Developing a New Exchange Program
Exchange Program Development
Currently, Rhodes Colleges offers 8 direct exchange programs in Europe, Central and South America, and Africa. Some are geared toward specific disciplines while others offer coursework in a variety of fields. Information on our current exchange programs can be found on the Exchage Programs section of the Buckman Center website.
Prior to initiating a new exchange program, a number of factors must be considered in order to ensure that the exchange partnership will be truly viable, that students will find the host institution and country appealing both academically and personally, and that the academics and student services provided by the host institution are solid. Faculty who are interested in establishing an exchange program should contact the Director of International Programs to discuss the list of variables below.
1. How does the institution’s academic calendar fit with Rhodes’ academic calendar?
When researching potential exchange institutions, compare the host institution’s academic calendar, particularly the final exam timetable, with Rhodes’. Ideally, the foreign institution’s semesters would coincide with Rhodes’ fall and spring semesters, allowing students to study abroad either semester or for the academic year. Many times, however, one of the exchange partner’s semesters runs longer, overlapping into the following Rhodes semester. Given this, students would only be able to study at that institution for one semester or for the academic year. These situations do not preclude the arrangement of a direct exchange with such institutions, however, partnerships that increase students’ exchange options for both fall and spring semesters are preferable.
There are some foreign institutions whose semester calendars overlap completely with both the fall and spring semester at Rhodes. If this is the case, it does not make sense to establish an exchange agreement given that students would not be able to study at the host institution either semester.
2. How does the host institution’s curriculum compare with Rhodes’ curriculum?
It is important that exchange partner institutions offer courses that closely correspond to courses offered at Rhodes. While taking classes abroad that are not offered on campus is a great benefit of studying abroad, most students will need to take at least some courses overseas that fulfill major, minor, Foundation, or general education requirements. Researching course offerings is key to determining whether or not many students would be able to take advantage of the exchange program.
3. What is the language of instruction?
If the primary language of the host institution is not English, are there courses offered in English specifically for international students? If this is the case, check to make sure there are enough courses offered each semester to appeal to a broad range of students and meet major, minor, Foundation, and/or general education requirements.
If all courses are taught in a foreign language, is there a minimum language proficiency requirement that could feasibly be met by Rhodes students? If there are few students currently on campus that could meet the language pre-requisites, the likelihood of finding enough linguistically proficient students to take part in the exchange program could prove to be very difficult. Such a situation would eventually lead to an unhealthy exchange relationship.
4. Are there restrictions regarding areas of study? Would a potential exchange be limited to students in a particular department, or could students from any discipline participate?
In an effort to appeal to as many students as possible, it is important to look for exchange partners who make a wide variety of courses available to exchange students. This could be within a specific discipline, like history or business, or across disciplines. When considering a direct exchange program, determine if Rhodes students could take courses from the full course catalog or if they will be limited to specific courses or academic departments. Generally, an exchange partnership is more appealing if students from all disciplines are eligible to participate, as sometimes it is difficult to fill available placements for a particular exchange if it is restricted to certain majors. However, strong support from the academic department(s) involved can positively influence application rates for department/major specific exchanges.
5. What services does the host institution’s international office provide to Rhodes students?
It is essential that the host institution be able to provide a high level of student support services as Rhodes students complete paperwork for the host institution, ask questions concerning arrival dates, course registration, and housing, and eventually arrive on campus. The prospective exchange partner should be able to provide detailed information for their incoming exchange students as well as assistance with the housing placement and course registration process. The information available on the institution’s web site can provide some indication of this, but it is also something one can get a feel for while communicating with the potential exchange partner.
6. What other exchange partners does the potential host institution have in the US and/or in other countries?
By looking at an institution’s existing exchange partners, one can better determine if such an exchange would be a good fit for Rhodes. If an institution has exchanges with US institutions that are similar to Rhodes – small, private, liberal arts institutions – it is more likely that this institution would be a good match. A potential partner who has exchange relationships with foreign institutions with whom Rhodes also has exchanges is likely a good fit as well. However, if most of the foreign institution’s partners are community colleges or large state schools, the partnership may not be as appropriate.
7. What types of housing are available for exchange students, and how much support does the host institution provide in terms of securing housing?
Guaranteed on-campus housing for exchange students is preferable, or if on-campus housing cannot be guaranteed it should at least be a viable option for students. Those exchange programs that do not provide on-campus housing can be problematic, especially if they provide little assistance to incoming exchange students. However, if an exchange partner cannot provide on-campus housing for incoming exchange students (sometimes on-campus housing doesn’t exist), some level of housing assistance is necessary.
8. What is the campus culture and local community like?
When investigating this matter, consider: what kinds of cultural events and activities are available to students; what student life is like on campus; and how easily Rhodes students could get involved on campus, meet local students, and integrate into the community. By defining the campus culture and local community, a better understanding of how Rhodes students could potentially get involved abroad and get the most out of their experience can be ascertained.
9. Where is the host institution located and does Rhodes already have existing exchange partners in this city/country/region of the world?
First, check to see if Rhodes already has an existing exchange partnership with other institutions in that city, country, or region. If so, find out what the academic focus of that exchange is and ask if there is a need for an additional exchange site in the same city or country. A new exchange program in a city or country where an exchange program currently does not exist is more likely to attract new students to study abroad. Offering two exchange programs in the same city or country (especially if both offer similar coursework) is likely to result in one program cannibalizing the participation rates of the other – weakening both programs.
Second, when considering the location, question whether or not it is relatively accessible to students traveling there. For example, can the host city be reached by public transportation? Also, would it be easy for students to travel from the host city to other parts of the country/region once they are abroad? Third, investigate whether or not the location in general would likely appeal to students. Ask your current students how many of them would study in this location. Lastly, in terms of student safety, has a travel or health warning been issued for this country by the US State Department? If so, it will be impossible to gain institutional approval for such an exchange.
10. Overall, to what degree would this exchange program appeal to Rhodes students?
The bottom line is that an exchange partnership cannot be successful if not enough students are interested in studying at that particular host institution. With this in mind, it is important to establish the selling points of the exchange which will attract Rhodes students. Take some time to determine the unique features of the host university’s curriculum, campus, and location, and consider how these attributes could be used to promote the exchange to Rhodes students.
In consultation with the Director of International Programs, a faculty member draws up an exchange proposal which includes the answers to the questions above and any additional pertinent information.
The faculty member’s department reviews and approves the proposal. Then the department head writes an accompanying letter of support and submits the proposal and letter to the Dean of Faculty.
The Dean of Faculty reviews the proposal. With support from the Dean of Faculty, a formal exchange agreement, using the Rhodes exchange agreement template, is drafted. The draft document is forwarded to the foreign institution for review and approval, once any adjustments have been made. After the exchange agreement has been finalized and agreed upon by both institutions, the Director of International Programs submits two copies of the final exchange agreement to the Dean of Faculty’s Office for signature.
Once both copies of the agreement are signed by the Dean of Faculty, they are sent to the overseas institution for the signature of its president or designated official. The foreign institution returns one of the originals to the Director of International Programs and keeps one copy for their records.
Once the exchange agreement has been signed by both institutions, marketing of the exchange program can begin. The department can start to inform students of this new study abroad option and recruit students to apply for the program. Students should be directed to the Buckman Center for advising and to complete the necessary application paperwork.
Rhodes uses a standard exchange agreement template which includes all of the major points that must be incorporated into the exchange agreement. This template can then be modified as needed to describe the specific details of the exchange agreement and address the needs of both institutions. Below is a link to the template in a modifiable Word document format, followed by a sample of a finalized exchange agreement in a PDF format. Please contact the Director of International Programs with any questions or for assistance with developing an exchange.