Doubts and Dilemmas with Double Degree Programs

Jane Knight


The number and types of international joint, double and consecutive degree programs have sky-rocketed in the last five years, demonstrating that they clearly have a role in the current landscape of higher education. For many academics and policy makers, double and joint degree programs are welcomed as a natural extension of exchange and mobility programs. For others, they are perceived as a troublesome development leading to double counting of academic work and the thin edge of academic fraud. A broad range of reactions exist due to the diversity of program models; the involvement of new (bona fide and rogue) and traditional providers; the uncertainty related to quality assurance and qualifications recognition; and finally, the ethics involved in deciding what academic workload or new competencies are required for the granting of joint, double, multiple or consecutive degrees.

This article aims to clarify the confusion about the differences between a joint, a double and a consecutive degree program by providing a conceptual framework of definitions. It provides highlights from recent research surveys and studies, and looks at new developments and innovations in establishing these types of collaborative programs. Finally, it examines the factors that challenge the operationalization of the programs and explores those issues that raise doubts and dilemmas and require further debate and analysis.


double degree programs; joint degree program; consecutive degree program; quality assurance; qualifications recognition; internationalization



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