Study Abroad Programs

*Study abroad programs can help colleges and universities gain academic credibility, produce revenue, and, perhaps most significantly, meet the demands of existing students and attract prospective ones. As a result of these benefits, study abroad programs are the most common, longest-tenured form of international activity within higher education.

As a 2012 article by the Institute of International Education notes, "study abroad by American students has more than tripled over the past two decades."  Along with steady, predictable growth, the popularity of European destinations has remained a constant over the years, with the United Kingdom repeatedly heading the list of destinations for U.S. students studying abroad.

But the established success of study abroad programs, and the continued popularity of certain European destinations, may obscure the fact that study abroad programs are rapidly evolving and expanding into other regions in developing nations. For example, China was the twelfth most popular destination for U.S. study abroad students in the 1998-99 academic year. In 2010-11, by contrast, China was ranked fifth.

The nature of student participation is also changing. For example, short-term programs (eight weeks or less) are increasingly popular, while longer-term programs were relatively stagnant in recent years. Many factors contribute to these trends, including economic determinants, student demands for cross-cultural education, and priorities set by individual universities and home- and host-country governments.

The established success of study abroad programs likely also gives higher education faculty members and administrators a false sense of security about program risks. The changing nature of study abroad programs, along with new and changing domestic and international regulations, only complicate and increase these risks, which can be well hidden even in mature programs. 
Some of the most common types of study abroad programs today include (not an exhaustive list):

  • Semester or year abroad.
  • Student exchange.
  • Summer school.
  •  "Prerequisite" program.
  • Dual degree.
  • Joint degree.
  • 1+3, 2+2, 3+1, etc.

Three Categories of Study Abroad Programs

For purposes of evaluating potential legal and compliance risks with study abroad programs, we will separate study abroad models into three major categories: 1.) Outsourced programs 2.) Hybrid approach 3.)“Go-it-alone” model.  Read more

Additional Considerations

One of the surest ways for a university to mitigate study abroad program risks is to create a central office dedicated to supporting international activities, as described in the Home Campus section.  Read more