Joint/Dual Degrees: Conspicuously Absent in International Ed?

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diplomaGiven that our field so often requires a graduate degree for upward career growth–or even entry level positions–I’ve been surprised by what a struggle my search for potential international education grad programs has been. My difficulties stem not from rejection letters (at least not yet…fingers crossed!) but rather from my failure to find programs I consider to be truly international.

Wanted: international international education degrees

Searching for grad schools forced me to ask the question: what makes an international ed degree “international” enough? My standard wound up being pretty simple: since “inter” means between or among, international ed should involve education between or among nations. For me, this definition calls for international joint and dual degrees, where study is completed at two or more universities in different countries as part of coordinated programs that award multiple degrees or a joint degree from the participating institutions.

That solves it, then! All I need to do is just pick one of the international joint/dual programs in our field and I’ll be good to go. Not only will I get to study international education while actually, you know, getting educated internationally. I’ll also gain firsthand experience with an international joint/dual degree–an area of growth in the portfolios of many international ed administrators–from the critical perspective of a student participant. Great! I’m thisclose to culturally rewarding experiences studying and earning credentials at multiple international universities. Bring it on!

So many countries to choose from...or so I thought.  Photo credit: Missy Gluckmann
So many countries to choose from…or so I thought. Photo credit: Missy Gluckmann

Wait…where are all the international joint/dual degrees in international education?

Not so fast, it turns out. As far as I can tell, few such programs exist. Or, at the very least, they’re awfully difficult to find. To that end, we could probably make it easier for similarly inclined international ed professionals to identify suitable degree programs. There’s been work done on this–for instance, Inside Study Abroad compiled a great list. But I’m envisioning something more along the lines of a searchable and up-to-date online database of international education degrees, offered by our field and for our field. In fact, it’s my hope that this post will serve in part to collect data, so if you know any programs that meet my criteria, please comment!

Don’t get me wrong–the international education field has great options in general for graduate study. There are a wide variety of online and limited residency options suitable for current practitioners, as well as full-time programs for those willing and able to leave their jobs for a year or two. But many full-time options require most of that time to be spent at one home campus. And while these programs may feature limited opportunities for a semester and/or summer abroad, those who want to spend a more significant time studying internationally while earning credentials in multiple countries seem to be mostly out of luck.

Interestingly enough, these kinds of programs are relatively commonplace in our sister fields. For example, if I want to study international relations, Johns Hopkins SAIS offers cooperative graduate degrees  with universities in France, Singapore, and Austria. Or if I decide to to pursue international business instead, there are myriad international MBA programs featuring mobility between business schools across the globe.

So what’s up with our ironic lack of international joint/dual degrees?

Great question. Why does our field, which studies education from an international perspective and administers international education programs, not offer many equivalent joint/dual programs? Why are international education graduate degrees so decidedly…domestic?

Unfortunately, I’ve got more questions than answers. Is it a problem of demand? Are there not enough international educators, both in the U.S. and in other countries, who want to pursue international joint/dual degrees? If so, some soul searching is in order. Maybe we need to examine incentive structures in a field that promotes the value of international education but may inadvertently leave many of its own professionals feeling tied to a home campus or limited to online/limited residency programs. Alternatively, is it a resource problem? Is international ed somehow not finding or investing the time, energy, and funds needed to design and build up sustainable international joint/dual degrees? Why do YOU think these programs are so rare in our field? Let me know!

International educators to the rescue

Happily, we in the international ed field are also best-positioned to start answering these questions and filling in the gap in terms of our lack of international joint/dual degrees. We already read and write IIE reports about the growth of these programs, and we discuss various degree models at NAFSA and EAIE conferences. Many of our jobs even include negotiating the design of international joint/dual degrees in other fields, as well as actually administering them. Seems only fitting that we should apply this expertise directly to our own field by offering similar degree options.

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Europe’s Erasmus joint degrees provide a useful model.    Photo credit: Kinetic Imagery/Bigstock.com

Fortunately, we don’t have to start from scratch. Europe has established some awesome models where multiple international institutions collaborate on degrees through its Erasmus programs, which attract generous government and scholarship funding. Cases in point: I recommend all international ed professionals check out the Master in Research and Innovation in Higher Education, or MARIHE, program offered jointly by four universities in Austria, Finland, China, and Germany, as well as Education Policies for Global Development, or Globed, a joint degree program from universities in Spain, the Netherlands, Norway, and Malta.

Well, what might new international joint/dual degrees in international ed look like, anyway?

International education joint/dual degree programs should provide diverse, ambitious options. There could be two-year joint degrees in Comparative and International Education, with time split between a year each at universities in two different countries. Students would be responsible for learning about and comparing the education systems of the host countries. They could even complete internships in similar organizations in each country, observing similarities and differences in practice. Similarly, we can develop international dual master’s degrees in International Education Management where students study in multiple countries, culminating in a capstone project looking at how the partner universities could better coordinate and run the program. We can even go interdisciplinary: an institution in one country could offer a degree in international ed while an institution in another country provides a complementary degree in business, global health, or another related field.

Opportunities for creative program structures and funding schemes abound. An attractive and useful model would be one in which students could learn firsthand how to administer an international joint/dual degree while also earning that degree. With this approach, international ed professionals leery of leaving the workforce and going back to school full-time could leverage their expertise by working for an international joint/dual program while simultaneously pursuing that degree part-time. This way, students would continue gaining work experience in the field and ease program staffing burdens at the same time. (For a comparable model in international business, check out the Consortium Institute of Management and Business Administration, or CIMBA, Campus Life Coordinator program.) Students could even be paid with tuition credits in a sort of international education work-study arrangement. I for one would be thrilled to have this kind of opportunity! Our field already offers domestic programs with co-ops and internships; some even require a practicum in a study abroad office. We should extend these concepts to international joint/dual degrees.

A final appeal from a would-be international ed grad student

I’ve offered some thoughts here to get the conversation started, but I would love to hear more ideas. What kind of international joint/dual degrees in international education would YOU like to see offered?

There’s certainly enough energy and creativity in our field to devise some innovative solutions. An expanded menu of international joint/dual degrees in international ed–with a well-maintained resource tracking all the various degree offerings, to boot–would provide more opportunities to keep our global and intercultural skillsets sharp, while also helping us better prepare for the challenges facing our field.

Heck, we can even get me off to grad school in the process.

(“About time!” my family and friends will cheer.)

bradAbout the Author:  Brad Daniels joined the Melibee hive in Fall 2014 and we’re thrilled to have him buzzing around on topics such as his grad school search. You can read more about Brad here.