William & Mary and St Andrews to offer joint degree program

  • Joint degree programThe second oldest institution of higher education in the United States and the oldest university in Scotland are joining forces to offer an undergraduate joint-degree program.

    Graphic by Ryan Lewis '10

    Joint degree program

The second oldest institution of higher education in the United States and the oldest university in Scotland are joining forces to offer an undergraduate joint-degree program.

The joint degree program between the College of William & Mary and the University of St Andrews is one of the few of its kind in the world. Students will be able to enroll in the program starting in the fall of 2011, according to a resolution approved by the William & Mary Board of Visitors. Students will complete two years at each institution and earn a single diploma - a Bachelor of Arts, International Honours - with the insignias of both institutions.

"William & Mary began more than three centuries ago as a trans-Atlantic experiment and today we move forward with another international initiative, a quintessentially 21st-century one," said William & Mary President Taylor Reveley. "Our partnership with St Andrews has vast potential to enrich the lives of our students and better prepare them to lead in a global society."

The St Andrews William & Mary Joint Degree Programme (SAWM) will include joint degrees in four fields - economics, English, history and international relations. The curriculum is designed to combine the breadth of a William & Mary liberal arts education with the specialization offered at St Andrews. It's a blend of the very best of two historic universities with a combined 914 years of existence - William & Mary, which was founded by royal charter in 1693 and St Andrews, which was founded in 1413 and is the oldest university in Scotland as well as the third-oldest in the English speaking world. The Court of the University of St Andrews will be asked to formally adopt the SAWM proposal at its meeting in St Andrews on May 21st.

"The joint degree program between the College of William and Mary, and the University of St Andrews represents a new, bold and innovative approach to international studies at a time when we are experiencing a dramatic shift in the globalization of business and commerce in the world," said Henry C. Wolf, Rector of the College. "This new program demonstrates the commitment of two of the oldest and most venerable academic institutions in the English speaking world to providing a curriculum that is relevant to the future."

This new partnership builds on the two institutions' long and productive relationship. For at least 25 years, William & Mary and St Andrews have bridged the Atlantic Ocean through study abroad and student exchange programs. The idea for a joint degree partnership developed a few years ago during conversations between faculty and staff at both universities. For the past two years, officials have been working closely on finalizing the necessary details, including curriculum, fields of study, scholarship and research possibilities.

The program will initially enroll 20 students at each institution for the fall 2011 semester, with an anticipated five students enrolled in each area of study. The students will spend their first year at their home school and the second year studying abroad at the host institution, officials said. The final two years of their studies would be split between the two institutions, though the students will work with their advisors to determine how to split years three and four between the home and host institutions. Ultimately, the universities would have 80 students on each campus pursuing joint degrees.

"We want to combine our tried and true combination of a first-class liberal arts education and scholarship with the success of top-notch partners around the world," said W&M Provost Michael R. Halleran. "St Andrews is a perfect fit for us and a natural place to begin as we seek to expand global relationships."

Laurie Koloski, director of the Reves Center for International Studies, said the joint degree program will bring new possibilities for collaboration and opportunities for scholarship for faculty, staff, and students at both institutions. For example, she said, students at both institutions will be able to take courses from faculty who bring different world views and perspectives to their teaching.

"It's not about one way being better but bringing together two world-class educational experiences that complement each other," said Koloski, adding that the partnership could lead to collaborative research between faculty and students at both institutions, team-taught courses through video conferencing,  joint capstone experiences, and annual symposia. "We want to give our students the tools to learn from the world and to be active partners in a global society, and we're eager to support both students and faculty as they participate in the global creation, exchange, and application of knowledge."

Officials said the program will blend the best elements of William & Mary's liberal arts education and the more specialized curriculum at St Andrews, where students select an area of concentration during the university application process and take more courses in a major area of study. "Students will take more specialized courses than they would through the regular curriculum at William & Mary and cover more breadth than they typically would at St Andrews," Koloski said. Tuition will be comparable to that of an out-of-state student but financial aid will be available.

"We've been committed from the beginning to offering financial aid, particularly for talented in-state students, and we also see this as a cost that must be borne by the program's revenue," Koloski said. "The goal is to create a program that pays for itself and is sustainable."

Earl Granger, associate provost for enrollment at William & Mary, said the partnership is also an opportunity for both institutions to carve out a niche in undergraduate international education. Currently, most all other joint or dual degree programs at other institutions focus on separate degrees from each school or are exclusive to graduate students. The only other similar undergraduate program in the United States, Granger believes, is at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, which partners with the National University of Singapore to offer a joint degree.

"I expect there will be a great deal of interest from prospective students," Granger said. "It is wonderful to be able to offer this type of single degree from two institutions with the combined history and tradition of more than 900 years between them.  Their educational experience will be unparalleled."