Growing complexity, scale and scope of international partnerships

International partnerships are becoming an increasingly important role for advancing institution’s global engagement strategy. This drive is not only reflective of demand for more infusing more global perspectives in curriculum but also pressure to build institutional reputation.  With curriculum and learning comes the role of faculty as an integral component at every stage of building and executing partnerships.

However, sometimes faculty are under-prepared and other times they are disinterested due to lack of incentives. ACE’s 2011 Mapping Internationalization on U.S. Campuses survey reported that just 8 percent of respondents indicated that their institutions had guidelines in place to specify international work or experience as a consideration in faculty promotion and tenure decisions.

The readings from Chevallier and Helms for week 6 provide tangible approaches of building partnerships. In addition to the example of University of Minnesota (p. 9, Helms), Indiana University provides several templates of agreements and also very good definitions related to international partnerships including “overseas distance education”, “Twinning programs (a/k/a “sandwich programs”, and “branch campus”.

One important correction related to definitions of joint and dual degrees. As you would notice that Henard’s definition does not match with CGS definition. The correct definition is from CGS.

According to Henard (p.25):

“A dual degree programme consists of two separate approved degree programmes. A candidate will earn one degree that will be approved and recognised by two different institutions. A joint degree programme is agreed upon by two institutions for which two diplomas are issued, one by each institution.”

According to CGS definition used by Chevallier (p.5):

Dual (or double) degree: students receive a separate diploma from each of the participating institutions.
Joint degree: students receive a single diploma representing work completed at two or more institutions.

Here are couple of related examples:

In addition to managing the growing complexity, scale and scope of international partnerships, another element which is becoming important for international offices is demonstrating the impact of their work and helping larger campus community understand their work. Some institutions have started using visual dashboards. Here are couple of examples:

Look forward to more discussion in the classroom on week 8.



W6-ACE Report (International Partnerships)

The ACE Report this week, International Higher Education Partnerships:  A Global Review of Standards and Practices, focuses again on nuts and bolts of internationalization with a focus on global international partnerships between higher education institutions in different countries.  The report lays out best practices in how to achieve successful global partnerships and also warns against practices that stunt implementation efforts for these partnerships.  The second reading, IIE’s Report entitled A Process for Screening and Authorizing Joint and Double Degree Programs, provides a very useful guide on how to vet and implement the growing trend of these two types of programs so that they are effective and not prone to phenomenon such as double counting of credits.

The ACE Report attacks the subject of international partnerships through bifurcation of the types of issues that come up.  First, the report discusses the Program Administration and Management components of international partnerships analyzing them through four themes:  transparency and accountability; faculty and staff engagement; quality assurance; and strategic planning and the role of institutional leadership.  Second, the report discusses Cultural and Contextual Issues in international partnerships analyzing them through four themes as well:  cultural awareness; access and equity; institutional and human capacity building; and ethical dilemmas and “negotiated space.”

For me, theme 1 of the first framework was the most interesting this week, that being the role of legal requirements, documentation and policies and procedures in the transparency and accountability in the successful implementation of international partnerships.  Given my role as General Counsel at a college, I understand the importance of good structure and memorialization of relationships.  Without these fundamental building blocks, there is bound to be inefficiency and a lack of productive paths forward.  It was nice to see the ACE report give such importance to this phase of the process.  For example, in addition to strong mission statements, memorandum’s of understanding (MOUs) are a key component of the “how to” portion of the parameters set forth in the ACE report.  MOUs memorialize the understanding of the parties in terms of the goals of the partnership as well as the operational details necessary to carry out the goals.  A well written MOU can make the difference between a successful relationship that is guided by a strong foundational written agreement between the parties or the breakdown of communications because there is no clear documentation of the parties intent.  Legal input in the drafting of MOUs can also help vet unclear language and help anticipate future liability issues that are bound to arise, particularly in the international context.

The report gives two revealing examples of the role of legal documents and MOUs in partnerships between global higher education institutions.  The first is the Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) review of hundreds of MOU’s it had with institutions abroad that were inactive or outdated (p.20).  A review of the MOUs allowed VCU to vert which partnerships were worth pursuing because they had the parameters documented.  The memorialization of partnerships allowed VCU to target fifteen institutions for strategic collaborations that would yield real results.  This exercise of the review of unusable MOUs is also seen in the example of the relationship between Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis and Kenya’s Moi University (p.34).

The second is Wellesley College’s task to create templates for partnership agreements to mitigate against issues of academic freedom controversies it encountered during a partnership with a Chinese institution (p.33).  (see  To protect against the type of controversy it faced with China, Wellesley now has an institutional-level MOU and an “international activity agreement” which is for individual departments or faculty and counterparts abroad.  According to the report, “both include language in the preamble—modeled on a statement used by Cornell University (NY) in its partnership agreements—stating that all parties agree to adhere to commonly observed standards for academic freedom in all educational and research activities entailed in the agreement (p.33).”  Wellesley has been able to implement these agreements through its International Study Committee  (see formed to monitor and facilitate international partnerships.  The committee reviews all of the MOUs or agreements before they are signed and feels that “it is much better to have the conversation about them in advance of the program than after the fact (p.33).  For a lawyer, it is gratifying to see the effective of use of legal structures and documents to pave the way for stronger global international partnerships, both transactional and transformational, to contribute to the growth of internationalization.

W-6 Melissa Fernandez

This weeks ACE reading touches on partnerships. One of the common themes is transparency and quality assurance. When establishing an off shore partnership, the host campus, faculty and students must have transparency of what is expected of them. There also needs to be clarification on how similarly the partnership will run compared to the host campus. To ensure they are equivalent the faculty hired should be of the same caliber as one that would be hired in the home country. They also mention ways on making the faculty feel important such as helping them start new programs at a successful off shore campus. They also mention allowing faculty to engage in study abroad without having to commit to being at the off shore campus for long term. Though these ideas may attract faculty, from a students perspective this may be negative because I would want the interaction with a professor teaching the course for more than the first 3 weeks. The idea is similar to an online class but not every student learns in this manner and students could be inclined to look at other institutions that have the faculty there for a longer portion of the semester. Along with transparency, language is an important factor as making sure all partners understand what is expected of them and the mission and goals that are in place. Informing students of what language courses will be taught in and what requirements they will need to enter the program are crucial when high enrollment is the goal.

Institutional strategy plays a large role in deciding weather a partnership is of value. When deciding on expanding the campus, financial factors come in to play. There has to be a plan of action to create revenue from the partnership or supporting the partnership will be costly for the home campus. Not just financially, the partnership must also be in line with the mission and goals of the home institution. When starting partnerships the establishing of programs could be difficult and institutional leaders are key roles in the process. A successful establishment of a partnership will set precedent for more to come which is why institutional leaders are needed to ensure the process is smooth and successful. Institutional leaders should be aware of the cultural context that the partnership will be entering and the faculty and home institution should be supportive of this. Accepting the cultural differences will have an effect on weather the partnership is successful.


W6 – International Partnerships

The ACE article International Higher Education Partnerships: A Global Review of Standards and Practices brings to our attention common themes and key concepts which are required in order to have successful international programs and partnerships. The article points out how active engagement with the world has become an essential part of a students higher education in order to prepare students to live and work in this interconnected global world. Now that this concept of international education is widely accepted, the issues that we struggle with is HOW do provide this type of education. Based off various survey results, half of Unite States institutions have at least one partnership with institutions abroad and even higher percentages have joint degree programs or dual degree programs with partners abroad. However, with these partnerships, comes an array of challenges.  The article examines the themes the Blue Ribbon Panel identified which fall under two categories: Administration and Management and Cultural and Contextual issues.  The themes include Transparency and Accountability, Faculty and Staff Engagement, Quality Assurance, Strategic Planning and the Role of Institutional Leadership, Cultural Awareness, Access and Equity, Institutional and Human Capacity building, and Ethical Dilemmas and “Negotiated Space”.  I chose to focus my post on the Cultural and Contextual issues these partnerships face.

With any type of international program, whether domestic or abroad, awareness and sensitivity to cultural differences is essential to success. ACE identifies how communication between stakeholders on both ends of the partnership is essential to identifying the possible cultural differences that may cause problems or tensions and explore possible solutions before the start of the partnership.  I had never really thought of this before reading this section of the article and while it makes perfect sense, I had never thought about the important role that stakeholders can play in exploring cultural differences and establishing best practices for cultural acceptance in their program.  I always looked as stakeholders on each end as more of a business transaction, where each explores what this partnership can do for them and working out the logistics of how to make it happen.  It seems that the training of faculty and staff on cultural sensitivity varies greatly from campus to campus and while I know we have discussed that there is no “one size fits all” model for internationalization, I am curious if there could be an educational training model that all schools who wish to internationalize require for faculty and staff.  We have programs like Safe Zone for faculty and staff to become more aware of the issues that face LGBTQ students and how they can better serve this population – lets develop a standardized program that addresses cultural awareness.  I did some research and it seems like there are many resources available for teachers to tap into in order to become a culturally sensitive educator; however, I did not come across one standard or specific program for higher education faculty and staff.  One article from the National Education Association puts it perfectly: “Understanding our culture is important so that we understand how we interact with individuals from cultures that are different from ours.  This understanding helps us see our students and their families more clearly, and shape policies and practice in ways that will help our students to succeed.”  Not only does understanding our own culture help us relate to people from different cultures, it is also important to understand different educational practices in different areas of the world. Teaching style, grading techniques, and evaluation processes are all very different depending on the countries the partnerships are between.  Faculty play an essential role in this process and the ACE article points out an example from a dual degree partnership between Appalachian State University and Universi-dad de las Americas in Mexico.  The two schools sent faculty back and forth to discuss course content, curriculum and what the program would actually look like at each campus.  The faculty were able to collaborate to develop “cultural norms” for the program, which took into account their cultural differences, creating a program that would be accessible for all students involved.  These interactions created a solid foundation for their program and opened the lines of communication for any problems or issues that may arise.

W6 – Cultural Awareness in International Higher Education Partnerships

One of the things the ACE report highlights that the report from IIE does not mention is the need for cultural awareness when fostering potential partnerships with other institutions in other countries. Having studied and worked abroad, and having spoken to many other students and alumni about their experiences abroad as well, it is not surprising to me that the report would highlight the importance of considering the cultural differences and potential conflicts and risks they oppose. Especially since academic freedom, in particular, is so heavily stressed in U.S. higher education. I also have personal experience of how a lack of presence on the part of administration can lead to many frustrations and misunderstandings due to cultural differences that may be hard to navigate and resolve without a third party present. Due to the typical culture of the country I worked in, it was hard for my foreign coworkers and I to properly inform our supervisors of the issues that we encountered. And we felt we were not being heard and out issues were not taken seriously until there were consequences that affect our supervisors as well. So I also think it’s very important that key faculty and staff can form preliminary relationships with the key faculty and staff of the potential partner institution to come to agreement on set standards of practices and cultural differences that need to be addressed.

And while the report seems to focus more heavily on ensuring cultural awareness and sensitivity of the faculty and administration involved in establishing and maintaining the partnerships, ensuring that the students involved are very important as well. There are instances, particularly in the U.S. institutions, where international students and local students voluntarily socially-segregate from each other. At times there may be language barriers, but there’s also the issue of not “fitting in” with local peers due to cultural differences, which defeats the purpose of having an international presence to promote global competency amongst the parties involved. But there has been a number of U.S. institutions like Case Western Reserve University that has begun to offer training for faculty to better serve and integrate the international students into the classroom. Duke University has also created an Intercultural Skills Development Program for all permanent faculty and staff to become more culturally aware and engaging with the growing international population on the Duke campus. More institutions who are aiming to globalize their campuses and formulate partnerships abroad need to keep in mind not only the issues with faculty and staff but also with the students themselves.