Customised Group Programs

Why Partner with CISaustralia?

The CISaustralia Customised Group Programs team specialises in customising short-term programs – study tours, volunteering (experiential service learning), internships, virtual, language programs or a combination – in almost any destination around the world, including Australia. Our team is made up of travellers who have lived, worked, studied and travelled extensively overseas. We are passionate about international education and believe that everyone should have the opportunity to study, work, live and travel abroad. Our Queensland-based team works exclusively with Australian University academic and mobility staff to support University Customised Group Programs.

Historically, University staff have been responsible for not only teaching the academic course abroad, but also overseeing program administration, logistics, payments, on-site financials, schedule changes, general academic and student support, and all other aspects that come with ensuring a successful program. Universities have also held sole liability for the risk management, duty of care, legalities, insurance, critical incidents and emergency response, as well as program sustainability. With the support of CISaustralia, University staff will save a significant amount of time with the confidence that their Customised Group Program will be professionally designed and executed.

Each program that is supported by CISaustralia is carefully designed and developed by employing a range of structured processes and procedures for a comprehensive and fully customised experience. Our Customised Group Programs team provides extensive support throughout all phases of the program, from initial enquiry all the way through to program completion. For the duration of the program, a dedicated, on-site CISaustralia staff member will remain with the group or be available 24/7 to manage not only the logistics, but also manage and support group dynamics, critical incidents or any emergencies that may arise. Our robust approach and support throughout the entire process allows for the academic staff member to focus on the teaching and learning experience to best meet the program’s academic objectives.

Hear From Academic Staff

If you are an academic staff member (or central University mobility staff person) looking to manage a customised group program, the following short video is of critical importance to you and is highly likely to change the way you think about how you manage your Customised Group Program.

Research by the Australian Government highlights continual growth in the number of Australian university students who participate in an international education experience, with short-term mobility programs becoming increasingly popular year on year. Data from the Australian Universities International Directors’ Forum (AUIDF) identified that more than 58,000 Australian students went abroad during their degree in 2019, representing an 11.3% increase from 2018. Nearly 25% of all undergraduate students participated in an international education experience, compared to 19% for all levels of graduating cohorts – an all time high.

Benefits of mobility to the University range from improved student retention, increased student engagement, higher academic performance and increased employability, to global brand awareness and meeting the institution’s overarching strategic goals related to teaching and learning, research, professional development and internationalisation. In addition to this wide range of benefits, Universities and educators have an important role to help prepare students for a global world and to cultivate transformative student learning. Increasingly, Australian Universities understand the importance of providing international and experiential education opportunities as part of their degree programs, and as a key to attracting the best and brightest high school graduates to their institution.

The rapid growth of outbound student mobility has put greater responsibility and accountability on Australian Universities to meet the increasing demand for international experiences. Customised Group Programs are a very popular and exciting way to help meet this demand and increase international education opportunities for students – and CISaustralia is here to help!

The CISaustralia Customised Group Programs team works exclusively with Australian University academics and central outbound mobility staff to provide significant time-saving benefits and expertise in international, domestic or virtual programs, including group study, volunteer or internship experiences (with or without a travelling academic).

Group Program Examples

Benefits and Inclusions

Proven excellence and expertise

CISaustralia has been supporting Customised Group Programs since 2013, with staff in over 40 global locations. These relationships and our structured protocols have been tried and tested so you can be confident we have covered all bases.

University-branded programs

Whether it’s customising our volunteer and intern programs or creating a unique study tour, the University has complete control and ownership over the program. CISaustralia acts as a behind-the-scenes support.

Truly customised

We build a program specific to the academic staff members’ needs. By customising each aspect of the program, we provide the opportunity to create a unique itinerary that directly aligns with academic objectives.

Time & Cost Saving

University staff have reported an average saving of approx. 29 working days associated with the logistical planning and running of a customised academic program with CISaustralia support. This equates to a total savings of approx. $18,600 to the University.

Promotional support for recruiting students

Our Customised Group Programs team can assist with marketing and recruitment efforts. An active approach will assist in meeting minimum enrolment numbers and attaining a reduced per-student program fee.

Pre-departure support

There will be a lot of questions prior to departure from students. Through our pre-departure materials and online pre-departure session, we make sure that no question is left unanswered.

24/7 on-site support on every program

Every program we support includes a 24/7 Onsite Program Coordinator (OPC) and / or local Site Director, which allows the focus of the academic staff to be on delivering a high-quality academic experience.

Insurance, risk management and emergency response

Our Risk Management and Emergency Response Plan has been developed to minimise the risk associated with and best respond to any critical incident. A customised Risk Matrix is completed for each program we support.

Post-program review process

Upon completion of the program, we will conduct a detailed post-program review to ensure we understand every aspect of how the program went and how we can improve for future programs.

Next Steps

Get Started

Ready to discuss your program idea but not sure where to start? We’d love to hear from you! Complete this quick, 2-minute enquiry form and we will be in touch shortly after to answer your questions and discuss your proposed program.

Complete the Proposal Questionnaire

Once you are ready to build your program, fill out our questionnaire for an On-Site Group Program or Virtual Group Program. For each question, provide as much information as possible and let us know if there is any area(s) we can provide you with more guidance or assistance.

Meet your Program Coordinator

After we receive your questionnaire, your dedicated CISaustralia Program Coordinator will be in contact to discuss and better understand your program. We will then provide you with a comprehensive program proposal within 1-3 weeks.


We recommend starting between 12-18 months prior to departure. Time flies and you want to be sure the program is laid out well enough to begin promoting the experience to students around 12 months in advance, with the hopes of securing the group around the 5-6 month mark. Be sure to check with your University’s mobility or international office, as their timelines may differ and might call for earlier preparation.

We believe strongly in supporting volunteer initiatives across the world that promote sustainable and long-term societal, environmental and economic change to benefit and empower local communities.

While the term volunteering is widely known and accepted, we prefer to use the term Experiential Service Learning. This better relates to our philosophy surrounding close community engagement as well as a focus on projects that have a long-term approach and a range of positive impacts for both communities and our students. Over 98% of CISaustralia participants receive academic credit for their program abroad, which fosters a more culturally immersive and deeper reflective experience.

Our volunteering programs contribute to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals which aim to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. While not every program will achieve all seventeen of the UN goals, the students will have a positive impact by doing work that really matters. We partner with organisations that have in-depth, first-hand knowledge and close relationships with local communities. 

Read more: Why Volunteer Abroad with CISaustralia?

The most common way students pay for their program is via an OS-HELP loan. OS-HELP is a generous Australian Government Loan scheme that allows eligible Australian University students to access up to A$9,989 to study overseas (2023 amounts). The OS-HELP loan is applied to the student’s HECS and standard conditions apply. Like HECS-HELP, OS-HELP is interest-free and fee-free. Students should speak with their mobility office, visit the Australian Government Study Assist website for more information about HECS-HELP and OS-HELP.

University staff may also be eligible to apply for The New Colombo Plan Mobility Funding, which provides Australian universities with funding to support students on short-term programs in 40 locations across the Indo-Pacific region. Speak with your University’s mobility or international office if you are interested in applying for NCP funding.

For most organisations, having students take part in a placement or internship in their workplace is a huge commitment. This is why we recommend any placements or internships are a minimum of 4-6 weeks. This gives the students the opportunity to fully immerse themselves in the organisation and the project they are assigned to, and to ensure the organisation also benefits from having students in their workplace.

If you only have 2-3 weeks for your program and the subject requires a certain number of contact hours, perhaps consider exposing students to presentations and industry / business visits in order to meet contact hours. Speak with our team about creating the perfect balance for an observation-based program. Such programs can be created with or without a travelling University staff member.

Great question! We customise the itinerary to meet your objectives and thus every program price is unique. What factors are considered in estimating the cost? The length of the program, the time of year you are travelling, the type and location of accommodation you use, the number of excursions and meals included, the type of transportation planned, and the list goes on. The great thing about this model is that we can continue to tweak the itinerary so that the price is customised to suit the needs of your students. Please let us know if academic staff fees should be built into student costs or not, or if particular line items such as classroom space and academic visits are to be covered by another budget stream. We’ll be happy to pull out certain portions to reduce the cost to the students.

As a full service provider, we prefer just that – providing a full program. However, there are some programs in which we might not manage all of the logistics due to the institution’s connections with local exchange partners or existing relationships. Arranging accommodation (or just one single aspect of a program) only has its challenges and is more aligned to what a travel agent or online direct booking service offers. We support Universities and faculty by creating a comprehensive, customised and unique academic experience for staff and students.

Yes, and as many of our testimonials will attest, most Universities cannot imagine their program without them! We fully recognise a faculty leader may have lived in a particular destination and know it inside and out, but our staff are there to ensure someone is ready in the event of a logistical change, to support group dynamics, attend to a student’s physical or mental health needs, manage a critical incident or larger scale emergency. “Ok, but we are sending two people from our institution.” Excellent! We will still have our OPC or Site Director on the ground. Our staff are trained in student support and crisis management, and are there so that academic staff can focus on teaching the course while we worry about the rest.

We understand this is an important part of the process. Without students, there is no program. We will provide tools, materials and guidance to help promote the program to prospective students. This may include a step-by-step marketing guide, custom flyers and/or website, short promotional video and more.

Fantastic! Many academic staff and institutions already have their own trusted contacts they wish to work with or have worked with for years. Our goals include ensuring that all logistics are streamlined, payments are made on time, risk is mitigated, and emergencies are handled properly. It’s great when we can collaborate with you and your contacts, whether it be a favourite local guide or a colleague who we can reach out to about arranging a business visit for your group. We appreciate and respect that academic staff have their own close contacts in locations around the globe. We work closely with all referred connections and our academic staff, under their direction, to ensure communication with all parties is clear and efficient. Our focus is to ensure the program runs smoothly.


At Flinders University we actively encourage our students and academics to engage with CISaustralia and their programs. We have been highly impressed with not only the value and academic integrity that these programs offer our students, but the seamless way in which CISaustralia collaborate with and support our students, academics and professional staff.

- Larissa Pearce, Flinders University, Manager, Learn Without Borders

The University of Wollongong has been working with CISaustralia since late 2014. CISaustralia organises the logistics of the study tour, including flights, accommodation and bus transfers… Participants of the study tour report overwhelmingly positive feedback about their experience. The CIS staff members, who accompany the group throughout the tour are always professional, considerate and contribute greatly to the smooth running of the study tour. Overall, the professionalism of the CISaustralia team make them a pleasure to work with, and they deliver a well organised study tour for our students.

- Sean Lu, University of Wollongong, Faculty of Business

This will be the fourth year I have worked together with CISaustralia in organising a student study tour to Italy as part of an education degree. Over this time, I have found CIS fabulous to work with. Every detail of the tour is well planned and organised in response to the needs of the University course. Students have found the experience to be life changing – both professionally and personally, with so many different learning experiences encountered at every turn. I have no hesitation in recommending CISaustralia to anyone considering engaging in study tours. I certainly would not try to do this without them, and I am looking forward to continuing the partnership in the years to come.

- Dr Nicole Leggett, University of Newcastle, School of Education

CISaustralia did an excellent job in organising a 2 week study tour for QUT law and justice students to Cambodia in July 2017. Jane and the team were highly professional, efficient and very responsive to our requests. The focus of the study tour was child protection and human rights so Jane researched a range of relevant organisations and NGOs for the students to visit, as well as organising guest lectures and cultural activities. She also managed all the time-consuming travel and accommodation logistics! The in-country assistance provided by Samantha was exceptional. She had good local knowledge and was an invaluable mentor to our students and support for the academic supervisor. We were very satisfied with our CISaustralia experience and will definitely work with them again in the future.

- Catherine Campbell, Queensland University of Technology, Law and Justine

Coordinating an academic Study Tour program can be a wonderful and rewarding experience. It can also be stressful and time consuming. Having the support of CIS throughout all phases of the planning, the Study Tour itself, and then in reviewing the program takes a lot of pressure off the overall workload. I have found CIS to be professional and positive, responsive to feedback, flexible, and personable. CIS is a cost-effective solution to organising an overseas Study Tour and the team works hard to ensure all arrangements are as requested. The OPC creates a welcoming environment for all students, an important aspect to consider as many students are travelling overseas and/or outside their family for the first time. CIS has the local knowledge on best companies to contact for transport, accommodation, and other logistics; I am comfortable travelling with the plans provided by CIS and feel assured that nothing is being left to chance. When things don’t turn out the way they have been planned, as can be the case when traveling internationally, CIS can think quickly to sort out alternative options and put them in place with a minimum of fuss. CIS is a quality company that are a delight to work with. I am currently planning my fifth Study Tour with CIS, and due to our great working relationship, the annual Study Tour is sure to continue into the future.

- Dr Heather Sharp, University of Newcastle, School of Education

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