Faculty-Led Study Abroad Program Development & Approval Process
Rationale for a Program Development and Approval Process
As Brandeis University continues to expand international education opportunities for students there is a need to have a proactive approach to new program development and a centralized process for approving faculty-led or other specialized international programs. A coordinated process allows the university to address issues such as resource allocation, efficiency, budget and enrollment management, institutional liability, risk management, and academic integrity. We hope this information will provide a starting point for discussion as we move to building policies and processes that will ensure any international program offered to the undergraduate population meets the high standards we expect of not only the academic content but also the administrative procedures and student services provided.
New proposals for faculty-led study abroad programs may originate with individual faculty members. But it is expected that the university should also take a proactive approach to considering how many faculty-led programs it can realistically support, which content areas best reflect the university’s strengths, which countries and regions provide connections to Brandeis resources, and which types of partner institutions match up best. A Study Abroad committee may even solicit specific new proposals based on some of these criteria. In any case, however, the leading faculty member should be responsible for initiating and following through with a formal proposal process, in consultation with the Office of Study Abroad.
The Initial Program Proposal should be submitted the Office of Study Abroad for a preliminary review. The Study Abroad staff will be available to faculty members and departments to answer questions about program organization, budgets, credits and university regulations prior to the submission of a proposal. The initial review for feasibility will identify any problems or ambiguities so that the proposal is clear and complete. As part of the initial feasibility review, the faculty sponsor could be asked to meet with the staff of the Office of Study Abroad and the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences to discuss the proposal. The Office of Study Abroad will bring the proposal, revised if necessary, to a committee with representation from the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences, the Budget Office, Students and Enrollment, the Office of Global Affairs, the Registrar, and members of the faculty. The Study Abroad committee will consider the proposal’s feasibility, as well as its consistency with academic, financial and strategic priorities, according to the criteria described below. Given the limitations on staff and financial resources, it is possible that not all programs that are feasible will be advanced to the next stage of consideration.
Once the initial proposal has been approved, the Final Program Proposal should be developed. The full proposal will be prepared in consultation with the Office of Study Abroad, which will consult with the Dean of Arts and Sciences and the Provost on academic and budget considerations at this stage. This stage of the process should also include consultation with other Brandeis faculty members, including contact with departments/programs/colleagues who may be in a position to contribute, whose offerings might be enriched and better integrated, and whose curricula might be affected (positively or negatively) by the new abroad program. Some programs may benefit by the creation of an ongoing faculty committee to provide advice on the academic and strategic components of the program. Once the proposal is complete, the Office of Study Abroad will make a recommendation regarding approval to the Dean of Arts and Sciences and the Provost, who will approve the program’s budget and forward the proposal to the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee. The final step of the process will be approval by the UCC (when program design dictates new academic offerings). Programs would be approved with the understanding that the faculty leader must adhere to all university policies and program review processes in order to receive reauthorization for the program.
Program designs can vary significantly, and could include short-term, stand-alone programs (during a summer term), semester-long courses with some component overseas (spring or fall break or after the end of term), long-term (semester or academic year) study abroad, or other models. Courses could be designed for limited audiences (a select group of pre-determined students) or open to students across the whole university, offered as non-credit or for credit. The Office of Study Abroad can provide resources to faculty that wish to explore program design options.
At the initial stage, the committee will consider both the feasibility of a proposal, and its consistency with university academic, financial and strategic priorities. A successful preliminary proposal will demonstrate strong academic quality, cultural enrichment for students, integration into the Brandeis curriculum, and where possible, opportunities for experiential learning. It will also give indications of a solid administrative structure and financial plan, as well as an initial plan for addressing questions of student health and safety. The committee will also consider how a proposal fits into the University’s strategic priorities, including the geographic location, the present and future student interest in the subject matter and location, the relationship of the proposal to other University initiatives, the relationship of the proposal to enhanced opportunities for faculty research, and the program’s potential to enhance the University’s global profile. The committee will also evaluate the proposal in the context of the competitive landscape, seeking programs where Brandeis can carve out a distinctive niche and draw on specific University strengths. Priority will be given to proposals that give evidence of sustainability over time, including the involvement of more than one faculty member. The committee will also consider the impact of proposals on staff and faculty resources, including on the Office of Study Abroad itself and on the departmental home of the faculty proposer.
At the secondary stage (involving the Office of Study Abroad, the Dean of Arts and Sciences, and the Provost), the most significant criteria will be issues of feasibility, including finances, staff and faculty resources, impact on existing programs, and student health and safety issues. The UCC will evaluate the academic quality of proposals according to its usual standards.
Brandeis University is a member of The Forum on Education Abroad and supports its Standards of Good Practice. Forum members developed these standards for the field so that there would be an agreed-upon set of best practices on all aspects of study abroad, including student selection, academics, policies and procedures, health and safety, ethics and integrity, etc. For the full set of Standards and queries, see the Forum on Education Abroad website.
Timeline for Program Approval Process
Draft proposals can be submitted at any time. The planning process should begin a minimum of 18 months in advance of the program’s projected start date. Estimated time for completion of the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences and the Office of Study Abroad’s initial review for feasibility is a minimum of 30 days once an initial proposal is complete, though quicker response time may be possible. Given the complex and multifaceted nature of programs abroad, sponsors should expect there to be a period of time between the first proposal submission and the complete proposal submission as there will be many questions that arise that must be answered before the review process can move forward. Once the complete proposal is submitted, final approval will likely take at least another 20-30 days depending on the structure and scope of the program developed. New course and program approval by the UCC should be begun only after the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences and the Office of Study Abroad’s approval process has been completed.
Advance planning is essential. The new program proposal should be fully approved by the Office of the Dean of Arts and Sciences, the Office of Study Abroad and the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee before any recruiting, advertising, or scheduling for the proposed program begins. Organizers should recognize and consider the time required to obtain necessary course approvals, guarantees of financial support, and to make the necessary logistical arrangements both here and overseas. The planning process should begin a minimum of 18 months in advance of the program’s projected start date.
Faculty Leader/Director Preparation
A faculty member leading a program abroad is charged not only with delivering the content of the courses that are part of the program but s/he also becomes the primary disciplinarian, advisor and counselor to whom students turn, especially in the case of emergencies. It is therefore critical that any faculty member traveling abroad on an approved program has the opportunity to learn from colleagues and peers as s/he prepares for this large undertaking. The Office of Study Abroad will coordinate program leader preparation sessions to serve this purpose.
Continuing Program Authorization
After each program occurrence, the program sponsor should submit a written report and evaluations from all student participants to the Office of Study Abroad (or approval committee) so that continuing program approval can be considered. Evaluation policies and continuing program authorization process would need to be established.