Joint and Double Degree Programs: Location, Location, Location

The cardinal rule of real estate (“location, location, location”) just acquired new meaning for me. In the latest issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, there is the usual “sponsored section” paid for by the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA). There are now more than 60 such schools and programs; the majority are located in the United States. In the section, each school that contributed to the ad got a page to explain why they were relevant and what is distinctive about their faculty.

Many make the case that they are in the key American city where policies are made, or that they have attracted people who most recently were key decision-makers and ambassadors. Others highlight how interdisciplinary the field of international affairs has and should become. The new head of Sciences Po in Paris also says that “English has become the lingua franca of international affairs,” and the head of the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna argues that “political science is an inter-discipline” (something that I hope will eventually catch on in U.S. departments that are still battling over whether the humanities and area studies are even legitimate). Nevertheless, each of the schools makes a case statement with which I can readily identify. Washington and New York (and those in and of them) and probably Paris matter. And I think I have written letters of recommendation for our staff aiming at graduate schools to most in the APSIA network.

But what caught my eye—and changed my perspective—was this statement by Professor Jing Huang:

“The rise of China, India, and more broadly Asia as a whole has fundamentally changed our world. The change has been so swift that it has outpaced the established theories to explain such phenomena. How can we explain the way in which China, under an authoritarian regime, has risen so rapidly without confrontation with the incumbent hegemon—the United States—but instead is creating deep interdependence between them? How can globalization, which was initiated and assertively pushed by the West, have resulted in the developing East accumulating wealth while the developed West piles on debt? Further, how can market forces be managed by the visible hand for continuous delivery in the Asian countries? And also, why has the ‘Jasmine Revolution’ not happened (yet) in China and other Asian-Pacific countries where rapid economic growth has led to an increase in demand for greater political participation? Indeed, while the dominant international relations theories—realism, (neo) institutionalism, constructivism, and liberalism, all generalized from Western experiences—struggle to answer these questions, the center of gravity in economics and geopolitics is decisively shifting to the East.” I actually had not heard of the theory of constructivism.

Professor Huang is a member of the faculty of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy in Singapore. He thinks future international affairs professionals from many countries ought to study there. And he makes a good case.

It leads me to think that no one going to graduate school ought to think of doing their studies in just one place. That is why IIE’s work in exploring the growing world of dual and joint degrees is so important. Our most recent study is Joint and Double Degree Programs in the Global Context: Report on an International Survey, and we are planning to publish a new book on this topic together with German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) later next year. As more of these program opportunities open up, American students ought to become part of this intercultural world.

The good news is that many more U.S. graduate programs are partnering with the Lee Kuan Yew School (and also Sciences Po as well as graduate schools in China and Japan) than when I ran one. The bad news is that most of the students seeking these opportunities are international students. So when I get ready to write my next batch of letters of recommendation, I am going to make sure that those who ask me which school they should apply to think about those institutions that make it possible to study international affairs in all the places beyond the Beltway, where it is, in fact, happening.