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Policy: International Dual or Sequential Degrees

Policy detailing the guidelines for establishing a dual or sequential degree program between UW-Madison and a foreign institution


This is a summary of the policy on establishing international dual or sequential degrees. Click here to view the official policy in its entirety in the UW-Madison Policy Library.


Introduction and Overview

This document was developed for the purpose of providing faculty and staff with the requirements for the approval, modification, and review of sequential and dual degree programs between UW‐Madison and a university in another country1. The document also provides information about curriculum and governance structures, suggests standards for admission, continuation, and completion for each program, and offers possible models for these sequential and dual degree programs. Thus, this policy is designed to reduce barriers to develop such collaborations.

There are many modes of collaboration with international universities. Faculty, staff, and administrators who are planning collaborations should consult the companion document “Modes of International Academic Program and Course Collaborations” for details and information about accessing policies that pertain to those approaches.

Some collaborations with international universities do not require the full approval process. For example, a “Letter of Agreement” may be sufficient in some cases, especially when collaborations revolve around a single student or arrangements between faculty members rather than between programs. See the section below entitled “Is a sequential or dual degree agreement necessary?”

Sequential and dual degrees are defined in Table 1. Sequential and dual degrees are most useful for graduate and professional programs. For undergraduate programs, other mechanisms are typically more appropriate (transfer of credit and undergraduate admission, study abroad, and student exchange programs).

Proposals for sequential or dual degree programs will be considered only for programs in robust academic health. If the UW‐Madison program was recently established, it must have passed the joint review stage before being eligible. The program should have been reviewed within the past 10 years, have active processes for curricular and program revision, have an active assessment program, and be in good standing with any specialized accreditation agency if relevant. Programs that have outstanding academic issues or that are low‐ enrollment are not candidates for sequential or dual degree arrangements.

Sequential and dual degree arrangements can be resource intensive and departments will need to be prepared to provide the additional support for students in the program.

Students in a sequential and dual degree programs will apply to, be admitted to, and enroll in a formal, named option associated with the degree program. Thus, a component of the approval process will be to request approval for a formal, named option. Academic program review for sequential/dual degree programs will be conducted on a five‐year cycle.

As described in Table 1, new modes of collaboration will, in general, require approval from groups referred to as “program faculty.” The nature of “program faculty” varies widely among different academic programs, in some instances including all of the faculty members in a department, in other instances the Executive Committee of a department, in yet other instances, a subset of faculty in a department, or faculty from more than one department. Consequently, defining the nature of approvals required to demonstrate agreement of “program faculty” will require exploration and consultation. (Consult Faculty Policies and Procedures for more information about faculty roles and responsibilities.)

Table 1. Definitions and Key Features of Sequential and Dual Degrees

Sequential DegreesFormalized arrangement in which students earn a specified degree at a partner institution and then apply to, enroll in, and complete a second, related program at UW‐Madison. Courses from the first program may be used to waive requirements in the UW‐Madison program. Students will still be required to meet al lUW‐Madison program and degree requirements.
  • Students apply to the UW‐Madison program, enroll, and make progress to degree as UW‐Madison students. Program admission requirements may require that the student has completed t he first degree in the sequence at the partner institution.
  • For systematic sequential degree partnerships in which all students are labeled as participating in an identifiable program, this approach requires approval by the program faculty, school/college dean, institutional governance, provost, and chancellor. System or Regent approval and other approvals may be required in some circumstances.
  • As long as all UW‐Madison admission and program/degree requirements are met and the program faculty maintain control of the curriculum and program requirements, then no academic approvals are required by external agencies such as the Higher Learning Commission(HLC).
  • In addition to academic approvals, an MOU for signature by the partner institutions and other governing groups is also required.
Dual DegreeFormalized arrangement in which students complete the requirements for two degrees from two institutions, with efficiencies in course taking. Each institution is primarily responsible for its own degree
(Use dual degrees for graduate and professional programs. For undergraduate programs, use Transfer of Credit or Study Away or Student Exchange mechanisms.)
  • Students apply to UW‐Madison, enroll in the UW‐Madison program, and make progress to degree as UW‐Madison students.
  • Program requirements will specify any conditions for admission to the UW‐Madison program associated with completing specific elements of the partner program prior to admission or in tandem with enrollment in good standing at UW‐Madison.
  • For systematic dual degree programs in which a specific partnership is established and participating students are to be identified, then approval is required by program faculty, school/college dean, institutional governance groups such as the Graduate Faculty Executive Committee (GFEC) and the University Academic Planning Council (UAPC), the provost and chancellor.
  • If the dual degree program makes use of an existing UW‐Madison program authorization, and if all UW‐Madison program/degree requirements are met, and the program faculty maintain control of the curriculum and program requirements, then approvals by external agencies such as HLC may not be required.
  • These programs must be reported to UW System Administration, the Board of Regents, the Higher Learning Commission and other external agencies so institutional approvals and tracking are required. If the dual degree is developed as a new program, then the process for new program approval is followed.
  • Care must be taken to maintain a “home institution” model in which the faculty and governance responsibility for the UW‐Madison program remains with UW‐Madison.
  • In addition to academic approvals, an MOU between the partner institutions signed by a representative with signature authority is also required.

Is a sequential or dual degree agreement necessary?

Formal agreements for sequential or dual degrees are necessary when a program seeks an arrangement that will result in a regular, predictable flow of students though a program that meets the characteristics of a sequential or dual degree program.

If a faculty member wants to formalize a collaboration with a faculty member at a university in another country for a single student, or if two programs want to formalize a collaboration but expect that there is unlikely to more than one student at a time involved in the collaboration, then a “Letter of Agreement” may be sufficient.A “Letter of Agreement” would be a letter that describes the details of the arrangement, including the scope and limits of the agreement. The faculty member would work with the department chair and the school/college dean to prepare the “Letter of Agreement”. The signatory authority is typically the school/college dean or the department chair. Faculty should consult with Dean’s Office, International Division and Academic Planning and Institutional Research/Provost’s Office for institutional review of a Letter of Agreement.

A letter of agreement is not a contract. If a contract is required, consult Dean’s Office, International Division.

A fundamental assumption of dual and sequential degrees is that participating UW‐Madison students meet the requirements of the existing UW‐Madison degree. If faculty and staff seek to develop a program that is structured in a way that requirements would differ from existing requirements, then the proposal should be developed under guidelines for new academic programs (apir.wisc.edu/academic‐planning/). Consult Jocelyn Milner, jmilner@wisc.edu, Academic Planning and Institutional Research/Provost’s Office

Process to create a sequential or dual degree program with a foreign institution

There are three steps in the process to create sequential or dual degree partnership with a foreign institution: 1.the “Letter of Cooperation” 2.the proposal for the sequential or dual degree, including the proposal for a named option to be associated with an existing UW‐Madison program; and 3. the Memo of Understanding.

Step 1: Letter of Cooperation (LOC)

The Letter of Cooperation signals an informal understanding between the partner programs and universities to develop a sequential or dual degree agreement. A sample LOC is appended. It is not a binding agreement. The LOC is optional: if circumstances allow, the program faculty may skip this step and go directly to Step 2, the development of the full proposal. The LOC is recommended as a useful step to help in planning and is useful if a timely action is required.

On occasion a document may need to be signed quickly or at a signing ceremony, and the LOC may fill this role.

The LOC ensures that departments and their deans have discussed the new relationship and are willing to invest the time, energy, and financial resources needed to map out the details of these programs, gain formal approval, and eventually implement the program. The LOC is established for a defined period of time between one (1) and three (3) years. The duration, not to exceed three years, is specified. A Justification Statement must be attached to the LOC. At this early stage in the planning process, the program faculty need to use the Justification Statement to articulate explicitly the benefits to UW‐Madison of such a partnership, how it aligns with strategic priorities and advances the mission of the University. Because sequential and dual degrees require a substantial administrative effort, they should be “worth it” and the onus is on the program faculty to make that case.

The LOC goes to the program or departmental faculty for a formal vote. After program or departmental approval, the school/college dean will give approval. The dean may choose to consult with the school/college Academic Planning Council. Written concurrence by the dean of the Graduate School, the dean of International Studies, the vice‐chancellor for administration, and the provost signals that they are aware of plans to develop a full proposal. Final approval is given by the chancellor, who signs the LOC.

Because of the potential need for timeliness and the non‐binding nature of the LOC, the LOC will be provided to the Graduate Faculty Executive Committee (GFEC) and University Academic Planning Council (UAPC) for information at the earliest opportunity, but approval of the LOC by these governance bodies is not required.

Step 2: Proposal for a Sequential or Dual Degree Program, including a Proposal for a Formal Named Option

A document that describes all of the elements of the proposed program must be prepared by the UW‐Madison program faculty and staff. This description of the dual degree program must be formally endorsed by authorities at both institutions. Approvals will be required by all appropriate entities, including those on‐ campus, and if necessary those off‐campus (UW System Administration, Board of Regents, Higher Learning Commission, parallel agencies associated with the foreign university).

The proposal is approved by the UW‐Madison program faculty and the school/college (usually via the Academic Planning Council and dean’s office). The proposal is transmitted to the dean of the Graduate School (graduate programs) and the provost (all programs). After administrative review, the proposal will be considered by the Graduate Faculty Executive Committee (for graduate programs) and the University Academic Planning Council (all programs). Final approval is given by the dean of International Studies, the provost and the chancellor. The sequential or dual degree program is reported to UW System Administration.

At this time, UW System Administration (UWSA) does not have guidelines for sequential or dual degree program approval. The requirements laid out in this document are subject to change if UWSA establishes over‐riding requirements.

The proposal for a sequential/dual degree and a formal, named option should include the following information (10 page maximum for the body of the proposal, plus appendices and statements of endorsement):

  • A copy of the LOC that has been signed by both the UW‐Madison chancellor and the agents of the partner institution, if relevant.
  • Motivation and rationale for the program, including a compelling case for advancing the strategic directions of UW‐Madison. The case made in the LOC would be repeated here in such a way to reflect any evolution in thinking associated with the planning process
  • Program goals and expectations for student learning. Discuss how students will benefit from the sequential or dual degree partnership in a way that they do not from the UW‐Madison program.
  • Admission requirements and any information related to the admissions process.
  • Any details about program design, for example if the program will operate in a cohort model, details about when the students would be enrolled at UW‐Madison and at the partner institution.
  • Details of the curricular design, what requirements will be met at each institution and how it will apply to degree requirements at UW‐Madison, and how all of the UW‐Madison degree requirements will be met. What are limits on overlap?
  • Plans for language training and specification of the language of instruction at the partner institution, if applicable.
  • Description of how students’ progress to degree will be monitored and verified, and any framework for assuring timely progress, and consequences for non‐compliance.
  • Plans for assessment of student learning (use existing assessment plan or revise for this program), and plans for program review and evaluation of program effectiveness. Program review is required every five years.
  • Evidence of the ability of the partner institution to deliver an educational experience that meets the standards of UW‐Madison.
  • A list of other dual or sequential degree programs that the partner university has with like programs.
  • A list of other dual or sequential degree programs that the UW‐Madison program has with other universities.
  • Description of conditions under which the partnership will be dissolved.
  • Specification of administrative arrangements including application, admission, and registration logistics.
  • Details related to financial support, financial aid, assistantships, or fellowship, including any special eligibility or exclusion rules.
  • Design of program governance structure and how it relates to established governance structures (departments, school/college, etc.) at UW‐Madison. What will be the structure of the executive committee and how will the officers be identified. What are the criteria for “program faculty” and how will they be selected, identified. What are the criteria for UW‐Madison faculty? For faculty at the partner institution? Specification for level of involvement of partner institution faculty in governance of the UW‐Madison program.
  • Fiscal implications, including how additional service costs will be supported and any requirements for special tuition. Any special tuition or financial requirements will need separate approvals through the relevant Dean’s Office, the Vice Chancellor for Administration, and if necessary UW System Administration and the Board of Regents.
  • Risk management implications and plans for student services and support for UW‐Madison students while they are at the partner institution (not required for sequential degrees). Consult with the International Division on current requirements.
  • Explanation of the approval process required at the partner institution, including specification of approvals required by accreditation and governmental agencies in the country of the partner institution.
  • A final draft of the MOU (Step 3).

Step 3: Completion of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)

When steps 1 and 2 are complete, the MOU can be formally signed, usually by the Chancellor. The MOU will usually have elements that signal agreements between UW‐Madison and the partner institution, and a specific program agreement.

A standard format for the MOU is attached.

After the academic approvals, the program faculty make any final changes needed to the MOU. The full proposal, notice of governance and provost approval is routed widely, including to the International Division, the MOU is reviewed one last time, revised if needed, and forwarded to the chancellor and other agents for final signature.


Policy History

Adopted by the University Academic Planning Council, 19 May 2011




Keywords:dual, sequential, international, foreign, MOU   Doc ID:108371
Owner:Karen M.Group:Academic Planning and Institutional Research
Created:2021-01-14 15:26 CDTUpdated:2021-01-14 15:30 CDT
Sites:Academic Planning and Institutional Research
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