Friday, February 6, 2009

Europeans and Joint Degree Programs

While American institutions hold to a traditional vision of study abroad — in which U.S. students either take part in an institution-sponsored travel experience or attend a university outside the United States and transfer credit back to their home school — European institutions are exploring joint degree programs with American schools.

American colleges and universities also are building joint programs with European schools, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, but European students are much likely than their American peers to pursue such programs. (Subscription required.)

The great advantage of the joint program, according to advocates, is that they more effectively integrate students into the life and culture of home institutions than do short-term or semester-long programs.

The Chronicle reports that European schools are more advanced in this process than their American counterparts because of a decade-long Bologna Process. As part of the process, more than 40 nations are harmonizing degree cycles in advance of the creation of a European Higher Education Area by 2010.

The growth of English-language programs and growing focuses on internationalization have also spurred joint programs.

“In Europe, the idea of having more transferable skills and creating more mobility through these joint programs has been going on for much longer than in the United States,” Daniel Obst, director of membership and higher-education services of the Institute of International Education, told the Chronicle.

Joint programs may hold more currency in Europe than in America partly because U.S. students bear almost all of the cost of study abroad, whereas larger institutional and governmental support is available for Europeans.

Matthias Kuder of Berlin’s Free University says American universities need to promote joint degree programs by establishing “political vision that inspires students to study abroad” and creating frameworks for greater acceptance of such degrees.

Kuder notes that American students, if joint programs were properly promoted, might find that studying in Europe in some instances might actually be cheaper than stateside study.

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