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Programs : Brochure

  • Locations: Townsville, Australia
  • Program Terms: Fall, Spring, Year
  • Budget Sheets: Fall, Spring
Fact Sheet:
Language of Instruction: English Language Prerequisite: No previous study
Minimum Cumulative GPA: 3.0 Credit Available For: College, SEAS
Other Eligibility Requirements: Prior Coursework as Required by Subject Type of Program: Semester/Year Study Abroad
Housing Options: University Residence Hall/Apartment Application Deadline: Fall/Year: March 1, Spring: October 15
Program Description:

Program Snapshot

BJC LogoJames Cook University

Australia’s leading tropical research university and Queensland’s second oldest university, James Cook University is surrounded by the spectacular ecosystems of the rainforests of the Wet tropics, the dry savannahs, and the iconic Great Barrier Reef. Its unique location enables students to study in a diverse physical environment unparalleled by any university in the world. The university's largest campus is located in Townsville with approximately 13,000 students (of which over 1,500 are international) and has another campus located in Cairns with over 4,000 students (of which 400 are international). JCU international students come from all over the world, adding to the diverse study abroad environment.

For additional information, visit the James Cook University website
The Cities of Townsville & Cairns

Townsville is the capital of North Queensland and Australia’s largest tropical city with a population of 190,000. Serving as a stepping-off point for the Great Barrier Reef, Townsville is a thriving city and port. Cairns is known as the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef and is one of Australia’s most popular tourist destinations with a diverse population of around 170,000. There are plenty of interesting regions to explore from either city, including the Atherton Tablelands with its ancient crater lakes and picturesque small towns, national parks, the Whitsunday Islands, Mission Beach, Port Douglas resort area, the wild and rugged Cape York Peninsula, or experience the Australian outback with inland heritage towns such as Charters Towers.

Did you know…?

Townsville is the first to introduce guided Segway tours through a National Park in the country, with people invited to hop on two wheels to explore greenery and ocean views through the Town Common Conservation Park. The National Park is a haven for the region’s most beautiful wetlands and gives visitors a number of opportunities to spot native bird and animal species.

Cairns is home to Undara National Park which boasts the world's longest lava vents. The 190,000 years old vents stretch over a distance of 160 kilometers and are 20 meters wide.



The program at James Cook University is for College credit and Engineering students only.

Minimum GPA Requirement: 3.0


Language of Instruction



A full course load at James Cook University consists of four courses per semester.  Penn students must maintain a full course load while abroad and may only enroll in courses at the undergraduate level.

Penn students have the freedom to select from nearly any course which is offered during their semester as long as they meet the prerequisite academic requirements and if there are vacancies available. Students are able to study at either the Townsville or Cairns campus, depending on their interests and areas of study, however, due to the distance between the two campuses (approx. 220 miles), enrolling in courses at both is not possible.

JCU Academic Calendar
JCU Course Catalog for Incoming Study Abroad Students
Grading Scale

As on all Penn Abroad programs, grades are recorded on the Penn transcript and are calculated in the cumulative grade point average.  The pass/fail option can be exercised according to the Penn on-campus policy of your home school. For more information on Penn Abroad’s academic policies, click here.

Grades are reported to Penn on the James Cook University scale and then converted to Penn grades according to the following grade equivalencies:
JCU Grade Penn Grade
HD – D A
PC – P- D

Special Features

BJC Special FeaturesOrientation Activities

All Penn students are required to attend the orientation activities organized by James Cook University prior to the start of each semester.  More information on JCU’s orientation activities can be found here.

Student Mentor Program

Student mentors help students settle into university life and answer the many questions they may have when they start their course, and continue to provide support during their studies. More information can be found here.

Student Associations
BJC Special Features
Penn students studying at James Cook University have access to a wide range of student activities and associations. More information can be found here.

The JCU Student Association provides services and amenities for the student body, including entertainment, sporting facilities, and food outlets. They also provide academic and welfare support. The Association has a number of recognized clubs & societies that include sporting, recreational and faculty groups. Clubs and societies play an active role in the University community by providing students the opportunity to meet people with common interests and to pursue those interests.


BJC CampusParticipants must be willing to live under local conditions for students.


Students are strongly encouraged to live on-campus in one of the Colleges or Halls of Residence. Halls are owned and operated by JCU while Colleges are independently managed but affiliated with the University. All Colleges and Halls of Residence are located within easy walking distance of teaching venues, the library, computer rooms, student services and sporting amenities. Each College and Hall has its own unique culture and identity so students are encouraged to research the options before submitting an application. Students interested in meeting Australians should give this option serious consideration as the colleges consist of a large Australian student population– in fact larger than at many other Australian universities. Students not interested in living on-campus can search for off-campus accommodation.


There is no on-campus accommodation at the Cairns campus, however, there are several off-campus options, including the Cairns Student Lodge, which is linked to the campus via a pedestrian walkway/bike path.

Read more information regarding on-campus accommodation on the Townsville campus and off-campus accommodation on both Townsville and Cairns campus.

Cost and Finance

Penn Abroad Financial Policies

Students are charged Penn tuition and academic fees for all Penn Abroad programs.  Additional expenses will typically include items such as housing, visas, and airfare.  Please see the program budget sheets below for more information.  For more on Penn Abroad’s financial policies, click here.

Financial Aid and Study Abroad                                         

In most cases, financial aid applies to Penn-approved programs.  Student Financial Services reviews program budget sheets each semester to determine how to appropriately adjust your aid package. For more information on how Financial Aid will work during your semester abroad, click here.

Budget Sheets


Scholarship Opportunities

Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program: Competition for awards for study abroad, for US citizen students who are receiving federal Pell Grant funding at a 2-year or 4-year college or university. 

Next Steps

For information on the Penn Abroad application process, click here.

To open an application or learn more about the program, please click here to schedule an appointment with a Penn Abroad Global Programs Manager.

For a student perspective on life and academics in Townsville and Cairns, contact a Penn Abroad Past-Participant or Exchange Student.