Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Academic Affairs or Student Affairs? ~ Where to House an International/Study Abroad Office?

Institutions of higher education are interesting creatures.  I'm always interested in how they are structured and their history (which lends insight into how they were/are structured and organized).  At some institutions the international/study abroad office is housed under student affairs while other institutions house these operations under their academic affairs umbrella.  Some institutions have one office under student affairs and the other office under academic affairs.  There are certainly positives for housing the international/study abroad office under either of these institutional areas.

I don't necessarily think there is a correct answer to this and it really depends on the institutions themselves and their culture.

What are your thoughts and/or experience with this?  

Photo credit: arisexpress


  1. At my current campus, there is not an office of international affairs at all. So, at this point wherever the college decides to place such an office would be a great and much needed start. However, at my previous college the multi-cultural office was housed in the student affairs area, but worked very closely with the academic side of the college. In fact, the academic division, World Languages offered the credit ESOL courses for these students, while the multi-cultural office focused on the academic support areas. For example, all course scheduling, course requirements, curriculum, and etc was the responsibility of the academic division. However, all student services, such as advising, admission issues, registration, tutoring, programming, and testing were the responsibility of the multi-cultural office.

    I worked as a part time academic advisor in the multi-cultural office during peak times, and at times, the above arrangement was cloudy, but consistent. Given my experiences and knowing the vast support and academic needs of international students, I think having both an academic and service department is beneficial to the students, especially if both can worth together and share similar goals and vision. Essentially, the mc office was a one-stop shop for these students and the individuals in that area focused on student support and understood the value and importance of their area.

    I cannot say either side is more qualified to house this area, I just merely believe in allowing people to do what they specialize in and are compassionate about. If you are an academic person, then focus on that area and allow the student services to provide the needed support programs and services students need. So, I think the dual departments is an excellent approach to meeting international students' needs.

  2. We house our international education program in the academic affairs department, which seems to work well because they are able to keep their finger on the pulse of how international students are doing, as well as being able to provide opportunities for studying abroad.

  3. Alex,

    Are all services for international students available in this one location?

  4. Where I work, the various parts of international were housed in a variety of different departments for a number of years. This did not work well, as communication between departments was poor and no-one knew what was happening in other areas. Then, last year, everything international came together under one umbrella and this works much better. Our international recruitment, admissions, study abroad and exchanges, English language programmes and international partnership development is all in the same department. We have monthly meetings so everyone can tell everyone else what they are working on, etc. and communication has vastly improved! Hopefully this translates into an improvement in services to the students.
    I think it does.