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Double Degrees – a robust tool for internationalization and quality assurance

In the past two decades the number of double degrees in HEIs has grown rapidly. HEIs have developed a variety of cooperation models to enhance internationality and to create new openings for students. Experience shows that all models require both initial close collaboration as well as continuity in developing the offering and monitoring the progress together.

Published : 04.02.2022

The core idea of a double degree is a student combining studies in two higher education institutions (HEIs) and thus gaining two degree certificates with no extension to the standard study time. The main beneficiaries are first and foremost the students – equipped with intercultural experiences of learning and living in two countries. With their acquired combination of the two universities’ or university of applied sciences’ (UAS) content, they can count on more extended skills for their future career.

In the past two decades the number of double degrees in HEIs has grown rapidly, the way in Europe paved especially by the Bologna Process. There is actually a patchwork of set-ups on how HEIs have developed their cooperation in order to enhance internationality and to create new openings for students. Apart from double degrees, there are, e.g., joint degrees, triple degrees, additional degrees and top-up models with different definitions and agreement types – even to an extent a tangled bunch of varieties.

Be as it may, all models require initial close collaboration between the institutions as well as continuity in developing the offering and monitoring the progress and results together.

Widescale work for internationalization and networks

Haaga-Helia´s International Business degree (BBA) serves as a good example of making full use of double degrees in its functions. The students can choose from several study destinations in various countries for 2 or 3 semesters’ study time and study a package jointly planned and mutually recognized by the home and host institution.

On top of the students’ benefit viewpoint there are many more. In the designing phase of a double degree the planning staff of both degree programmes team up and do an extensive comparison of all aspects, including comparing the legislative framework, academic objectives, contents of the curricula, pedagogical approaches, thesis and internship processes and evaluation criteria. This work opens up discussion channels and generates development ideas thus bridging the staff for other types of joint activities as well, reaching further to various projects and research, including also other stakeholders. In Haaga-Helia’s case, as is typical, the double degree partners have soon become a recognized part of each other’s key international networks.

Double degree workshops endorse quality

As double degree collaboration enables a good insight into the partners’ functionalities, it also offers an ample ground for quality assurance development. Haaga-Helia’s International Business (IB) degree’s idea has been to utilize this opportunity by organizing biannual IB Quality Workshops where double degree partners are invited for two days to work together for assessing and improving their IB programmes.

Apart from the content aspects, the themes on the agenda have included, e.g., student and alumni feedback, teacher training, student recruitment, admission criteria and programme branding. The highly topical issue of external evaluations, that is, accreditations of business schools has also been dealt with and interesting experiences and viewpoints have been shared.

As the participants get acquainted with each other´s programmes, it is possible to dig deeply into the workshop topics. Colleagues are motivated to offer ideas and advice to each other, thus helping to assess and develop quality.

Haaga-Helia’s educational reform supports double degree studies

Haaga-Helia’s current educational reform will be fully commenced in all degrees from autumn 2022 onwards. It will conjoin nicely with the double degrees and strengthen them by opening new prospects. The new curriculum allows more freedom for the students in building their own professional level course path and thus, makes it possible to offer more options in the double degree agreements’ course requirements.

Whereas the main idea of a double degree has been so far to support the existing major of a student by offering the expertise of two institutions, the student will now have an opportunity to gain more diverse skills by choosing a set of major level courses from different fields. Both paths splendidly prepare the double degree graduate for a career in the evolving business environment.