UCSD Dodges Systemwide Criticism of Study-Abroad Program

    A map in the UCSD Programs Abroad Office illustrates with pins the places students have visited through its multiple study-abroad organizations. Twenty-seven percent of UCSD students spent last year abroad. (Will Parson/Guardian)

    The UC Academic Senate released a report earlier this month
    recommending changes to improve the administration and financing of the
    University of California’s Education Abroad Program, though the committee cited
    UCSD as an exception to issues plaguing the other UC campuses.

    Compared to the country’s other leading research
    universities, the UC system falls behind the national average in the number of
    undergraduates who study abroad, the report said. For example, the University
    of Virginia — a public institution similar to the UC system — sends 37 percent
    of its undergraduates abroad each year. About 21 percent of students at the 10
    UC campuses pursue study at foreign universities.

    In 2005, UC Provost Wyatt R. Hume and then-Academic Senate
    Chair Clifford Brunk appointed senate members to the Ad Hoc Committee on
    International Education, designed to investigate the current status of EAP. The
    committee ultimately decided to revamp the program, citing a lengthy time
    interval without review as well as the university’s responsibility to be
    internationally conscious.

    The original committee composed a mission statement along
    with a list of goals and recommendations that were released spring of this
    year. However, the University Committee of Planning and Budget subsequently
    asked the committee to further broaden its approach to address “budgetary and
    integration” issues within the Universitywide Office of the Education Abroad
    Program, EAP’s center of operations.

    Each campus was given five years to double the number of
    students studying abroad, the report said.

    “To send approximately 40 to 50 percent of all undergraduates
    for study is well within the norms of higher education nationally and
    constitutes a clear statement regarding the educational priority of global
    knowledge and experience,” the committee wrote in the report.

    The committee said that one of its primary concerns is the
    lack of coherency within the network of university study-abroad programs. Since
    its inception 40 years ago, EAP has witnessed the emergence of numerous
    third-party organizations that provide long- and short-term study programs.
    Many of these programs enroll UC students who choose them “without expert
    advice,” the report said, which forces students to find their way through the
    process without enough information.

    Additionally, the committee found that demanding major
    requirements, the cost of a UC education and time constraints were cited as
    reasons for decreased interest in year-long programs. Committee members
    proposed that EAP create and identify programs to match student demand, along
    with the creation of a more centralized systemwide administration.

    Though the coherency of the systemwide program is an issue,
    UCSD’s Programs Abroad Office differs from many of the other UC campuses, and
    was cited by the committee as a model for other campuses to follow.

    “The difference between our method and the methods of other
    campuses is that we centralize our operations,” Programs Abroad Office Director
    Kim Burton said.

    The campus created the Opportunities Abroad Program in 1985,
    which serves as a hub for external programs in addition to EAP. Students can earn
    academic credit for studying abroad outside of EAP and receive additional
    guidance if necessary.

    “UCSD realized that we could be sending more of our students
    abroad if we could just provide information and advising about these non-UC
    options, as well as a formal process for students to receive academic credit
    for such experiences, and to use financial aid,” Burton said.

    However, even with UCSD’s centralized administrative model,
    some believe there is room for improvement.

    “The Programs Abroad Office needs to create stronger
    connections between itself and the other departments on campus,” said Thurgood
    Marshall College senior Shannon Dulaney, who studied abroad in Dublin, Ireland.
    “It was a hassle trying to figure out whose approval I needed; it was a slight
    bureaucratic mess.”

    Though UCSD provides advising to students planning to study
    abroad, some students assumed the responsibilities themselves.

    “I went to a general meeting, but it didn’t take me long to
    choose a program,” said Maureen Ravelo, an Eleanor Roosevelt College junior who
    is currently studying in Paris. “The EAP Web site is pretty helpful.”

    Twenty-seven percent of UCSD students who studied abroad
    last year participated in yearlong programs, compared to 6 percent nationally,
    Burton said.

    In total, the committee made 14 recommendations to
    consolidate EAP’s administration, make advising an integral part of the process
    and ensure enough program financing to promote its development as the number of
    students studying abroad increases.

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