like these will naturally spread and hopefully start out at every UWC. This is an interesting point as it is apparent that the Kurt Hahn Experiential Core sets out to use the powerful vehicle of using physical challenge in concentrated groups to drive the development of international understanding at Atlantic College. This was one of the principal guiding educational philosophies and so to use it in a wider context throughout the UWC movement would be outstanding.

This is just one example of student led initiatives that exist within our movement, such precious activities should be spread to the remaining students in the UWCs, and this can only be done organically and through students themselves.

Ø     To promote the idea that you can pursue the same ideals with different methods

This aim is to show that we can achieve the same thing despite having different curriculums, this is especially important to note as it could be construed that as times change and different problems arise globally and locally the aims of the college are diverging yet converging at the same time. The reason for this is that with the end of the Cold War and the rise of the Middle Eastern Conflicts, there are different issues to address; be that as it may the seven UWC values are still applicable and relevant to modern problems.  Hence, with the exchange of students it will be obvious to all students that in whatever they do it is possible to achieve a common goal despite different methods.


The proposal of the exchange program was brought up by students that felt that there was not enough interaction between UWCs and great ideas that already exist in some UWCs can be applied spread in the rest of the movement. This will aid in the development of a more cohesive movement as students will not be tied to one college in particular but will be tied to the UWC movement in general, which is what should already happen but doesn’t in all cases.  This is a general idea that will hopefully take place and help keep the movement cohesive and united.

Get involved!

E-mail jeremie.boivincote@gmail.com

-United Words Team-

4 thoughts on “UWC Exchange Program

  1. I think the thoughts behind it are nice, however the logistics become very complicated. One thing you have not taken into consideration, for example, is that Waterford runs on a southern hemisphere January-November schedule. I am not sure how one would line up the timing in that situation, especially when we’re talking about not interrupting the exchange students’ continuing lessons in their chosen subjects too much – any exchange to or from the southern hemisphere would always either be half a year ahead or behind in terms of the syllabus. Wouldn’t it make more sense to organise more overarching summer- or winter schools on the various campuses, which can bring students from all different schools together?

  2. Hi Sylvi,
    First, I would like to thank you for showing interest in the project by reading the proposal our third years worked on. I think you mentioned a very valid and important point with the different calendars of northern and southern hemisphere colleges. I’ll submit your point to the committee in Atlantic College and we will discuss potential solutions or adaptations. It would definitely make the program more interesting if all colleges would be involved. We will try to get in touch with UWC Waterford’s Student Council and see if together we can come up with any solutions. If ever you want to follow the course of our discussion, just send me your e-mail and I will keep you updated with the course of our reflections.
    Thank you very much for the constructive comment, that is exactly what we were looking for,
    Jérémie Boivin-Côté, UWC Atlantic College

  3. By the way, Sylvi, PSYL (Pearson Seminar Youth Leadership) is a program of summer school that already exist in Pearson and Mahindra at the moment where alumni from all over the UWCs gather to lead activities and lessons.

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