IIE Open Doors Report: Short-term Programs Continue to Increase

The annual Open Doors report* released on November 16 reveals some interesting data about short-term education abroad trends. In short, as a percentage of all education abroad in the United States, short-term education abroad is increasing steadily each year. Over the past ten years, the increase in short-term programs has been 10%: from 52% of all education abroad participation in 2003/04 to 62% in 2013/14. Nearly two-thirds of all study abroad is now for a period of eight weeks of less.

This increase accompanies a 6% drop in semester program participation and a 3% decrease in year-long programs over the same ten years. Growth in short-term programs, unfortunately, seems to be at the expense of longer terms abroad.

It is disappointing that this increase rise comes at the expense of longer terms abroad. Particularly as many of us studied abroad for longer periods and value that experience. And yet, as the data show, what students are looking for in education abroad programs is changing. Many of them believe, as many of us have taught them to believe–that study abroad is study abroad regardless of the length.

While there has been debate in the past over whether short-term education abroad is “true” study abroad, it is now clear that short-term programs are the only study abroad experiences that many students will have. Many factors are involved to make shorter programs attractive to students: restrictive academic programs, travel costs, ever-rising tuition, the comfort of travelling with a familiar professor. With educational and travel costs so high and degree requirements constraining, what becomes affordable and possible are short-term programs.

So, if short-term programs are here to stay, then I believe our job is to ensure they are as academically rigorous and as culturally rich as we can make them. To make these goals reality requires much collaboration among education abroad professionals, faculty, and provider. I will highlight successful collaborations in future posts. Stay tuned!


*The Open Doors® report is published annually by the Institute of International Education in partnership with the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.

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