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Joint degrees central to int’l strategies

Money, accreditation and visibility have all been named as barriers to the expansion of joint and double degree programs, in a new report from Poland’s international exchange body. 

Polish universities are increasingly interested in joint degrees. Photo: Unsplash.

Variations include double degrees, joint degrees, joint study programs and double study programs

Dawid Kostecki, director of the Polish national agency for academic exchange (NAWA), wrote in the publication that this type of education “has gained interest in the Polish academic community in recent years”, in part due to the “complexities of the labour market”. 

“Flexibility is a key value that increases a graduate’s employability not only at home but also abroad,” he added. “A double degree is an important step in building a candidate’s career path not only because of the opportunity to broaden their horizons, but also in terms of fostering their openness to the world.”

But the report points out that joint studies are “complex”, with several variations including double degrees, joint degrees, joint study programs and double study programs.

Dorota Piotrowska, researcher at Lodz University of Technology, said that “terminological confusion” results from a “lack of clear definitions”. 

“This is a confusion that has somewhat blocked universities in Europe for many years,” she said. “The lack of order causes universities to use some terms interchangeably, which sometimes gives rise to misunderstandings.”

In Germany, double degree studies, which are defined in the report as resulting in the issuance of two separate accreditation documents, play a “key role” in university internationalisation strategies, according to Tabea Kaiser, head of the internationalisation of teaching at DAAD.

“The value of double degree programmes often does not go hand-in-hand with their visibility”

But Kaiser believes there should be more information available about these study programs. 

“The value of double degree programmes often does not go hand-in-hand with their visibility,” she wrote. “The websites of many double degree courses are difficult to find on university websites. They also lack basic information.”

According to Vidar Pedersen, director for European programs at The Norwegian Directorate for Higher Education and Skills, joint courses are a priority for the government. Norway’s former education minister described these as the “golden standard of international cooperation” as they require far-reaching interaction between universities.

Pedersen points out that financing is one of the main challenges when it comes to to expanding these programs. “Conducting joint degree programmes is quite expensive,” he said. “The distribution of funds within a consortium can also be a problem.”

Arrangements where students begin studying at home and then continue in the US are “an important part of the plan for the internationalisation of American universities”, according to Clare Overmann, head of the higher education initiative department at the Institute of International Education. 

But, with no central institution responsible for accreditation in the US, it is “difficult” to recognise these degrees. 

Piotrowska argues that, for Poland and Europe, legal restrictions need to be adapted to support the implementation of joint and double degrees.

“A ‘green light’ allowing for certain solutions, clearly presented by the Ministry, could significantly encourage Polish universities to develop this form of cooperation,” she said.

Piotrowska concludes that the development of learning pathways that lead to qualifications identified and recognised by multiple universities could become “revolutionary” for Europe’s higher education system. 

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