Joint Double Degree Report Institute International Education

Press Release

New Survey Examines Global Academic Collaboration

IIE-FUB Research Report Provides Data on International Joint and Double Degree Programs

NEW YORK and BERLIN, September 12, 2011—A new study finds that universities around the world are collaborating across borders to better prepare their students to work with colleagues and customers in other countries. The new report, Joint and Double Degree Programs in the Global Context, released today by the Institute of International Education (IIE) and the Freie Universität Berlin finds that a growing number of universities around the world are developing joint and double degree programs, and that nearly two thirds of the institutions responding reported that they launched these new degree programs in the past decade. The study finds that a development that largely started in Europe in the 1990s has now become an increasingly important global trend, with 95% of the nearly 250 respondents in 28 countries saying they want to develop more joint and double degree programs.

The study, based on a survey conducted in Spring 2011, assesses the current landscape of joint and double degree programs and identifies the challenges, opportunities, motivations and impact of developing such programs. The report presents findings from a global perspective, as well as country-specific trends for the six countries with the highest number of institutions responding to the survey: Australia, France, Germany, Italy, the UK and the U.S. 

“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,” according to Daniel Obst, who co-authored the report and leads IIE’s Center for International Partnerships in Higher Education. “Although many institutions worldwide are developing these joint and double degree programs at the Master’s level, in the United States we are seeing more institutions offering collaborative degrees at the undergraduate level, often as part of their efforts to attract international students,” Mr. Obst said.

With more than 3 million students enrolled in higher education outside of their own countries each year, enhancing student mobility has become a top priority for countries around the world, stimulating a global conversation about best practices, trends and future plans. Traditional study abroad programs or direct enrollment in foreign institutions remain by far the predominant option for students wishing to have an international experience. However, the growth in joint and double degree programs indicate that higher education institutions are increasingly seeking ways to firmly embed these international experiences in their curricula and deepen the academic experience for students and faculty at home and abroad. The highly structured degree programs, while complex to launch, often mitigate potential challenges related to study abroad, such as credit transfer problems or the possibility of prolonged time to graduation.

“Higher education institutions interested in collaborative degree partnerships are well-advised to develop a comprehensive strategy for establishing joint and double degree programs that addresses often cited problems with program sustainability, student recruitment and funding,” stressed co-author Matthias Kuder of Freie Universität Berlin. “The claim that such programs are part and parcel of an institution’s internationalization efforts is quickly made but, in fact, many institutions lack clear rules and procedures for program development and have no specific marketing or recruitment measures in place,” said Mr. Kuder.

This study builds on a 2009 policy study by IIE and the Freie Universität Berlin, funded by the EU-U.S. Atlantis Program of the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education (FIPSE) and the European Commission. While the earlier survey focused exclusively on transatlantic joint and double degree programs, the new study expands the scope of the research and aims to assess the global landscape of collaborative degree programs.  The 2009 project resulted in a survey report, Joint and Double Degree Programs in the Transatlantic Context, and a book, Joint and Double Degree Programs: An Emerging Model for Transatlantic Exchange, which features practical recommendations for developing and delivering collaborative degree programs between U.S. and European universities. 

Institute of International Education

The Institute of International Education is a world leader in the international exchange of people and ideas. An independent, not-for-profit organization founded in 1919, IIE has network of 18 offices worldwide and more than 1,100 member institutions. IIE designs and implements programs of study and training for students, educators, young professionals and trainees from all sectors with funding from government agencies, foundations, and corporations. IIE also conducts policy research and program evaluations, and provides advising and counseling on international education and opportunities abroad. The Institute’s Center for International Partnerships in Higher Education provides higher education leaders, policymakers, and practitioners with the resources and connections to develop and sustain academic partnerships around the world. The Center also produces timely policy research on critical issues in the field and convenes international education leaders in conferences and workshops.

Freie Universität Berlin

Freie Universität Berlin is a leading research institution, one of Germany’s nine Universities of Excellence and a top destination for international students and scholars alike. Founded in 1948 with the help of the United States, Freie Universität is deeply rooted in the tradition of international cooperation. To support its global research and teaching networks, Freie Universität maintains liaison offices in New York, Moscow, Sao Paulo, Brussels, Beijing, New Delhi, and Cairo, and continues its commitment to strengthening international academic cooperation based on its core values: Truth, Justice and Freedom. www.fu-berlin.de/en/


Major findings of Joint and Double Degree Programs in the Global Context report include:

  • Double degrees are much more common than joint degrees. 84% of the respondents offer double degrees, while 33% offer joint degrees, under which students get one degree certificate signed by all participating institutions.
  • Among all joint or double degree programs reported, the majority were at the master’s level; however, the majority of programs reported by Australian institutions are at the doctoral level, and the majority of programs reported by U.S. institutions are at the undergraduate level.
  • The five countries most frequently cited as the home country for current partner institutions are: France, China, Germany, Spain, and the United States.  However, India was in the top five countries noted as being of interest for future collaborative degree programs.
  • The most popular academic discipline among the collaborative degree programs noted in this study is Business and Management, followed by Engineering.
  • Joint and double degree programs tend to be a relatively new mode of academic collaboration. The majority of responding institutions indicated that they set up their first joint or double degree programs between 2001 and 2009. While institutions in Europe generally launched their first programs earlier (1991-2000), institutions in Australia, the UK and the U.S. were most likely to have developed their programs more recently.
  • Nearly all survey participants report that joint and double degree programs are part of their institution’s internationalization strategy. However, only about half have a clear institutional policy on program development and less than half have developed particular methods for the marketing of these programs.
  • A large majority (95%) of responding institutions plan to continue to develop more joint and double degree programs.
  • The top motivations for developing joint or double degree programs are to broaden educational offerings, strengthen research collaboration, advance internationalization, and raise international visibility/prestige. Increasing revenue was major motivating factor only for respondents from the U.S. and the UK. 
  • The top challenges for developing joint or double degree programs are securing adequate funding and ensuring sustainability. Language issues tend to not be a challenge for most institutions, with the exception of U.S. respondents.
  • According to survey respondents, the potential for double-counting of credits appears to be one of the least important challenges. Furthermore, 66 percent of the responding institutions indicated that they have measures in place to regulate the double counting of credits.

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