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Faculty Key To Internationalizing The US Campus

Faculty Holds Key To Internationalizing Campus: Collaborative degree programs "sensible way to go," says education official

Internationalizing the American campus can involve more than attracting international students or encouraging U.S. students to study abroad. Branch campuses and collaborative degree programs are growing areas of internationalization, but the key to internationalizing may be the faculty, according to an expert on the subject.

"The major focus should be about producing globally competent graduates" who are "ready to live and work in a global, multicultural world," says Madeleine Green, vice president for international initiatives at the American Council on Education.

"The most important element is the faculty," she told USINFO in a recent interview. "If the faculty thinks about their connection with the larger world, if they see international dimensions to their discipline, if they have relationships with colleagues abroad, they will communicate that through their teaching and research to students. So I think they're the lynchpin of internationalization."

More institutions are "investing in faculty development -- in funding their research abroad and funding them to lead groups of students abroad, which I think is a very important investment," Green said.

She said U.S. institutions can produce globally competent graduates "through a curriculum that incorporates learning about difference, about other cultures, about history, about other languages. They do it through study abroad for a limited number of students. They do it by having partnerships and connections with other institutions, exchanging students and faculty, having guest lectures. They do it by having international students on campus."

"Some institutions are trying to think holistically in terms of an internationalization strategy," she added. "Most are not there yet; they're still doing bits and pieces. They're thinking about international students and study abroad. But there are some who are trying to pull it all together in a comprehensive strategy."

An increasing number of U.S. institutions offer degree programs overseas through branch campuses. George Mason University (GMU), which has four campuses in the state of Virginia, opened a branch campus in Ras Al-Khaimeh in the United Arab Emirates in 2006 and now offers seven undergraduate programs there. Students who complete the requirements receive GMU degrees.

GMU's branch in Ras Al-Khaimeh reaches students "who, for whatever reason -- financial or cultural -- don't want to come directly to the United States [but] would like an American education," GMU Provost Peter Stearns told USINFO recently. American students from GMU can go to Ras Al-Khaimeh to study Middle Eastern culture, politics and such languages as Arabic or Farsi, "so we have the dual benefit both for American students and for international students."

While the number of branch campuses of U.S. institutions is growing, Green cautioned that "it is not a trivial undertaking. Institutions need to think very carefully about the commitment of time, of resources; there's a whole legal, business aspect to it. ... It can serve a very useful purpose; it's just not that easy."

For most U.S. colleges and universities, Green said, dual or joint degree programs are "a very sensible way to go."

In dual or double degree programs, students take courses and receive a degree, diploma or certificate from each participating college or university. For example, through a program established by the State University of New York (SUNY) and the Turkish Council of Higher Education, Turkish students can receive two undergraduate diplomas, one Turkish and one from SUNY, after dividing their four years of study between a Turkish campus and a partner SUNY campus.

In joint degree programs, on the other hand, students take courses at each participating college or university but receive only one degree, diploma or certificate from the college or university at which they are registered.

"A dual degree is a little bit easier operationally because 'institution A' still gives its degree and its students meet its requirements, and 'institution B' does the same," Green said. "A joint degree requires more fiddling with the existing program, and sometimes that's harder to do -- to get by curriculum committees, to get accreditation."

According to a recent survey by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), 29 percent of the U.S. graduate schools responding have established joint, dual or other collaborative degree programs in partnership with international colleges and universities. Most are at the master's degree level, and most of the partnerships are with European universities. But some collaborative doctoral programs are being offered, and some of the collaborative degree programs are with institutions in China, India and other countries outside Europe. Business is the most common field of study, but a significant number of collaborative master's degree programs are in engineering.

The CGS study found that 24 percent of U.S. graduate schools plan to establish new collaborative degree programs in the next two years.

"I hope there will be more and more partnerships, more and more U.S. students going abroad. ... I hope we will have more international students, and they'll feel welcome in the United States," Green said.


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