CISabroad White Paper: 10 Quick Tips for Working with Higher Education Institutions

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Ten Quick Tips for Working with Higher Education Institutions by Kris Holloway, MPH, President, CISabroad and Rich Kurtzman, MA, Barcelona Study Abroad Experience (SAE) Recent conversations in the field center on how education abroad providers and university education abroad offices can improve relations. Tony Ogden (University of Wyoming) published a document entitled Ten Quick Tips for Working with Education Abroad Provider Organizations. This is a companion piece.



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The Data on why it matters:

The Forum’s State of the Field 2017 report stated that 81% of private higher education institutions and 91% of public higher education institutions are trying to send a greater number of students abroad each year. [Figure 9, page 9] For many institutions this may mean increasing the use of education abroad providers to help facilitate strategies that work, namely [Table 1, page 9]: • increasing financial support • developing marketing and outreach tools • increasing the diversity of programs available • increasing locations of programs available The top 3 factors that go into approving a provider are: academic quality, cost, and risk management. Once that approval happens, there are 28 strategies listed to guide how that happens, including participating in site visits, student evaluations, and negotiating scholarships.

The Need: With increased collaboration necessary due to a climate in higher education of fewer staff and fewer resources, it’s critical that the relationship between higher education institutions and education abroad organizations be robust and honest. The Solution: Providers must move beyond a relationship based on recruiting students for the short-term to a sustainable partnership with higher education institutions that ensures mutual success and development. The most successful partnerships are built on: 1. a strong foundation that prioritizes open and respectful communication 2. shared goals 3. short-term and long-term strategy discussion. Here’s how: Our Top 10 Tips for Working with Higher Education Institutions

Tip No. 3

Know the Forum Standards of Good Practice and use the language of higher education. Build and sustain credibility through developing your own set of core values and business ethics, as well as grounding your work in the Standards of Good Practice and their associated Code of Ethics. Ask the universities the hard questions: What is their pre-screening process? How robust is their pre-departure programming? Do they have a Code of Conduct that reinforces expectations abroad?

Tip No. 4 Tip No. 1

*Let’s call ourselves education abroad organizations, not simply providers. The term “third-party provider” has been a long-standing term used to refer to education abroad provider organizations. It implies a transactional relationship, with all goods and services flowing in one direction. That’s not true. Our institutional partners inform what we do and how we do it, and vice versa. It’s about reciprocity. When the partnership is going well, the sum is greater than its parts.

Tip No. 2

Align your strengths as an organization with the goals of your partner institutions. Take the time to learn about each of your partner institutions and how best to help them meet their goals. Communicate your own organization’s mission, values and priorities. Be ready to answer their questions: How will your curricular offerings complement our existing portfolio? They should be ready to answer yours: What are your goals and how will you achieve them? What’s your process for helping students choose programs?

Remember that you and all your staff are first and foremost international educators. The importance of participating in and contributing to the practice and research in the field of international education is paramount. Our field has a growing number of membership-based organizations and consortiums that provide excellent opportunities for both new and senior education abroad professionals. Volunteer to work alongside your partners. Discover what your area of expertise or skill is. Share generously.

Tip No. 5

Be honest in your marketing and recruitment efforts. One definition of marketing is “honestly and consistently communicating your value to those who could gain from it.” This statement can serve as a guide to our communication and marketing efforts. When you visit a campus for the first time, you may not know university protocols and procedures, so do your homework. Once you know their procedures and protocols, respect them.

Tip No. 6

Think beyond the education abroad fair. Other ways to reach out to students that further your partnership could be: a webinar, classroom visits, campus-wide talk on a specific topic or your own story of successfully funding your own abroad experience. With as much support as you can get from the education abroad office, and with thought into the expertise your organization’s representatives have, reach out to other offices, student groups and faculty.

Tip No. 7

Negotiate - don’t dictate - how and when campus visits happen. Set goals for your visits and keep in mind that each visit should build on previous visits. Specifically, reminder your university partners that it’s okay to say no to a visit, run the visit effectively if they say yes and with the right staff person, and follow-up accurately and quickly. Don’t take a a lukewarm response or awkward meeting personally; you don’t know what your colleague’s day was like before you got there.

Tip No. 8

Most universities have a vetting mechanism and an approved list. Ask how they determine their portfolio and learn how to maximize your presence if you are on it.

Tip No. 9

Expect from your university partners what they expect from you, especially when it comes to faculty-directed programs. Universities decide on program partners based on our ability to answer tough questions; we can and should ask the same. Ask about their emergency response and risk management plans; ask how proposed programs are vetted; ask how they prepare faculty. Lastly, if a university puts out an RFP, and you run the current program, you may feel betrayed. Know they have to re-assess and balance inclusions with the bottom line just like we do.

Tip No. 10

Prepare timely, measured responses in times of challenge. Even if you lose money. Even if it isn’t fair. Even if it isn’t your fault. Serious incidents and mistakes happen; the ultimate measure of your organization will be in how you respond during times of challenge. It’s during tough times when any partnership is put to the test: the quality of your programming, the training of your on-site staff, the robustness of your risk management plan, and agility of your response. Part of being a good partner means having frontline staff who are calm and focused. Be that good. We hope these tips serve you well. They have us. Kris and Rich

If you aren’t on the approved list, ask to understand what the university values in a partnership. If you are on the list, remember that more programs approved does not always mean more students. What is your strategic position within the portfolio? Not only might this confirm what you are doing well but it can also serve to re-align your organization with a long-standing university partner.