The Math Behind Partnerships: Finding Balance in Student Exchange

The following blog entry is the second in a series of partnership-focused pieces related to IIE’s recent publication, Global Perspectives on Strategic International Partnerships: A Guide to Building Sustainable Academic Linkages. This series provides the book’s authors the opportunity to expand upon their chapter, react to another chapter in the book, or address a whole new partnership topic entirely.

One of the reasons I chose to join the Coggin College of Business International Business Flagship Program at the University of North Florida (Jacksonville, FL) in 2007 was due to the growing study abroad programs available. Little did I know that, just a few years later, I would be helping lead our team in deepening the college’s international strategic relationships. One such relationship is with KEDGE Business School, formerly Euromed Management, located in Marseille, France.

Coggin’s partnership with KEDGE dates back to 1999. We started off with faculty exchange and fall/spring semester student exchange, but we soon reached an imbalance: KEDGE’s outgoing student population quickly surpassed Coggin’s. Since UNF was established as a commuter school in 1972 and transitioned to a four-year university a couple of decades later, we still have a largely non-traditional population. Coggin students have been more likely to participate in faculty-led or summer programs as opposed to full semesters abroad. This is changing, albeit slowly.

Addressing Imbalance with Creativity

But back to our relationship with KEDGE: in order to address this exchange imbalance, we launched a four-week business and culture immersion program in summer 2010 for Coggin students to attend KEDGE. Coggin in the South of France consists of three courses delivered by KEDGE faculty, and students are awarded seven transfer credits. Like a typical exchange, Coggin students pay tuition to UNF, but like a faculty-led program, our office collects the program fee in order to pay for hotel, transportation, and other costs on behalf of the students.

Since this month-long program is still a stretch for many of our students, we have recruited a Department of Management faculty member to act as the “faculty liaison.” This particular faculty member is fantastic and has been key to the program’s success with responsibilities including the following:

  • assisting with marketing and recruitment in the fall and early spring semesters;
  • conducting selection interviews;
  • attending pre-departure meetings with selected students;
  • arranging student airfare to Marseille;
  • flying to Marseille with the students and staying for the first few days to help them get settled.

Coggin in the South of France has been running successfully ever since, with 16-20 Coggin students participating each summer. Every two Coggin students who participate in this program allows for one KEDGE student to spend a fall or spring semester at UNF. We also continue to send a couple of Coggin students to KEDGE on semester exchanges, generating around 12-14 semester slots for KEDGE students each year.

Deepening the Relationship with an Undergraduate Double Degree

Faculty from the two institutions had been discussing the possibility of a double degree for a few years when in 2009, Coggin joined KEDGE in the Transatlantic Business School Alliance (TABSA). TABSA is a consortium of four European and four U.S. institutions whose focus is on creating strategic international partnerships. When Coggin joined TABSA, the consortium was renewing an EU-USA Atlantis Programme grant, which provided much needed funding to finally launch the KEDGE/UNF double degree. By the time the curriculum and structure were finalized, the faculty association approvals were received, and accrediting bodies had given their stamps of approval, nearly three years had elapsed. But we had a solid reciprocal program outlined:

  • Coggin students
    • spend their first two years at UNF and their second two years at KEDGE;
    • study at least four semesters of French before going to France;
    • take many of their business courses at KEDGE taught in French;
    • complete a four to six month internship in France during their final semesters abroad.
  • KEDGE students
    • spend their first two years at KEDGE and their second two years at UNF;
    • study English before coming to the U.S.;
    • take all of their business courses at UNF taught in English;
    • complete a four to six month internship in the U.S. during their final semesters abroad.

At the end of the program, students earn a Bachelor of Business Administration (major in international business) from UNF and a CESEMED (Bachelor of International Business) from KEDGE.

Coggin received our first double degree students from KEDGE in fall 2012, and we sent our first two juniors to KEDGE in fall 2015. Since Coggin began accepting KEDGE students several years before we began sending out Coggin students—and because this program is operated on an exchange basis—we once again reached an imbalance. For the near future, we have agreed that KEDGE will refrain from sending fall or spring semester exchange students to Coggin in order to reserve the places for double-degree students. We hope to get to a point where we are exchanging 10 double degree students per year.

Taking the Next Steps

As this is UNF’s first foray into undergraduate reciprocal double degrees, there have been many, many challenges along the way. We’ve had to address—and we continue to address—issues such as financial aid, general education requirements, recruiting challenges, student retention, academic advising and additional student support for the program. But that’s for another post! The benefits to the students and institutions far outweigh the challenges, and both schools are committed to internationalization. On the horizon is a graduate-level double degree between KEDGE and Coggin, and we at Coggin are actively creating undergraduate double degrees with our other TABSA partners.