Global Academic Collaboration on the Rise

Study abroad or direct enrollment in a foreign program may be the most-popular ways for students to get an international experience, but an increasing number of schools are providing opportunities for students to get joint or dual degrees from their home country and a partner school abroad.

According to a new report, "Joint and Double-Degree Programs in the Global Context," released by the Institute of International Education and the Freie Universität Berlin, more and more universities are collaborating with their foreign counterparts on joint and dual degree programs, helping give students an international advantage working while raising their global profiles.

The survey of nearly 250 institutes in 28 countries found that nearly two-thirds of respondents launched joint and double degree programs in the past decade, building off a trend started in Europe in the 1990s, and 95% want to develop more of these programs.

These findings point to a new trend in higher education, according to the study.

“While joint and double degree programs can be complex to implement, they represent the emergence of a new and deeper partnership model, in which universities develop a better understanding of  each other’s curriculum and institutional expertise,” Daniel Obst, who co-authored the report and leads the Institute of International Education’s Center for International Partnerships in Higher Education, said in a statement.

The study further found that double, or dual, degrees are much more common than joint degrees in this set-up: Eighty-four percent of the respondents offer double degrees (wherein students study at two institutes and graduate with a degree from each one), while 33% offer joint degrees (wherein students take courses at two institutes and get one degree certificate signed by both). Given its international scope, business and management is not surprisingly the most-popular academic discipline among the collaborative degree programs noted in this study, followed by engineering.

These programs are more popular for advanced education, the survey found, with a majority of all joint or double degree programs offered at the master’s level. In the U.S., however, the majority of programs reported by institutions are at the undergraduate level, most likely as a way to attract international students.

The five countries most frequently cited as the home country for current partner institutions are France, China, Germany, Spain, and the United States. India, meanwhile, was in the top five countries noted as being of interest for future collaborative degree programs.

These collaborative degree programs are often difficult to launch, thanks to their high level of structure and potential for such challenges as credit transfer problems or prolonged graduation time, though those difficulties appear to have outweighed the benefits. And, according to the study, the top motivations for launching them are to broaden educational offerings, strengthen research collaboration, advance internationalization, and raise international prestige. Increasing revenue was also a major motivating factor for respondents from the U.S. and the UK.

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