Cross-border academic degree programs, known as joint or double degree programs, are gaining significance globally according to a study made by staff members of the Institute of International Education and Freie Universität Berlin. Initially transnational programs were found mainly in Europe, but in recent years they have developed into a global trend. For the study "Joint and Double Degree Programs in the Global Context," 245 universities were surveyed worldwide. It is the second study by the two partners on this issue.
“Cross-border degree programs are undoubtedly complex and costly to develop. But they offer a more deep-rooted form of cooperation between higher education institutions than the traditional exchange partnerships,” stressed Daniel Obst, co-editor of the report and vice president of the Institute of International Education. This type of program can be particularly attractive and offer certain advantages for students as well as for the institutions involved. “To fully utilize the potential of such programs and to ensure that they can be maintained over a longer period of time, we need clear institutional expectations and guidelines for developing joint or double degree programs,” according to Matthias Kuder from Freie Universität Berlin’s Center for International Cooperation.
The results of the study showed that this is not currently the case at many universities. About 95 percent of the responding institutions stated that transnational degree programs are part of their internationalization efforts, but only about half of them have guidelines for setting up this type of program. Particularly in view of the most frequently mentioned challenges – sustainability of the programs and their funding – and the relatively small numbers of participating students (on average it is 25), clear institutional guidelines are especially important.
Other Highlights of the Report
- There are many more double degree programs than joint degree programs. Of the universities participating in the survey, 84 percent offer double degree programs, while only 33 percent of them offer joint degree programs.
- Most of the joint and double degree programs are offered as master’s degree programs.
- Most of the respondents in the survey operate joint or double degree programs with partner institutions in the following countries: France, China, Germany, Spain, and the United States.
- Most of the survey respondents indicated that their joint or double degree programs are in the fields of economics and engineering.
- The majority of the specified joint and double degree programs were established between 2001 and 2009. Most of the European universities started their programs sooner (1991–2000), while the development of joint and double degree programs in Australia, Britain, and the United States can be observed in more recent years.
- Almost all the respondents reported that joint and double degree programs are an integral part of the internationalization policy of the institution. However, only about half stated they have developed clear guidelines for the institutional development of joint and double degree programs. Less than half of the respondents claimed to engage in special marketing activities for such programs.
- Nearly 95 percent of all the institutions surveyed stated that they intend to move toward more joint and double degree programs.
- As the main motivation for the development of joint and double degree programs, the respondents gave the following reasons: expansion of course offerings, reinforcement of research collaboration, and promotion of internationalization as well as the international reputation of the institution.
- The most frequently mentioned challenges are: securing funding and developing joint and double degree programs that can be maintained over a long period of time.
The report is available online at