Pros and Cons of International Double Degree Program

Pros and Cons of International Double Degree Program

As the name implies, international double degree program refers to a program that allows the students to spend half of their education period in an overseas partner university while obtaining two degrees – one from the local university and another one from the partner university.  Nowadays, many universities in Indonesia, both public and private universities, offer double degree program as their flagship program. This program is one of the strategies used by local universities to embrace the challenges brought about by globalization and also to attract new students. Double degree programs are increasingly popular as many people want to experience studying abroad while still spending a couple of university years in their home country.

Several universities such as Universitas Indonesia, Universitas Gadjah Mada, Universitas Trisakti, and Universitas Pelita Harapan offer double degree programs for undergraduate students. The structure  for double degree programs depends on their subjects, partner universities, and programs. For instance, in Universitas Indonesia (UI) Faculty of Medicine, the structure is 3+1+2, which means 3 years at UI, 1 year at a selected partner university (University of Melbourne, Monash University, or Newcastle University), and 2 years of clinical clerkship at  partner hospitals such as Rumah Sakit Umum Pusat Nasional Cipto Mangunkusumo, Rumah Sakit Pusat Jantung Nasional Harapan Kita, among others. In UI Faculty of Economics, the general structure depends on the partner university. For instance, its partnership with University of Melbourne (UoM) has a structure of  2+2, which means 2 years at UI and 2 years at  UoM. This is different from  its partnership with University of Adelaide, in which students spend  2.5 years at UI and 1.5 years at University of Adelaide. The structure of the course can vary based on the credits taken by the student.

In order to enroll in a double-degree program, you must join the selection test for international class or double degree programs when you sit for an entrance test to the university. If you pass the test and get selected into the program, you will get the chance to attend additional classes, which are conducted separately to regular classes. The classes are mainly conducted in English, as a preparation for the students prior to being transferred to the partner universities. Dual certificates are generally offered to students who enroll in international class or double degree programs. Dual certificates are not generally offered to students of single degree programs, but several exceptions may be applicable. For instance, at UI Faculty of Medicine, double degree program with Newcastle University is also offered to students who are currently attending single degree programs, which means that they can register for the selection test and qualify for the dual program.

I was enrolled in UI Faculty of Medicine in 2010 and I had the chance to do a double degree program with the University of Melbourne in Australia. Faculty of Medicine UI has established a double degree partnership with the UoM since its introduction in 2001, with the first batch sent to UoM in 2003. Following this  partnership, FMUI has since established other partnerships with Monash University and Newcastle University. Each university has its own perks and drawbacks and each of them offers different degree; UoM offers BMedSc (Bachelor of Medical Science), Monash University offers BMedS(Hons) which stands for Bachelor of Medical Science with Honours, and Newcastle University offers MRes (Master of Research) in desired fields.

From my personal point of view, international double degree programs have their own pros and cons. However, the suitability of international double degree program highly depends on your goal and dreams. I have listed several pros and cons regarding double degree program based on my friends’ and my own experiences.

Pros:

1. New experiences overseas: Doing an international double degree programs allow you to experience what it is like to study abroad. When you are studying overseas, you live far away without your family, you do your own house chores, you manage your own money, and you do other things on your own. In addition, as a holder of student visa, you are entitled to work part-time. There are many opportunities for you to work part-time to get extra money, new experiences, as well as to network. By living and studying overseas, you will learn to be more independent and appreciative of all the privileges that you get when you are in your home country.

Besides personal experiences, you will also get new academic experiences. In Australia, the learning facilities are limitless; you have free access to numerous journals and textbooks, large and comfortable libraries which are open 24 hours, free high-speed internet on campus, and most of the lecturers are very helpful and approachable. The lecturers always push you to do better and you can always contact them through e-mail if you have any difficulties with your studies. If you need help with adjusting to the new learning system, a student counselor will be provided just for you. In general, universities overseas thoroughly support their students in terms of learning.

Most of the assignments also require critical thinking and presentation skills, therefore you will learn to speak confidently in foreign language as well as to express  your thoughts and arguments in paper or in front of the class. You will also meet and work with international and local students, therefore you will learn how to maintain a good teamwork spirit and collaborate  with people of different cultural and academic backgrounds.

These personal and academic experiences that you get during your study period overseas will surely enrich you as a person and help you in your professional endeavours.

Melbourne University’s cloisters

2. Adaptation process: The adaptation process is not too difficult since you go overseas with your home university classmates, hence you don’t have to worry about not getting any friend while you are there. You also have your seniors, who would have already experienced living abroad a year earlier than you. Therefore you can ask for their tips, suggestions, and assistance in adjusting to the  new environment.

Prior to my departure to Melbourne, there was a session given by the seniors in UI called “Take and Give”, in which the seniors gave a presentation about living in Melbourne, for instance regarding where to live, eat, hang out, shop, travel, and many more. Since there will be a new batch who comes every year, some seniors also like to offer their previous apartments so that the students in the new batch do not have to worry about finding accommodation. Other faculties in UI, which also have double degree programs with UoM, such as Faculty of Economics, also conduct a BBQ event to welcome the new batch so they can ask anything about settling in Melbourne. The batch who will be going back to Indonesia usually gives the new batch their old items, – such as kitchen appliances and furniture – since they have to clean up their apartments before leaving.

Besides the help from seniors, going to a new country with your classmates will also have its own benefits since you can share accommodation with them, split bills while shopping for groceries, learn about the public transport system together, and many more. These will surely make your adaptation period a lot easier.

3. Vast networking: When you study abroad, you will have a chance to meet new friends from different parts of the world. There are lots of communities, clubs, and organizations for you to choose from, where you can meet new people from different parts of the world with the same interests. In addition, you will also meet fellow Indonesian students who study in different fields. By meeting new people through clubs, communities, and organizations, you can expand your networking, which will be very beneficial in the future. It is also important to maintain good relationships with your supervisors, lecturers, staffs, and other faculty members since they can also become your referees in your CV or when you need recommendation letter for academic purposes. In order to build a good and vast network, be active and try to get involved in lots of activities, such as student clubs and organizations.

4. Master’s degree and Fast Track to Master’s Degree or PhD: In the double degree program offered by UI Faculty of Medicine, one of the partner universities, Newcastle University, offered master’s degree unlike other partner universities. This means that in 6 years time you can get Sarjana Kedokteran (SKed), MRes (Master of Research) and board certification at the same time. If you want to continue until PhD, you can add two more years to that and defer the clinical clerkship until you finish your PhD.

For other bachelor’s degree programs, students with high marks in their Honours program have the option of continuing to candidature of a PhD program, which clearly saves a lot of time. Some of my seniors decided to stay and pursue PhD degree and defer their clinical years. Since the academic degree requirements are getting higher in the working world, some people will consider completing master’s degree or even PhD as fast as possible, and by doing a double degree program, you can do it in a considerably shorter period.

Cons:

1. Costly: compared to the regular class, the admission and semester fee is way more expensive. When you are transferred to the partner university, you have to pay the tuition fee for the partner universities. Since you are counted as an international student, you have to pay a higher tuition fee compared to local students of the partner universities. In addition, when you are overseas you still have to pay an amount of money to UI to secure your spot as a student there. The living cost in Australia is also more expensive compared to Indonesia. In general, there are many expenses involved if you decide to do international double degree-program, but don’t worry since scholarships are also available for double degree programs! Generally, scholarships are offered by the partner universities overseas. However, you can also apply for IELTS scholarship.

Overall, in my opinion, I believe that international double degree programs are suitable for: i) those who want to study overseas but are not prepared to leave Indonesia just after graduating from high school, ii) those who are still unsure whether they should go to local or overseas universities (therefore you can get the best of both worlds!), iii) those who look for new exciting experiences, and iv) those who want to meet new people, get new experiences, and widen their network Based on my experiences, I truly enjoyed the learning environment in my campus (University of Melbourne), in which the supervisors are very helpful and always encourage us to do better in terms of clinical research. They always push us to keep reading and stay up-to-date with the latest research. Furthermore, they support us through their free and accessible learning environments and experiences. If you are still unsure whether to take international double degree program, just make a list of pros and cons. Also, you can see if there is a fit between an international double degree program and your goals, dreams, and interests. Good luck!

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Content Director: Steven Tannason 

Photo Credits:  ”graduation caps” courtesy of John Walker; “Melbourne University cloisters” courtesy of Geoff Penaluna




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Denita is a medical doctor based in Jakarta, Indonesia. She obtained her medical doctor (MD) title from Faculty of Medicine Universitas Indonesia (FKUI) as well as a bachelor degree in Medical Science (BMedSci) from University of Melbourne through the double-degree program. She is currently working in a public hospital and primary health centers in Jakarta as part of the national internship program by the Ministry of Health. Besides working as a doctor, she also works as a research assistant in Faculty of Medicine Universitas Indonesia and as a communication specialist in a start-up company specialized in healthcare crowdfunding.
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