Creating and Leading Faculty-Directed Programs

Program Supervision

Faculty and staff members interested in creating and directing an education abroad program should consult with the head of their department to determine eligibility.

NAFSA: Association of International Education recommends a student to faculty/staff ratio of 8-12:1. Larger groups should take on additional faculty or staff members to act, at minimum, as additional “responsible adults” and provide supervisory support to the faculty director/program leader. However, risk management best practices also recommend all short-term education abroad programs have at least two university-affiliated responsible adults regardless of group size.

Please see the Overview of Responsibilities for Departmental Education Abroad Programs for more information on the faculty director/program leader’s duties.

Timeline of Program Development

The development of a successful faculty-led education abroad program begins long before the program itself is set to depart. Faculty leaders must have time to develop the academic and logistical components of the program, as well as publicize the program and recruit participants. Students must be given time to plan academically and financially, as well as to obtain passports and visas when necessary.

Below is a general timeline for program development; however, there may be slight variations depending on the proposed program.

18 months prior to departure

  • Consult UA Office on International Programs of plans, policies and procedures
  • Consult UA Risk Management
  • Make contacts abroad
  • Conduct site visit
  • Draft program proposal, including syllabus/syllabi and budget

12 months prior to departure

  • Obtain Department/School approval
  • Obtain College approval

10 months prior to departure

  • Recruit Participants
  • Create program account, in necessary
  • Set up course
  • Contact logistics service providers

4-5 months prior to departure

  • Program application deadline
  • Collect application materials
  • Move forward with logistical arrangements

3-4 months prior to departure

  • Collect final payments
  • Pay bills
  • Register students

1-2 months prior to departure

  • Hold program orientation(s)
  • Submit student information to OIP


  • Bring copies of student emergency documentation
  • Bring copies of student passports
  • Track incidents, if necessary
  • Conduct course/program activities


  • Conduct follow-up coursework
  • Conduct re-entry activities
  • Finalize and report grades
  • Reconcile expenses
  • Conduct and submit program evaluation

Program Models

Standard Faculty-Led Model

The more traditional model of a short-term, faculty-led education abroad program is a self-contained program in which program/academic content and travel are delivered simultaneously. An example of this would be an Intersession program during which the travel dates and dates of course registration are the same. Faculty directors/program leaders may elect to hold some sessions before and/or after travel to satisfy contact hours, but the official registration would be limited to Intersession.

Embedded Programs

Embedded programs consist of regular-term courses with travel embedded within them. An example would be a Spring Semester course with travel conducted over Spring Break or during the following Intersession. Naturally, travel would be directly related to course content and a mandatory component of the overall academic program.

Customized Programs w/ Partners

Many UA partner organizations, whether international partner institutions or third-party program providers, provide assistance to faculty directors/program leaders who do not have the time or resources to make some or all of the logistical arrangements for an education abroad program. For instance, they may be able to assist in organizing classroom space, housing, cultural activities, guest lecturers and more. (Airfare and visa support are usually left to the faculty director/program leader.)

Hybrid Programs w/ Partners

Faculty members may be able to plug into a partner’s existing program and commit to teaching one or two courses and recruiting a specific number of students.

Academics: Credit vs. Non-Credit

As the name indicates, education abroad is inherently an educational and academic endeavor. Yet education abroad generally, and short-term education abroad programs specifically, still suffers somewhat from a public perception of glorified vacation. Therefore, sound academics and educational goals must be at the center of all University of Akron-sponsored education abroad programs. However, that is not to say that all programs must be credit-bearing. Service-learning and cultural immersion programs are two examples of non credit-bearing, yet academically oriented education abroad programs.

While offering credit makes a program more expensive due to tuition charges, there are advantages to doing so:

  • Earning credit gives students access to financial aid through the Office of Student Financial Aid*
  • Earning credit gives students better value by allowing them to satisfy a degree requirement, even it is only an elective
  • Earning credit gives students an increased sense of purpose on the program, requiring them to have “skin in the game”. This can help promote group cohesion and reduce the likelihood of students acting out.

*In order to be eligible for financial aid in the summer, students must be registered for a minimum of 6 credit hours over all sessions.

Academics: Learning Objectives

Regardless of credit-bearing status, nonetheless, each program should have identified and measurable learning objectives, whether subject-based, culturally based or a combination of the two. Therefore, one of the first questions faculty directors/program leaders should ask themselves when setting out to create an education abroad program is: “What do I want the students to learn?” The answer(s) to that question should be the guide(s) for developing the program content and structure.

Academics: Learning Objectives

Regardless of credit-bearing status, each program should have identified and measurable learning objectives, whether subject-based, culturally based or a combination of the two. Therefore, one of the first questions faculty directors/program leaders should ask themselves when setting out to create an education abroad program is: “What do I want the students to learn?” The answer(s) to that question should be the guide(s) for developing the program content and structure.

Academics: Course Types

Prospective faculty leaders should consult with their Department Chair or School Director to determine what types of courses are acceptable for short-term, faculty-led programs and the process for approval. Can the course be an existing course adapted to education abroad? Can an entirely new course be created specifically for this program? Does the department have a specific course number for all education abroad programs?

Academics: Contact Hours

To maintain academic integrity and rigor, the contact hours to credit hours ratio for education abroad courses should be consistent with that for classes taught on campus. However, as education abroad by definition incorporates experiential learning, not all contact hours need be classroom or lecture hours necessarily. For example, experiential contact hours could count no more than half-weight (e.g. 1 experiential contact hour = .5 instructional contact hour) and comprise no more than 50% of the total contact hours.

For programs during which students receive credit for two or more courses, contact hours should only be counted once; the same contact hour should not be used to satisfy requirements for multiple classes.

A portion of the program’s contact hours could also be conducted before and/or after travel.

Contact Hours and Itinerary Chart

Contact Hours and Itinerary Chart (sample)

Intercultural Content

While it is recognized that some disciplines and program structures may make the integration of intercultural content more difficult, all faculty directors/program leaders are strongly encouraged to find a way to do so. Perhaps the greatest benefit of education abroad to students—from a perspective of not only personal growth, but also academics and professional development—is the exposure to another culture and new ways of viewing the world. Unfortunately, simply travelling to a place is inadequate for this purpose and often only reinforces stereotypes, so engagement must be facilitated with greater intention.

Choosing a Location

In choosing a program location, faculty directors/program leaders should consider a number of factors.

  • How does the location relate to the learning objectives?
  • How familiar is the faculty director/program leader with the location? How much time has he or she spent there personally? Does he or she speak the language?
  • Do any other UA programs to this location exist that might compete for participants?
  • Is there interest in this location on campus?
  • Are there local contacts who can provide assistance?


When developing an education abroad program, faculty directors/program leaders must also take into account potential participants?

  • Who is eligible to take the course?
  • How big is the pool of participants?
  • How many participants are needed to make the program budget?

Faculty Compensation

Faculty directors/program leaders should discuss regulations and procedures for compensation (not to be confused with faculty expenses) with the appropriate official in their department or college. For credit-bearing programs, salary for teaching faculty usually comes from the tuition generated by students. Faculty leaders of non credit-bearing programs wishing to receive compensation may (subject to departmental approval) include a director’s fee within the program budget. This can be in the form of a flat fee to be divided amongst all participants or a per-head surcharge.

Building a Program Budget

Generally speaking, as many individual and group program expenses as possible should be included in the program budget and, thereby, the program fee paid by the students. Such expenses will include in-country group travel and admissions for all mandatory museum visits, etc. Unless subsidized by the department or other source, faculty expenses should be included as a group expense in the program budget, as well.

Airfare and meals are two expenses that may or may not be included according to the discretion of the faculty directors/program leaders. While having participants purchase their own airfare alleviates a certain amount of administrative burden, including it in the program budget and making a group purchase does have potential benefits. First, if the group is large enough, discounted group rates may be available. Second and, perhaps, more importantly, traveling together ensures that all participants reach the destination at the same time, which is especially important when meeting further transportation, and helps participants negotiate any connections, which can be confusing for unseasoned travelers.

Meals are easily and commonly left to the participants, for many reasons. However, if one decides to have group meals, for example on the first and/or last nights of the program, those expenses should be included.

Items such as passport and visa charges do not necessarily need to be included in the program budget and program fee. All program promotion should explicitly state which expenses are included in the program fee and which are not. Faculty directors/program leaders might consider creating a sample, estimated, overall student budget for promotional purposes.

This template will assist in building your program budget and calculating the program fee: Program Budget Planning Template.

Logistical Arrangements

Unfortunately, Education Abroad and the Office of International Programs do not have the ability to provide assistance with logistical arrangements beyond advice. However, The University of Akron has concluded Affiliation Agreements with several third-party providers with Customized Programs divisions that can provide support in building a program, scheduling cultural activities and making logistical arrangements (generally with the exception of airfare). They can be as involved or uninvolved as needed.

Of course these organizations do make some profit on these services, which has the potential to increase costs. However, it generally is not a significant amount. Moreover, with many of them, faculty directors/program leaders can specify a price-point and ask the provider to help build a program around it.

Our affiliates are:

Program Proposal and Approval

The precise process for proposing an education abroad program and receiving approval will depend on one’s department or college. For instance, the Buchtel College of Arts and Sciences has a College-wide process, while other Colleges do not. When in doubt, it is best to speak with one’s department chair.

Program Promotion

The faculty director/program leader must take primary responsibility for promoting his or her program. Information sessions, class visits, electronic and paper signage, information tables, Email Digest, Zip Mail and departmental websites are all possible venues for program promotion.

However, Education Abroad is also happy to assist with promotion. Upon receiving approval from the necessary parties within the unit to run the proposed education abroad program, the faculty director/program leader may submit a Departmental Program Information Sheet, along with an electronic copy of the program flyer, to the Assistant Director for Education Abroad. Education Abroad will then incorporate the program into its own materials and events, including the Education Abroad website, the Education Abroad Starter Kit, class visits and information tables, and the faculty director/program leader will receive an invitation to participate in the annual Education Abroad Fair in October.

Financial Management

The Department of Purchasing prefers UA employees to use a university procurement card for as many transactions as possible when travelling, whether domestically or internationally. Rules and procedures for obtaining and using procurement cards are available on the Purchasing website.

Of course, a credit card may not always be an acceptable method of payment, especially in countries with more cash-based societies. In these instances, the Department of Purchasing prefers faculty directors pay out of pocket and seek reimbursement upon return. However, requests for cash advances may be made, and Purchasing will evaluate and approve each request on a case-by-case basis.

Contact the Department of Purchasing for details or with questions.

Pre-Departure Orientation

The faculty director/program leader is responsible for conducting at least one pre-departure orientation for program participants, though multiple sessions may be necessary. This orientation should cover behavioral and course expectations, health and safety issues, cultural adjustment and practical issues such as packing. Faculty directors/program leaders may wish to refer to this Suggested Pre-Departure Orientation Agenda for Education Abroad.

Guided Reflection

Faculty directors/program leaders are encouraged to facilitate cultural reflection throughout the students’ experience—before, during and after the program—in order to aid them in processing that experience. Journaling, blogging and group discussion are a few possible ways to facilitate this reflection.

Food for Thought

Code of Ethics for Education Abroad.” Forum on Education Abroad, The 2008.

Gluckman, Missy. “Better Abroad.” Melibee Global and Amizade Global Service-Learning 2013.

McCartney, Elizabeth, et. al. “How to Create a Sustainable Study Abroad Program.” NAFSA: Association of International Educators 2007.

Moseley, William G. “Don’t Go Soft on Study Abroad: a Call for Academic Rigor.” The Chronicle of Higher Education 11 December, 2012.

Neff, Alex. “The Ugly American: International Education and the Image of the U.S. Abroad.” Transitions Abroad Magazine Nov/Dec 2001.

Ogden, Anthony. “The View from the Veranda: Understanding Today’s Colonial Student.” Frontiers: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Study Abroad Volume XV (Fall/Winter 2007-2008).

Salisbury, Mark. “We're Muddying the Message on Study Abroad.” The Chronicle of Higher Education 30 July, 2012.

Standards of Good Practice for Short-Term Education Abroad Programs.” Forum on Education Abroad, The 2009.

Weinberg, Adam. “Quantity or Quality in Study Abroad?” 8 May, 2007.