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 (Institution-sponsored programs)

Each of the three program categories carries certain institutional risks and benefits. Generally speaking, as the program-category number increases from one (outsourced programs) to three (go-it-alone model), so do program administrative costs and institutional program control as illustrated below:

Study Abroad Costs/Benefits

Study Abroad Costs/Benefits Graph

A university that completely outsources its study abroad program to a third-party company, for example, will have to worry less about legal-entity status than a "go-it-alone" university that owns and operates a host-country campus. The go-it-alone university will have more control over academic standards, ensuring the most beneficial student experience, emergency preparedness plans, housing accommodations, and health and safety, though that control comes at a price.

The institutional mission and budget often guides the structure of the study abroad programs into one of the three categories.

What follows are broad descriptions of the three basic program categories and associated risks.