What are international dual & joint degrees?

Higher education institutions around the world are feeling increased pressure to deepen inter-institutional connections and accelerate human mobility. For example, the emergence of ‘global challenges’ such as climate change, disease pandemics, and immigration are leading to mission and organizational repositioning; a dynamic explored in our nine-part (to date) ‘Question’ series.

It is in this context that we need to situate the development and governance of international dual and joint degrees. The opportunities and constraints, as well as risks and rewards, of establishing such collaborative degrees are significant: they have the capacity to alter the educational mission of universities, recast the educational experiences of students, transform the learning outcomes of courses and programs, deepen network relations between universities, and provide a tool for differentiating programs and institutions.

These impacts aside, international collaborative degrees are very resource consuming to establish and sustain, complicated to govern, and difficult to assess regarding impact over time. This partly explains the ongoing efforts of the Freie Universität Berlin and the IIE to conduct the second in a series of important survey about such degrees (further information about the Survey on International Joint and Dual/Double Degree Programs is pasted in at the bottom of this entry). It also explains why the US Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) facilitated some substantial discussion and debate that led to the release of a 2010 report Joint Degrees, Dual Degrees, and International Research Collaborations: A Report on the CGS Graduate International Collaborations Project, and why the European Commission helped fund the informative JOIMAN initiative.

Remarkably, one of the major challenges faced by universities seeking to establish international collaborative degrees is to simply define what they are. And trust me – there are dozens of definitions out there, many of which are vague and indeed contradictory.

What follows are some definitions that were developed in the context of a University of Wisconsin-Madison Dual/Joint Degree Working Group that I participated on in 2010, and which was convened by the dean (Gilles Bousquet) of our Division of International Studies.

Over the course of conducting research on international collaborative degrees to devise our own definitions, and some ‘governance pathways’ for such degrees, it became apparent that there was value in situating dual and joint degrees in a broader internationalization/inter-institutional context. In the end, we developed the following typology which outlines modes of international collaboration that include international dual and joint degrees:

  • Study abroad
  • UW‐Madison as a study abroad site for other universities
  • Student exchange agreements
  • Course‐to‐course transfer of credit, Transfer agreements
  • Articulation agreements
  • Third party contracts for educational delivery
  • Off‐campus program or course location
  • Distance education, distance delivery of educational programs
  • Collaborative course or program sharing
  • Sequential degrees
  • Dual degrees
  • Joint degrees

Not all of these modes of international collaboration, as we deem them, are practiced at UW-Madison.

The DRAFT Working Group reports that were written in 2010 are currently being reviewed within our administrative machinery, but are publicly accessible via the University Academic Planning Council website should you be interested in them. Jocelyn Milner, Associate Vice Provost and Director, Academic Planning and Analysis, was the lead author of the two reports that we all provided input on.

Given that many other institutions are also struggling with the issue of how to handle international dual/joint degrees, I’ll take the above typology, and edit out the Madisonian elements of the definitions, thereby providing you (from University X) with some definitions worth reflecting on and debating.

Needless to say, I would appreciate being sent your university’s reports about international collaborative degrees, assuming some exist and can be made public. You can email them to me at <kolds@wisc.edu> or list them in the comments section to this entry. I’ll compile the responses, knit them in with the resources we’ve collected over the last year (some of which are available here), and create a subsequent entry in GlobalHigherEd that outlines all available resources (books, reports, websites) for universities considering the establishment of international collaborative degrees. In short, today’s entry is a defacto call for more collaboration and information sharing about an emerging global higher ed phenomenon; one that is being driven forward for a range of reasons, yet is not so simple to bring to life and govern.

Summary of Modes of International Collaboration

  • Study Abroad: Students participate in a program operated through University of X in which University of X students enroll at a foreign university for a period of up to one (1) year. Students are awarded credit when the course credit they earned while in the program is transferred back to University of X.
  • University of X as Study Abroad Site For Other Universities: Students enrolled at a foreign university attend University of X as participants in a Study Abroad program established by their home university with University of X as the study abroad site for a period of up to one (1) year. Students earn credit when the course credit is transferred back to their home university.
  • Student Exchange Agreements: Reciprocal arrangement in which University of X students study at a partner institution and partner institution students study at University of X for a period of up to one year. University of X students transfer credit earned away back to University of X.
  • CoursetoCourse Credit Transfer, Transfer “Contracts”: Pre‐arranged recognition of the equivalency of specific courses at one institution to the corresponding course at University of X. For degree‐seeking undergraduates.
  • Articulation Agreement or Program: Allows undergraduate students who have completed a specified curriculum at partner institution to apply to University of X and enroll with advanced standing into a specific program even though the curricula at the partner institution would not transfer directly to meet preparatory requirements at University of X.  Usually for undergraduate programs.
  • Third-Party Contract for Course Delivery Arrangements: University of X contracts with a third-party for delivery of courses.  In this case the third party would be an organization that is either not an institution of higher learning, or is one that is outside the home country.
  • Off-Campus Program or Course Location (in-state, out-of-state, international): University of X courses are delivered by University of X faculty and staff who are physically present at a remote site.
  • Distance Education, Distance Delivery of Academic Programs: University of X courses are delivered by University of X faculty and staff via distance technology.
  • Collaborative Course or Program Resource Sharing: University of X has a wide variety of arrangement with other universities in which curricular and educational resources are shared to leverage strengths of partner institutions and create synergy. Because of the variety of formats, these are challenging to classify.
  • Sequential Degrees: Formalized arrangement in which students earn a specified degree at a partner institution and then applies to, enrolls in, and completes a second, related program at University of X. Courses from the first program may be used to waive requirements in the University of X program. Students will still be required to meet all University of X program and degree requirements.
  • Dual Degrees: Students complete the requirements for two degrees from two institutions, with efficiencies in course taking.  Each institution is primarily responsible for its own degree.
  • Joint Degrees: A single degree authorized and conferred by two or more partner institutions; faculty, governance groups, governance boards share authority.

Kris Olds


Survey on International Joint and Dual/Double Degree Programs
Submission Deadline: February 15, 2011 [EXTENDED TO 15 MARCH]

The Institute of International Education (IIE) and the Freie Universität Berlin are conducting the first global survey on international joint and dual/double degree programs.

The survey addresses higher education institutions in all world regions, and seeks to assess the current landscape of joint and dual/double degree programs. By collecting this information, we hope to provide valuable information for higher education professionals and policymakers on current trends, including an analysis of the challenges and barriers to developing them and recommendations and guidelines for universities to implement successful programs. This is a unique opportunity to significantly expand knowledge about current trends in joint and dual/double degree programs.

To complete the survey, please go to: http://iie.vovici.net/wsb.dll/s/6cg32d

A summary of the results will be made available on the IIE website. Please complete the survey before February 15, 2011.

Thank you very much for participating in this survey, which should take no more than 20 minutes to complete, once you have gathered the relevant data. If you have any questions, please contact Matthias Kuder at matthias.kuder@fu-berlin.de

This is a follow-on survey to an EU-US Atlantis Program-funded study conducted in 2008 that focused specifically on collaborative degree programs in the transatlantic context. The results of this previous transatlantic survey are available on www.iienetwork.org/page/TDP/

13 thoughts on “What are international dual & joint degrees?

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention What are international dual & joint degrees? « GlobalHigherEd -- Topsy.com

  2. Dear Kris,
    Cathy Meschievitz at FAU sent me a link to your blog and suggested I share some details about the unique IE model that Broward College offers. Students take the first two years of their American Education abroad at one of our centers in Singapore, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Finland and Guatemala.
    If you are interested in knowing more, please feel free to call my office at 954-201-7707.
    I have to go to Brazil next week but will have more time the following week.
    David Moore
    AVP for Int. Education
    Broward College
    Ft. Lauderdale, FL

  3. The European Consortium for Accreditation in higher education (ECA) is currently carrying out a project on the quality assurance of joint programmes and the recognition of degrees awarded by these programmes (JOQAR project). The project is funded by the Erasmus Mundus Action 3 programme of the European Commission.
    You can find more information on ECA’s website and you can find the survey in the news section. (http://www.ecaconsortium.net/main/news/detail/survey-for-joint-programmes/22)

    Also interesting is the report on the recognition of (double/multiple/joint) degrees awarded by joint programmes. The report (2010) is available in the publications section of the ECA website. The annex on terminology is noteworthy. (http://www.ecaconsortium.net/main/news/detail/report:-the-recognition-of-qualifications-awarded-by-joint-programmes/10)

  4. Great Article Kris!

    Being from Asia myself, I am very familiar joint/double degrees. We often see our local universities create partnerships with European universities. This has given people like myself the chance broaden my educational horizons and even international work opportunities . There’s even a course that is devoted to the management and value for joint/double degree at http://www.eaie.org/professional_development/training/page.asp?WorkingID=446&wat=intro

    I have not found anything that is remotely similar. Please let me know if anyone has found any courses about joint/double degrees anywhere else in the world?

  5. You spoke briefly in your post about governance pathways in global higher education. I am curious as to what the pathways to governance are. Would you elaborate?

  6. The idea of collaboration between international universities is new to me.

    If a student were interested in a joint or dual degree, how would one assist them in finding a program suited for them and an institution who provided what they wanted?

    These programs seem to be a great opportunity for students to gain realistic learning experiences.

  7. It is so exciting to see how globally connected higher education is becoming. With joint and dual degrees as well as collaborative programs, is it possible the global higher education could really become “seamless”?

  8. Klove52

    I would have to say that our pathways in global higher education would be all of our administrators working in partnership with the institution. They are, the Academic Advisors, Vice-President of Enrollment Services, Director of Admissions, Director of International Recruitment, Student Services Assistant and Senior Immigration Advisor. Together they form a committee of dedicated individuals working to provide the services necessary to assist our international students in a diverse, opportunistic learning experience.

  9. Pingback: Heavy Lifting vs Spectral Presence in Global Higher Ed « GlobalHigherEd

  10. Pingback: Heavy Lifting vs Spectral Presence in Newly Adopted Global Cities « GlobalHigherEd

  11. Before reading this blog post I was aware of only a few of the international dual and joint degree programs available. It is fascinating to learn about all the opportunities that students have to experience the world through these ventures. Wish there had been all the choices when I was an undergrad.

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