Considerations in leading a program abroad

​​The Office of Study Abroad welcomes the opportunity to work with CMU faculty to develop unique academic experiences for CMU students outside of the United States. Below is information that will give interested faculty an overview of the initial process. 

Length of program

Faculty-led programs may be offered as a field trip for a spring semester course during spring break, during summer for up to 12 weeks, or for a full semester.

Program credits

Faculty-led programs follow the same rules for number of credits as any regular campus class. Below is the federal definition for the award of credit hours. 

Federal credit hour definition: A credit hour is an amount of work represented in intended learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement that is an institutionally established equivalency that reasonably approximates not less than: (1) one hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out-of-class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester or trimester hour of credit, or ten to twelve weeks for one quarter hour of credit, or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time; or (2) at least an equivalent amount of work as required in paragraph (1) of this definition for other activities as established by an institution, including laboratory work, internships, practicals, studio work and other academic work leading toward to the award of credit hours. 34CFR 600.2 (11/1/2010).

Faculty-led program types​

Course taught entirely abroad: This is the most common type of program. It is recommended that a few class meetings be scheduled prior to departure to prepare the students for the academic work.


Combination course: This is typically a summer course. Meets on campus for the first part of the course for one or two weeks ,and the second part of the course is offered abroad. 

Field trip for a campus course: Faculty may offer, for example, a spring semester course with a required spring break field trip abroad.​

Faculty-led program models 

Experience living or traveling in the host country(ies) is essential when planning to lead CMU students abroad. Contacts abroad at universities or organization that can help with program planning will be very helpful. Program models are:

Faculty leader plans program:  With experience and contacts in the host country(ies), the faculty leader can plan the program activities, including housing and transportation. Program costs for students are most affordable with this model.


Program organized on site by a third party program provider: There are reputable organizations, commonly called "program providers," that can help with program planning.  Study Abroad works with program providers and they can reserve housing, transportation, schedule guest lecturers, field trips, etc. These program providers charge a fee that will be built into the students' program fee and will raise the program cost.  

On-site coordinator hired to assist with planning in-country:  Faculty who have reliable contacts abroad who can assist with program planning may request approval from Study Abroad to work with the contacts.

Getting Started​

It is strongly encouraged that a potential faculty leader begins planning and working with Study Abroad 18 months prior to the start of the program. (ex. June Program, begin planning and meeting with Study Abroad in January of the previous year).

  • 18 Months prior: meet with the director of study abroad and faculty-led programs coordinator to discuss the program.
  • Obtain initial support from the chair and dean to develop a new program.
  • 12-15 months prior: by April 15 of the year preceding the start of the program, complete the pre-proposal form. 
  • 9-12 months prior:  complete the final program proposal.  Study Abroad will provide access and instructions for the online proposal and will assist with the budget development.  Study Abroad will send new proposals to the chair, dean and provost for approval; proposal renewals will be approved by the chair and dean.
  • Once approved, faculty leaders are encouraged to begin actively promoting the program.  Study Abroad will create a brochure page on the study abroad website to advertise the program.
  • For undergraduate courses faculty leaders are strongly encouraged to request University Program IV-B approval for the course.  Students look for courses that fulfill graduation requirements and UP-IV-B approval will be of interest to them.   Instructions to request UP IV B approval from the Geneal Education Committee can be obtained from the Academic ​Sena​te Office.​

Program renewal

It is expected that faculty-leaders will offer the program for at least three years or every other year for five years.  An updated proposal form and budget can be submitted the week prior to the start of fall classes. 

Planning and proposing a faculty-led program

Proposals are due by May 15th of the prior year.

Faculty-led program accounting procedures

Faculty leaders are responsible for accounting and reporting all program expenses. 

Liability and risk management

Risk Management, Environmental Health and Safety provides information about liability and insurance offered to CMU employees.  Specific information for study abroad is included in the Foreign Travel section of their website.​