Vexing questions and issues re. joint and double degree programmes

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Front page of the publication.
Front page of the publication

Full title
Joint and Double Degree Programmes: Vexing Questions and Issues

International joint, double and combined degree programmes clearly have a role in the current landscape of higher education and will likely be more numerous and influential in the coming years. As an internationalisation strategy, they address the heartland of academia - the teaching/learning process and the production of new knowledge between and among countries. These programmes are built on the principle of deep academic collaboration and bring important benefits to individuals, institutions, national and regional education systems. The interest in them is exploding but so is the confusion. The purpose of this report is to examine the different meanings of double and joint degree programmes around the world, examine the driving rationales, identify core concepts and elements, propose a working definition and typology, and discuss some of the vexing issues related to the organisation, recognition and perceived \’legitimacy\’ of these programmes and their qualifications.

Author: Jane Knight

Knight, J. (2008). Joint and double degree programmes: vexing questions and issues. Observatory on Borderless Higher Education. Download

Double and joint degree programmes – an important worldwide development in internationalising higher education – but one that is raising questions and eyebrows

This is a quote from the introduction:

"What is meant when one refers to joint, or double or multiple or combined degrees? Are they the same or different? How are they organised? Does a double degree mean ’two for one’? Do the degrees come from ’degree mills’? Does it mean that if you pass exams from all partner institutions offering the same programme you can get multiple degrees? Can you get a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree from different countries by completing a combined and shorter programme of study? Are the qualifications legitimate and recognised? Can students stay at the home institution and get a second foreign degree by taking some extra courses by distance? If students study at the foreign partner institution for two semesters does it mean they get its degree as well? Are double degree programmes the same as twinning programmes? If students complete one joint programme provided by two institutions and get two degrees isn’t this double counting - sort of academic fraud? These questions are not made up - they are real. They come from academics and students who are interested, but unsure, about what a joint or double degree means and involves.

Internationalisation of higher education is innovating and growing so quickly that we are seeing many new initiatives as well as unexpected developments and results - both positive and negative. This applies to international collaborative programmes such as double and joint degrees. The interest in them is exploding but so is the confusion. The purpose of this report is to 1) examine the different meanings of double and joint degree programmes around the world and the driving rationales, 2) identify core concepts and elements, and 3) propose a working definition and typology that will help to answer some of these troubling questions and provide some clarity on the meaning, rationales and key issues involved in international joint, double, multiple and combined degree programmes.

It is important to acknowledge that Europe is the leader in raising the importance, identifying the value, and promoting the organisation of these types of collaborative degree programmes. As will be discussed in the report, joint degrees are seen as a principal instrument for developing the European Higher Education Area (EHEA) and for improving the competitiveness of European higher education around the world. But Europe’s leadership does not mean that it has all the answers, a fact it is the first to recognise and which spurs it to undertake important research. Surveys completed by European organisations have identified many issues associated with joint and double degree and have produced guidelines of good practice. Many recognised experts and studies have specifically addressed the vexing issue of defining terms and identifying key concepts and challenges1. This report acknowledges and builds on the foundational work of these experts and tries to develop a typology that will relate to institutions and organisations in all regions of the world. It is a daunting challenge and thus the proposed working definitions are definitely a work in progress. The analysis may raise more questions than answers. But, if this in turn makes international educators give more attention to the subject of joint and double degrees, the goal will be met."


See also