Joint study programmes: the most integrated form for internationalisation

Joint study programmes: the most integrated form for internationalisation

As Europe struggles with unemployment and economic downturn, the focus of the higher education sector should be on creating new knowledge to support innovation and growth. Why, then, is there so much emphasis being put on developing and implementing time- and resource-consuming joint academic programmes? Could it be that academic added value and student learning outcomes can be reached through a joint international curriculum with integrated mobility, ie, through joint study programmes?

Joint study programmes have long been both academically and politically prioritised within the European Higher Education Arena (EHEA). They were first mentioned in relation to the inter-ministerial Bologna Process in 2001, since joint study programmes are directly linked to Bologna action lines of mobility, joint curriculum development and quality assurance. Today, the Bologna Process is one of the main voluntary processes at European level, and is implemented in the 47 EHEA states. The latest Bologna meeting resulted in the Bucharest Communiqué, stating: “We encourage higher education institutions to further develop joint programmes and degrees as part of a wider EHEA approach. We will examine national practices as a way to dismantle obstacles to cooperation and mobility.”

Joint Study Programmes for quality assurance and benchmarking

From an academic point of view, developing and implementing joint study programmes provides your institution with an optimal instrument for quality assurance and benchmarking: through discussions with your academic peers you will become aware of good practice within teaching, research and various aspects of administration. Your institution could learn a great deal in terms of methodology, staff training, curricula development, internal quality assurance, marketing and recruitment, employability etc, by exploring the idea of joint study programmes.

Augment your institution’s own expertise

You might have become aware of specific socio-economic needs or the need for greater competence in the labour market within your own academic field, and wish to be among the first institutions providing a new, attractive study track. You want to broaden or deepen your educational offer, but some academic expertise is missing at your own institution. One of the main added values of joint study programmes is combining complementing academic strengths into a completely new learning entity, not available at any single institution.

Increase visibility and reputation

The strategically important joint educational offer will raise the international visibility and reputation of your institution and provide a base for strengthening (strategic) international collaboration. Additionally, the programmes will increase international student enrolment to support internationalisation at home, as well as raise institutional revenue.

Ready to take the plunge?

Joint study programmes, as instruments, may not always be the answer to your own specific institutional needs of internationalisation. Increased funding within Erasmus+ or any other financing instrument should not be your main motivating factor. It is important to be completely aware of your own reasons for entering into this kind of cooperation. Once you’ve made your decision – that’s when the interesting part begins!

Living the experience of developing and running an international joint study programme is like climbing a never-ending, steep learning curve. Let us initiate you to this exciting concept of international cooperation and give you hands-on advice at the spring EAIE Academy in Bucharest, 18-22 April 2016. Make sure you sign up for the course ‘Managing Joint Master Programmes: steps to success’ by 29 March.

Joint study programme benefits in a nutshell:

Annika Sundbäck-Lindroos, Centre for International Mobility, Finland