The double degree effect. Meet the experts: Melissa Banks, Austrade
MELISSA BANKS is the Head of International Education in Austrade, providing national industry leadership and stakeholder engagement to drive innovation, collaboration and capability development.
An experienced leader, Melissa brings a rich background in international education spanning over 30 years and including multiple education sectors. She was most recently the Pro Vice Chancellor International at James Cook University.
Throughout her career she has contributed to international research forums and publications to advance the international education sector in Australia and globally, including as former President of the International Education Association of Australia (IEAA).
Melissa is a recipient of the prestigious Award for Distinguished Contribution to the Field of International Education (IEAA).
Articulations/Joint/Double Degrees are considered to be a fundamental part of the internationalisation process of higher education. What are the most important benefits for institutions promoting these kinds of programmes?
From the Australian government’s perspective, these types of initiatives contribute to advancing our international engagement. The people-to-people ties developed through the internationalisation of education drive our connectedness across borders and build mutual understanding and respect. Transnational education and internationalisation of education overall, as well as training, have a lot of support from the Australian government because it's a key enabler of our international relations. Our quality assurance and regulatory framework that we have in Australia allow these initiatives to build the reputation and recognition of the Australian higher education system.
In terms of the benefits for institutions, based on my previous experience, I would like to mention the following:
1. Staff mobility is a key one, particularly within the confines of initiatives such as Double Degrees, Joint programmes etc., because it's key to training and development for staff, as well as co-curricular innovation. Developing the curriculum together with partners we found that built capacity on both sides, particularly because it internationalises content and gives the programme an international perspective. It also allows for an exchange of international teaching methodologies and assessment methodologies. We were also particularly keen on the arrangements that go towards deeper engagement.
2. Joint Degrees in particular can lead to deeper engagement in the form of collaborative research and joint research projects, which tends to joint publications, the establishment of joint research centres, and the development of joint or partnered PhDs, all of these have been the result of really successful engagement in the form of Dual and Joint Degrees in my experience.
3. Reputation: by collaborating it's possible to enhance the reputation of both institutions, and that can drive enrolment growth through the attraction of students that you would not otherwise enrol at your institution. An example could be an Australian institution partnering with a Chinese university: we were able to attract students into our programme on the basis that they would spend a period at the partner institution as part of our mobility programme. Again, that's part of that deeper engagement, but it's also a tool to attract and drive enrolment growth. When we are producing joint publications and other types of collaborations, we feel that this can improve the global rankings particularly the ranking systems that take into consideration international partnerships and collaborations because international publications are more highly cited than publications that are not international.
In terms of students getting access to the internationalisation of the curriculum, it’s a real benefit, as well as access to international teaching and assessment methodologies. I think these kinds of programmes just expand their learning experience, and that's important. In the case of Double Degrees, the opportunity to gain a local degree and an international degree, I think is attractive and can help students build their competencies for success in a global labour market, which is becoming more and more competitive. It gives them that added attribute to bring to the workplace.
I also think just the opportunity to study in another culture or with another culture is important and often that is done in a different language, and so you acquire personal growth benefits, as well as competencies such as cultural and language competencies. I would also say that these arrangements can provide greater access to students who couldn't possibly afford to undertake a full degree in an international country, because often these types of arrangements see students starting their education at home and then spending part of their studies in the host institution, by making a more economically viable situation for many students that would otherwise just not have the opportunity to study abroad.
At the end of the day Articulation, Double Degrees, and Joint Degrees are the products of collaborative partnerships between two institutions, and they must be grounded in deep engagement for mutuality and advancement. If we can tick those three core ambitions, then the partnership will be successful for everyone.