Interdisciplinary study abroad programs bring certain advantages to international learning. Discipline-based programs bring others. Each has its place, as does offering a range of interdisciplinary and discipline-based opportunities in order to meet the needs of different faculty and students.
The value of discipline-based programs includes the following:
- They engage faculty and students from academic fields that have not been previously much involved in international work
- They illuminate the international dimensions of these disciplines in ways that may not have been previously apparent
- Courses in such programs can often be placed directly within the curricular requirements of the discipline, with no delay in time to graduation
- They produce graduates who have experience applying their international learning to their professions
- They produce graduates who have already formed some international connections and networks that will be important as they embark on their careers
When carried out in the context of strategic international partnerships, discipline-based programs also:
- have the potential to create international research collaborations that transform the disciplines themselves;
- constitute one of the most effective ways for faculty who are new to international work to develop international knowledge, skills, and connections.
Discipline-based study abroad programs have long existed for students in the languages, humanities, business, and social sciences. Over the last decade, there has also been dramatic growth of such programs for fields such as STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), education, engineering, law, and the health professions.
This growth corresponds to the changing characteristics of students who study abroad and the increasing internationalization of higher education in general. The most recent Open Doors report (2014) shows, for example, that for the first time the single largest segment of U.S. study abroad students are from the sciences (22.5% of total U.S. enrollments last year).
On the Japanese side, over one-fifth of the projects selected for the Top Global University program are focused on particular fields outside the liberal arts. These include:
- Tokyo Medical and Dental University: Health for All – Creating the Next Generation of Professionals for the Promotion of Global Health
- Tokyo Institute of Technology: Enhancing Tech Education and Research Quality through Administrative Reforms for Internationalization
- Osaka University: World Tekijuku
- Keio University: Enhancing Sustainability of Global Society through Jitsugaku (Science)
- Nagaoka University of Technology: An Education for Innovative Global Engineers
- Toyohashi University of Technology: A Creative Campus for Nurturing Global Technology Architects
- Kyoto Institute of Technology: Open-Tech Innovation – An Initiative for Global, Social, and Regional Collaboration
- University of Aizu: Fostering Global ICT Innovators
- Shibaura Institute of Technology: Design and Implementation of a Human Resource Development Model for Engineering and Sciences Focusing on the Value of Co-Creative Education for Global Sustainability
Along with several of the above projects, Osaka University’s World Tekijuku program is particularly directed at international collaboration, with the University of California as a key partner.