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New Trends in International Students Programs
Olya Bezvushko

It looks like the USA universities are trying not to emphasize international trends in its educational system, while the rest of the world’s universities are getting more international. America’s major competitors (Western Europe countries and Japan) are doing everything possible to extend their international reach. These countries are spending more and more money and energy for a number of interesting initiatives.

The American Council of Education reported that in the US universities disciplinary skills are not as important now as practical ones. They try to work out problem-focused study programs that will develop more practical skills.

The report concludes that “international programs need to be expanded across not only the disciplines but across the full economic and social spectrum of all U.S. students and institutions.

To find out to what extent the priorities the US goverment agenda are reflected in the programs now available to U.S students, Transitions Abroad asked a group of campus advisers and program administrators for their views on the “best” that’s happening in new programming. We also asked them to comment on what new programs or program emphasis they would like to see.

A clear trend is toward programs which are not limited in focus or to a single country, to a dominant academic discipline, or to the traditional emphasis on “language and culture” (usually meaning the past). The most recent survey, for instance, reports an astonishing 92 percent increase in multiple-country programs over the previous two years. And programs offering a trans-disciplinary curriculum are also on the rise. Indeed, “problem-focused” programs seem to be what many students and institutions are seeking. As some university professors said that they have noticed that most interesting and exciting are the programs in Peace Studies, Environmental Studies, and Gender Studies. These topics are of real interest to the students and fit well with recent developments in the curriculum.

What is new about such programs is their inclusive and holistic emphasis on serious language training and on as much cultural immersion as possible. Students appear to be much more geographically sophisticated.

Still, there are three kinds of program opportunities that are currently found to be missing. They are: programs serving the students’ needs in particular academic disciplines; mid-level intensive language programs; and pre-major programs for post-secondary and first- and second-year college students.

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