HERE Seminar “International HERE Study visit “Joint Degrees: Strategic and Operational Implementation: one size does not fit all” with the support of the European Union – SPHERE, EACEA” (2-3.10.18, Coimbra, Portugal)

coimbraTitle: International HERE Study visit “Joint Degrees: Strategic and Operational Implementation: one size does not fit all” with the support of the European Union – SPHERE, EACEA.
Date: October 2-3, 2018
Location: University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal
Participants: HERE, representatives of higher education institutions. In general, about 30 people took part in the event

Participants from Ukraine:
1. Olena KOZIEVSKA, Deputy head of the Secretariat, the Committee of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on science and education;

2. Andriy STAVYTSKYY, Associate Professor of the Department of Economic Cybernetics, the Faculty of Economics, the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv.

Program and materials: 


The two-day Study visit was opened by Joaquim Ramos de Carvalho, Vice-Rector for international relations at the University of Coimbra, and Elizabeth Colluchi, a member of the EUA / SPHERE team, who presented the program, the idea, and objectives of the workshop.


The purpose of the international Study visit was to familiarize participants with the best European practices in implementing joint programs on the example of the University of Coimbra, to demonstrate how such joint programs contribute to the implementation of the University’s strategic objectives in the field of international cooperation. Also during the study visit participants learned about the problems of ensuring the quality of education, the joint administration of such programs, the recognition of education documents, issued on the basis of successful training in joint programs, and opportunities for solving problems in the context of very different academic cultures and institutional conditions.

During the Study visit, it was emphasized that joint programs are an effective instrument for the internationalization of higher education institutions, as they promote the mobility of students, teachers and administrative staff; promote the creation of strategic partnerships, the study of foreign languages. At the same time, their implementation faces a number of problems related to the recognition of educational documents, the quality of such programs, the need to attract significant institutional resources, the lack of relevant regulations, and adequate financial support.

During the workshop, an understanding of international joint programs was identified, in which two or more institutions work together to provide a common program. They can vary in the degree of integration of educational components, the required mobility, and type of degree and diploma. Joint degrees are one type of joint program and require that one degree / one document be issued on behalf of all institutions involved in the implementation of the program. Dual degree programs include the assignment by each institution of a separate degree and the issuance of their own education document.


During the Study visit, participants were expected to:
• Understand and analyze the development strategy of the University of Coimbra and the role of internationalization of education and research in achieving the declared goals and fulfillment of the mission of the University. Demonstrate strategic motivations for the development of joint programs, in particular, their place in internationalization.
• Take a look at the joint programs of the University of Coimbra with the ability to ensure the success of their implementation through the creation of a reliable and efficient system of administration and administration, as well as quality assurance of joint programs.
• Understand the importance of institutional support, support and coordination, and the creation of internal institutional structures for the implementation of joint programs.
Given the wide range of problems that have been solved, the workshop program was divided into sessions related to the above objectives.


The work at the Study visit was organized in one audience, where speakers, who presented their experience of implementing or managing joint programs, gradually spoke. After each speech, it was given time to discuss and discuss the information received.
On the first day, more attention was paid to the strategic management of joint programs, and on the second day, the main emphasis was placed on the consideration of specific cases from different countries.
To begin with, there was a distinction between joint degree programs and double diploma programs. In particular, for a joint diploma program, it is necessary to develop a joint curriculum for several universities. At the same time, this requirement is not mandatory for dual diploma programs, only an agreement between the HEIs and the recognition of learning outcomes is sufficient. Despite this, 7 participants did not see a fundamental difference between such definitions. As the further work of the Study visit showed, European colleagues relate to such a definition quite “flexible”.

An absolute majority of universities participating in the Study visit noted that they had a definite strategy for the development of joint programs. The main motivation for this was noted: the development of a strategic partnership, the development of high-quality programs, the development of internationalization in general.

The most important obstacles to the formation and support of the programs were noted: the integration of curricula, the possibility of accreditation of programs at the national or international levels, support for the financial sustainability of the program, adherence to the language of instruction. The research showed that financing of such programs is often given by the Erasmus Mundus grant (47%), by the university itself (29.5%), by student’s fees (23.5%). It should be noted that the absolute majority of programs receiving Erasmus Mundus funding for three years were closed almost immediately after the termination of such funding.

The need for joint programs at the University of Coimbra is due to the fact that Portugal has experienced a significant reduction in the number of future students due to demographic problems in the country. In particular, in 10-15 years, it should be expected that approximately 25% reduce of applicants to HEIs. As a result, there is a problem of the university’s overcapacity, caused by a much larger number of lecturers for the educational process. Because of this, the university is forced to look for ways to attract staff to work.
Threats to the creation and maintenance of joint programs require a very careful approach to the process of their development. The excellent way to do this is to consider the experience of the University of Coimbra, which developed and approved the “Guide for Managing Joint Programs”. The document carefully outlines all necessary procedures for the opening, monitoring, and closing of the joint programs. There are four types of programs that can be opened. Group A contains programs of a joint diploma with foreign HEI. Group B contains programs of double diploma, in which the diploma is issued based on an existing curriculum. Group C includes existing programs at the university, which are planned to be taught in foreign HEI. Finally, Group D contains procedures for developing and assisting in the development of new initial programs at overseas and domestic institutions. For each group, clear procedures, plan of action, timing, and responsible persons are pointed. Thus, for the purpose of opening a new program, it is only necessary to submit the relevant documents, and the international department acts in accordance with all procedures on its own. As a result, precious time for individual teachers is not spent to create new programs. When opening a new joint program, a special procedure is carried out, during which it is necessary to get clear and transparent answers to the following key questions: what exactly opens, who opens, when, where, for what purpose.

Thanks to the availability of such a scheme there was an opportunity for the massive opening of new programs. However, the practice has shown that most programs are open at the national level. In particular, at the University of Coimbra, there are 5 programs at the bachelor level, of which 4 are national, 15 programs in the master’s degree program (14 of them with domestic universities), Ph.D. – 3 (all with national universities). Thus, we can conclude that in this university, most problems were avoided when forming joint programs: different language teaching, harmonization of national requirements. At the same time, most of the joint programs belong to the field of physics and natural sciences.

However, even under such conditions, there are problems maintaining joint programs. These can include the difficulty in recognizing student ratings, the difference in the procedures for solving general issues, the difficulty in timely issuing common diplomas. To coordinate these processes at the University of Coimbra, an information system has been developed that allows the online assessment of assessments from other universities, answers to the most important questions of students.

This university aims to be the best one for students, who study in the Portuguese language. To ensure the high quality of education at the University, guidelines for quality assessment, including 13 sections, have been developed. It explains in details the functional responsibilities of each employee, student, the process of appraisal of programs, courses, and processes for their modernization and closure. The basic principle for each component is characterized by a cyclic rule: “plan – do – check – act”. Moreover, it is interesting that it is executed not only for teaching but also for research, financial support, resource management, etc.

To summarize, the activity of the University of Coimbra is due to historical and geographical reasons. In particular, due to the activity of Portugal at the time of the Great Discoveries, an opportunity was created for the creation of a number of joint programs with universities with a similar mentality in Brazil, whose students are interested in obtaining a European diploma. Even more interested in obtaining such a diploma are students from Angola and other former colonies of Portugal, which gives them the opportunity to remain legally working and living in the European Union.

At the same time, most of the programs of this university are not different from national ones, which makes it possible not to open new groups, but to combine groups of Portuguese, Brazilian, Angolan, and other students. This, of course, contributes to a reduction in the cost of education at the university. In addition, the active implementation of joint programs with domestic HEIs allows not to consolidate universities, but to combine existing resources.

Interesting is the experience of the University of Coimbra in developing a joint program with the universities of Barcelona, Bologna, and Valencia. This master’s program ( is taught for 2 years in 4 semesters. Students from different countries can participate in this program, but the main focus is on the representatives of the European Eastern Partnership countries, the Southern Mediterranean, Asia, Central Asia, Latin America, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Africa, the Caribbean, Pacific countries. The training is carried out in one of the partner universities. Students enrolled in the Bologna and Valencia universities study in English, enrolled at the University of Coimbra – in Portuguese and English, enrolled at the University of Barcelona – in Spanish and English. At the end of the study, a diploma is issued for the institution, where the student completed his studies, on behalf of all participants in the program. Only in Bologna is independently issued an additional university diploma due to Italian legislative restrictions. To ensure the uniform principles of working with students, an annual special workshop is held, in which all employees of the program take part. Despite the fact that the program exists only a couple of years, it actively engages new partners, expanding the number of universities on whose behalf the diploma is issued. It will only be possible to analyze the success of the program after the funding of the Erasmus Mundus project is completed.

Programs are more financially viable if they receive government support. For example, the Brazilian government grants scholarships to Brazilian students at the level of 115-200 people a year. The scholarship includes tuition fees and living expenses. At the same time, from the one University of Brazil can be selected up to 7 students who spend at universities in Coimbra from 1 to 2 years. They graduate in Brazil, allowing them to earn two diplomas. The largest number of students are enrolled in programs in biology, Portuguese language, and Sports. Among the threats to this program, it should be noted political dependence on the funding of the Government of Brazil, the lack of continuous monitoring of programs, reducing the competition for participation, and the desire of students to stay in Portugal.

In addition, the experience of different countries was presented at the Study visit. For example, a university survey was conducted in Armenia to identify the major issues faced by participants in the educational process. In particular, it has been found that about 80% of universities have joint programs, of which the absolute majority (87%) – at the master’s level, 10% – at the Ph.D. level, and only 3% – at the undergraduate level. In the opinion of universities, these programs should help to improve the quality of programs, improve the skills of staff, obtain new students, and share resources. It is interesting to note that more than 83% were initially created, while the rest was opened in the framework of already existing programs. The vast majority of programs (about 70%) issue double diplomas. Despite this, universities are constantly faced with problems: lack of normative support at the state level, availability of sufficient funding, differences in curricula, even within one program, recognition of ECTS credits, communication with partners and students.

In Kyrgyzstan, I. Razzakov Technical University took part in the creation of a consortium of technical universities from Armenia, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus. The main goal was to create a single educational space between countries, to introduce mechanisms for the mobility of students and teachers, and to expand intercultural relations. Within the framework of the consortium, students have the opportunity to study according to the schemes of 2 + 2 at the undergraduate and 1 + 1 in the master’s degree. This means that they spend half the study abroad at the partner university.

Also, in Kyrgyz HEIs there are other examples of creating joint degree programs with the universities of Russia and Germany. However, it should be noted that only well-off students could participate. In general, experience shows that the introduction of such programs initially seems to be an interesting experience, but in a few years of interest in them, but also, financial security, falls.

In Georgia, the law on higher education creates the legal basis for implementing joint academic programs and the recognition of qualifications given after their completion. According to the law, a joint academic diploma is a qualification that is jointly provided to an individual by higher education institutions recognized in Georgian and/or foreign law as a result of the individual’s completion of a joint educational program of a specific academic education cycle. Joint Higher Education Program – a syllabus jointly implemented by a Georgian higher education institution and/or a higher education institution recognized by the laws of other countries. This allowed the opening of 58 joint programs, of which 44 provide a joint degree. The vast majority of programs (about 73%) are carried out at the undergraduate level, about a quarter – at the master’s degree.

A joint master’s program in electrical engineering was opened in Palestine, which provides the opportunity to obtain a joint master’s degree in electrical engineering in telecommunications or energy concentration. The program is the result of the joint efforts of the three Palestinian universities (Bizrate University, Palestinian Polytechnic University, and the Palestine Technical University), Palestine industry (JDECo and PITA) and four European universities (UoS-UK, ESTIA-France, TUCN-Romania, and RU-Bulgaria) in a project funded by Tempus – the European Union. The Tempus project provided the BZU and PPU laboratories with all the necessary tools, software, and equipment to create a modern research environment. In order to obtain a master’s degree, a student must successfully complete 36 credit hours, including a master’s thesis. Courses are taught alternately every semester at the universities of Birzaite and the Palestine Polytechnic University. The joint degree is documented by issuing a joint diploma signed by both partners in the program.


In Ukraine, there is a gradual increase in the number of joint programs. There are factors of increasing the number of joint programs in Ukraine:
– The growth of the international authority and academic reputation of HEIs due to the recognition of the quality of its educational product and services by foreign partners. Occupation of the best positions in world rankings, including in connection with the growing number of publications in a foreign language.
– The increase of language competences of students and university employees, gaining experience in the international environment.
– The desire for income growth that comes with foreign students. In Ukraine, foreign students pay significantly more for study than national students do.
– The desire to improve the quality of programs and the employment of their graduates. Obtaining competencies for self-realization of their own competitive programs in English based on the received international experience in the organization of the educational process.

Although legislation allows the development of joint degrees, bureaucracy creates some difficulties for providers. The solution of issues related to the implementation of joint/dual degree programs is compounded by the absence of the Agency for the Quality Assurance of Higher Education

An example of a good practice in implementing joint programs is the master’s program of the double diploma is the MBA “Business Informatics” between the Semen Kuznets Kharkiv National University of Economics and the University of Lyon-2 (Lumiere, France), operating since 2005. Introducing double diploma programs, the Kharkiv National University of Economics named after Semen Kuznetsov set an ambitious goal to ensure, on the one hand, high academic quality, and on the other hand, the practical orientation of educational programs as a prerequisite for increasing the competitiveness of their graduates.

Over the years, more than 200 specialists have been trained. The program is governed by joint cooperation agreements. The creation of the program was preceded by the annual work of the leaders and teachers of both universities. The introduction of a coherent master’s program required not only great efforts to develop the structure and content of new educational programs, the restructuring of the organization of the educational process, as well as serious psychological adaptation to it of the main participants in the educational process – teachers and students.

The Master’s program in Double Degree MBA “Business Informatics” prepares students for the fact that they will need to understand the needs of the company, offer solutions, and then implement them on the ground. This diploma envisages projects implemented for enterprises by students, which are supervised by teachers. It is important to emphasize that both universities take into account the assessments and loans obtained during student training at the partner university, students write one master’s thesis, which is defended before a joint commission.

Students who have successfully completed the program receive two diplomas: the Master’s Degree in Business Informatics of the State Standard of Ukraine and a Master’s Degree in Computer Science Decision Making and Statistics at the University of Lyon-2 (Lumiere, France).
Most students are trained in IT companies or IT departments, solving problems related to the development and optimization of software, business analytics, and web-marketing. Training in the program provides professional experience in international companies. All graduates of the program have been trained in companies such as Credit Agricole, Natixis, France Telecom, Orange, TNT Express, Veolia, SANOFI, SMILE, BULL, Atilog, Teamlog, Gameloft, Actimage, GAIA, Compogravure, Accor, AVIS, Marionnaud, Bernollin, Fonds des Nations unies pour la population, JetAnswer, PSA Peugeot-Citroën, Renault, Carrefour, Auchan, etc. The experience gained during the training and internship facilitates the employment of graduates to high positions in Ukraine, France, Germany, Belgium, and Canada. Some graduates create their own businesses in Ukraine.

The implementation of this program has become an impact for other further joint activities. The experience of setting up interdisciplinary project teams, consisting of lecturers and representatives of the international department of the university, became successful. The teams conduct an analysis of international projects and programs, study and evaluate promising areas of international activity, including during joint meetings, during negotiations with foreign partners, project coordinators and representatives of international organizations. As a result of the analysis, planning of further interaction and exchange of experience with foreign partners, the development of new international projects on the most pressing issues in education.
At the same time, it should be noted that Ukrainian HEIs during the implementation of joint programs face the typical problems for most universities:
– The new Law of Ukraine “On Higher Education” (2014) gives an opportunity to give a joint degree and issue a joint diploma. At the same time, there is no clear normative provision of joint programs and recognition of a joint degree. There is also no standard provision for issuing double diplomas.
– The absence of the National Agency for the Quality Assurance of Higher Education makes it difficult to ensure the quality of joint programs at the national level.
– Financial support for joint programs.
– The problem of comparability of study and living conditions of foreign students.
– Language problems.
– Not equal amount of hours for practical classes.


– Development of leadership potential of the universities. For the development of JPs, it’s important to launch the leadership’s ability at the institutional level in formulation responses to the Universities’ strategy and policy.
– Establishing cooperation with business and employer associations, without which it is difficult to determine the results of training in advance and to design a JP accordingly.
– The feasibility of working out the Universities’ manual on JPs management that would provide justification for JP developing, the criteria for selecting partner university; responsibilities of the parties, distribution of their responsibilities; content and methodological support of the JP; organizational and financial support; requirements for the personnel infrastructure and information provision; evaluation of the program’s effectiveness by various stakeholders (students, lecturers, university leaders, employers, etc.). This document will create a clear and understandable sequence of actions that will allow teachers and administrative staff of the University to work more smoothly.
– The need for the dissemination of best practices of JP implementation.
– Universities in the implementation of joint programs should take into account the components of the success of such a program:
• The effectiveness of the management of the joint program depends on its development and approval, which includes several stages: the development of the Concept of the program and its approval by the partners; development of a description of the program; development of a cooperation agreement and its conclusion; development and approval of internal documents necessary for the implementation of the program.
• Completeness and quality of the cooperation agreement, which should include the following elements: the purpose and subject of the transaction; legal background and national qualifications; management and administration of the program; program structure (duration of training, learning outcomes, curriculum, students’ and teachers’ mobility); degree and diploma (sample of a joint diploma in the appendix); entry and selection procedures for students; organization of training, methodological support, organization of examinations, methods of knowledge assessment, recognition of loans, procedures for awarding educational level; grounds and procedures for deduction / renewal; financial management; quality assurance requirements; intellectual property rights; the launch of the extensions of the agreement; the law applicable to the settlement of disputes.
• Organization of a joint program committee (program coordinators of both universities, teachers, students, social partners).
• Assessment of program quality in the following areas: Competitiveness of the program at the international level; learning outcomes; entry criteria and selection procedures; distribution of credits; a system of internal quality assurance; involvement of interested parties; development of the program, etc.

In general, the development of joint and double diploma programs remains an important task for universities to improve their financial standing, increase internationalization, and create a pan-European quality culture in the higher education.

Попередня Erasmus+ presentation within “Weekend of Opportunities” (7.10.2018, skype Kyiv-Odesa)