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Academic Life

We believe that everyone can play a role in making the world a better place, whichever path they choose.

So we offer a challenging and broad education that will help you get the qualifications you need, to get the life you want for yourself and make the changes you want to see for others.

Every year, students apply to UWC because they want a challenge that takes them out of their comfort zone. To open their minds to new perspectives, and discover new skills and talents.

It’s a rigorous experience, but it’s one that could change how you see the world.

International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (16-19 year-olds)

All students attending UWC between the ages of 16 and 19 take the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IBDP). It’s a challenging curriculum that allows students to explore a range of subjects and ideas, while learning about the importance of activity and service in the community.

In fact, UWC played a key role in crafting the IBDP back in the 1960s, and the ties between the IB Organisation and UWC remain close decades later.

The IBDP aims to “encourage students across the world to become active, compassionate and lifelong learners who understand that other people, with their differences, can also be right.” It’s respected in the best universities worldwide for its focus on service, communication, teamwork, leadership and critical thinking.


"Although the IBDP was quite overwhelming at times and there was a lot to be learned, overall it made me a lot more confident and taught me how to study. My first year at college felt much easier than my second year of IBDP. I’m much more sure of the things I say because I research them, and I’m so much better at writing."

- Leonor, UWC Mahindra College alumna

Which subjects can students take for the IBDP? 

IBDP students choose a course from each of the following six subject areas:

  1. Studies in Language and Literature
  2. Language Acquisition
  3. Individuals and Societies
  4. Sciences
  5. Mathematics
  6. The Arts (instead of a course in the arts, students can opt to study another science, individuals and societies, or a language acquisition subject)

Students generally study three subjects at standard level and three subjects at a higher level. At a higher level they are expected to demonstrate a greater body of knowledge, understanding and skills. Subjects may vary between UWC schools, often reflecting their geographic location and focus areas.

As well as the six subject areas, students complete three core parts of the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme which are central to the philosophy of the programme. These are:

Extended Essay (EE) 

Students investigate a topic of special interest, and develop the independent research and writing skills required at university level. The essay is typically written in one of the student’s six subject groups and must be no more than 4,000 words in length. Students are supported in the research and writing process by an academic supervisor.

Theory of Knowledge (TOK) 

The course encourages students to reflect on the nature of knowledge, on how we know what we claim to know. It is assessed through an oral presentation and a 1,600-word essay.

Creativity, Activity, Service (CAS)

Taking responsibility, developing social, creative and outdoor skills, as well as learning to approach others with empathy are at the heart of the programme. Students engage in a variety of projects that aim to help them develop these skills, while at the same time actively engaging with their local community.


Younger Years (2-15 year-olds) 









A number of UWC schools and colleges welcome students from younger age groups, ranging from 2 to 15 years old. These younger years programmes run in addition to the IBDP that is offered at all UWC schools and colleges for learners aged 16-19. 

Students in the younger years are immersed in age-appropriate educational programmes that align with UWC’s mission to make education a force for peace and a sustainable future.

Academically, they are equipped for the rigours of the IBDP at UWC, should that be the path they follow later on their educational journey. But far beyond this, students from 2 to 15 learn to be active, aware contributors in their school, their local communities and in wider society through hands-on, values-driven and holistic learning programmes. They are emboldened to question, create and engage, and to develop strong social, emotional and creative skills for their lives beyond UWC. 

Most UWC schools with younger years provision have a mix of residential and non-residential students on campus. The age at which students can begin living on campus as boarding students depends on each school. This means that campus spaces are shared between those who attend classes but live with their families outside of campus and those who live in one of the residencies on campus. When it comes to those UWC schools that exclusively offer high school programmes for the 15-19 age range, all students live and learn together on campus as boarding students. 

Schools with younger years provision

UWC Changshu China (China) 

UWC Changshu China welcomes boarding students between the ages of 15 and 19. The school offers 15 year-olds the opportunity to enrol in a one-year long Foundation Programme in preparation for the IBDP (16-19 year-olds). 

UWC East Africa (Tanzania) 

UWC East Africa welcomes students between the ages of 3 and 20 on its two campuses, Arusha and Moshi. The school offers the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) to 3-11 year-olds, the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) to 11-16 year-olds, and the IBDP to 16-20 year-olds. While Moshi Campus hosts both day students and boarding students for all three programmes, Arusha Campus accepts day students enrolled in the PYP and MYP, and both day students and boarding students in the IBDP years. 

UWC ISAK Japan (Japan) 

UWC ISAK Japan welcomes boarding students between the ages of 15 and 19. 15 year-old students can join the school as part of its 3-year high school programme, which emphasizes its flagship Leadership Programme in Grade 10, before merging with the 2-year IBDP in Grade 11 (16-19 year-olds).  

UWC Maastricht (the Netherlands) 

UWC Maastricht welcomes students between the ages of 4 and 19. UWC Maastricht Primary School caters to 4-11 year-olds, while UWC Maastricht Secondary School offers the IB Middle Years Programme (MYP) to 11-16 year-olds and the IBDP to 16-19 year-olds. The majority of UWC Maastricht's students are day students and they live with their families in the region. Only IBDP students can live on campus as part of the residential programme, and most of them do. 

UWC South East Asia (Singapore) 

UWC South East Asia welcomes day and boarding students aged 4-18 years to two campuses, Dover and East. UWC South East Asia's concept-based K-12 curriculum prepares students of all ages for their future by linking their learning in universal concepts to their real-world experiences in Singapore. New students can join the school at any grade in Primary (4-11 years), Middle (12-14 years) or High School (15-17 years), and can graduate with both a UWCSEA High School Diploma and an IB Diploma.

UWC Thailand (Thailand) 

UWC Thailand welcomes students between 2 and 18 years of age. The Early Childhood Programme consists of play-based learning for the youngest students who are between 2 and 5 years old. The school also offers the IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) to 3-12 year-olds, the IB Middle Year Programme (MYP) to 11-16 year-olds, and the IBDP to 16-19 year-olds. The boarding programme at UWC Thailand is open to students in grades 9-12, which cover the last two years of MYP and the IBDP. Day students are eligible to enroll at all grade levels if they are full-time residents in Phuket. 

Waterford Kamhlaba UWC of Southern Africa (Eswatini) 

Waterford Kamhlaba UWC of Southern Africa welcomes day and boarding students between the ages of 11 and 19. Students aged 11-15 attend Lower Secondary School and follow the school’s own curriculum. Students aged 15-17 are offered the Cambridge IGCSE programme, and students aged 17-19 study the IBDP

Please note that attending a UWC school during the younger years does not automatically grant students a place at UWC to study the IBDP later in life. All schools offering younger years programmes carefully monitor each individual student's progress to ensure that the rigorous IBDP followed as part of the two-year programme for 16-19 year-olds is the right course of study for them. 

Please contact the school of your choice for more information about younger years provision.