Dr. Charles Krusekopf, a Professor in the School of Business at(RRU) in British Columbia, Canada has extensive international experience as a student and professor. One of his goals at RRU is to find ways to provide international academic experience to students who are largely working professionals and so less able to study abroad. Through a recommendation from a Canadian colleague, he was approached by the (MCI) in Austria, looking for potential program links as they developed their first blended master’s program.
After initial discussions, three senior representatives from MCI met with colleagues at RRU and, over the course of three days, worked out the structure for the cross-border, double degree program offered through blended learning. Students who successfully complete the double degree program earn an MBA in International Relations at MCI and a Master of Global Management at RRU.
As a basis for the collaboration, RRU and MCI first determined the similarity of their academic programs, student bodies of early- and mid-career professionals, admissions requirements, and blended program approach of short residencies followed by extensive online courses. Both programs are taught in English.
The central idea is, rather than create one joint program, students complete both programs, thereby earning a full degree from each institution. Having a student enrol in both programs at once was seen as too complex, with different learning management systems, administrations, timetables, etc. Instead, students start the degree program offered by their home university, completing the one- or two-week residency and full complement of online courses. Then, instead of joining the final residency and completing the final project in their home program, the double degree students join the residency on-site in the other university program and return home to complete the online courses from the second university. They also complete a final project.
Double degree students are given credit in their second year for certain courses, such as accounting and marketing, from their first year of study at their home university, lessening their course load. Whether their home university is in Austria or Canada, each student is required to complete at least two-thirds of the RRU program and two-thirds of the MCI program to qualify for each degree. It takes approximately 20 months to complete one of these master’s degrees, including the thesis; completing the double degree program takes about 24 months, including the thesis.
The cohort from each degree program who elect to take the double degree is relatively small, 3-5 students from each program in an academic year. Students pay tuition to their home university and calculations and transfer payments are made between the institutions every two years. Taking the double degree adds about Cdn $7,000 to tuition fees of taking one program.
Outcomes and Benefits
The online nature of the double degree program offers unique opportunities to working students who are not able to participate in traditional study abroad or other international educational opportunities. Through this program, students are offered an extended engagement abroad, even if they are not physically present.
The core of the double degree is learning to communicate and work with European and Canadian business professionals who are your fellow students and professors.
The international students benefit from their exposure to new approaches, assumptions and perspectives and offer the same value to their cohort, so all students in a double degree program benefit from expanded contact and context.
Students at RRU and MCI are usually employed full-time, offering very limited access to international education. This structure lets them complete a second degree at a foreign university with minimal physical displacement but exposure to a different group of students and thinking for an extensive period of time.
The two universities, although they have similar programs, offer some different courses, such as Entrepreneurship at MCI and Business Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility at RRU. Double degree students benefit from exposure to these different topics.
Partner universities benefit from additional international students and enhanced cooperation. The offering of double degrees does not require any special programming or course development on the part of the universities as it takes advantage of existing programs.
Challenges and Enhancements
Some of the differences in institutional approaches and educational cultures create challenges – highlighting strengths and areas of growth for both groups of students:
- Canadian students are accustomed to more support for administrative processes, assignments and thesis preparation;
- Austrian students are more self-sufficient as their high school and university experience taught them how to work independently and with less feedback;
- Austrian students must adjust to North American courses which have a greater number of assignments and extensive interaction required with classmates and the instructors compared to courses in Austria which often have only one assignment and rarely include teamwork or calls for opinions and interactive discussions; and
- Canadian students are challenged by courses that have only one assignment and little feedback, which highlights the sense of risk in taking courses in a new culture and environment.
While these can be seen as difficulties, Dr. Krusekopf suggests they also present opportunities for learning about each other and essential insights into the realities of international education and, more importantly, international business.
The maintenance of the program and the relationship between universities requires time and a clear sense of commitment, even if the exchange only involves the arrival of three students.
The impact of the double degree program on the cohort nature of the program is mixed. Dr. Krusekopf observes that the addition of international students from the partner school helps to add diversity and new thinking within both schools’ cohorts, but because students who choose the double degree option miss some courses and the final residency of their home program, their absence leaves a gap within the cohort and diminishes the support group during completion of the final project.
Recognizing it is difficult to continue directly to another year of study while working full-time, a useful enhancement could include allowing graduates of either Master’s program to return for up to five years following their degree completion for enrolment in the second degree.
Dr. Krusekopf would like to develop a broader consortium approach for more diversity. Double degrees could be offered in business and communications or other disciplines.
Universities in Asia, Latin America, Africa, or North America might be involved although, for some countries, this might mean the international students joining the Canadian program rather than joint exchanges. This initial structure for a double degree opens up to multiple alternatives that could expand international education to online and blended programs in all disciplines.
For Further Information
School of Business
Royal Roads University
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
For more on the RRU MGM program, visit:
For more on the MCI MBA in International Business, visit: