Among European countries, the introduction of joint and double degree programs has long been a vital part of internationalization strategies in higher education, helping to create yet stronger links and flourishing partnerships. In the transatlantic context, such programs are, however, a less common feature. Co-operation in higher education between Northamerica and Germany has been based so far to a great extent on traditional student and faculty exchange programs. These have over decades enabled many to experience the other side of the Atlantic, thus creating long lasting links and a profound understanding of the respective country and culture. Nonetheless, they show only limited effectiveness in building lasting institutional bridges between universities on both sides of the Atlantic.
In face of an increasingly globalized world, however, with internationally educated workforce, interculural skills and foreign language abilities in ever greater demand, a new level of co-operation and curriculum integration between our universities can offer unique opportunities for coming generations of students. Here the “Transatlantic Degree Programs” (TDP) project sets out to envision innovative ways of collaboration between US, Canadian and German instutions of higher education.
A survey and a series of workshops in the US, Canada and Germany over the next three years will take up the idea of joint and double degree programs and focus on their current status and future prospects in the transatlantic context. The goal is to examine if and how transatlantic degree programs can be established and thus to provide stimulus to and guidelines for universities on both sides of the Atlantic for creating and implementing such programs.
The opportunities and advantages created by the more structured forms of cooperation are manifold. Students profit from the exposure to different cultures and learning environments and learn to appreciate these differences. Curriculum integration is the nucleus of joint and double degree programs, enabling students to earn credits on both sides of the Atlantic without delaying their degrees. Moving with ease between continents and armed with one joint or two separate degrees, students gain an advantage on the job market – in Europe, Northamerica, and beyond.
For universities, joint and double degrees are a two edged sword. The implementation requires committment on all administrative levels, including essential input and support from faculty members. However, these most sophisticated and demanding forms of cooperation in higher education can hold a multitude of advantages for the respective partner universities. To name but two: The pooling of ressources can open up a new range of opportunities and the global battle for the smartest brains is best mastered when faught in alliances.