Academic Excellence

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The Academic Leader in Study Abroad.

Our mission is simple: to provide students with the best study abroad programs possible—which includes the highest quality academic and cultural experiences.

Academic Leadership
Our academic leadership relies on the development of outstanding programming—by educational and study abroad staff with years of professional experience — and continual assessment and program enhancement.

Led by President and CEO Dr. Mary M. Dwyer, we have consistently set new standards in academic excellence, including the development of initiatives, such as the IES Abroad Model Assessment Practices (MAPs), that have become standard-bearers for the entire field.

Most recently, after a careful review of IES Abroad’s internal evaluation policies, the Forum on Education Abroad recognized IES Abroad for its achievement in program measurement and improvement, and is, to date, the only organization to hold this honor.

Achieving high standards of academic excellence requires the involvement and participation of our consortium schools; an Academic Department at our headquarters in Chicago; highly skilled academic Center Directors around the world; and world-class university partners. Together, these groups provide consistent academic excellence in study abroad.

Our Academic Department
Based at our headquarters in Chicago, the Academic Department works closely and directly with the academic consortium to develop programming and maintain program and curriculum excellence. The IES Abroad Academic Department features an organizational structure similar to that of colleges and universities.

The following are among the key functions in the department:

  • Executive & Associate Vice Presidents of Academic Affairs
    Multiple Ph.D. staff members focus on new program creation and assessment, and on identifying new opportunities in international higher education. These academic leaders develop protocols for assessing programs, such as the IES Abroad MAP for Study Abroad Programs, and serve as the final judge in student grade appeals.

    Senior academic department staff also determine the best use of educational technology in our classrooms. IES Abroad’s Executive Vice President of Academic Affairs, Michael Steinberg, currently serves as Chairman of the Forum on Education Abroad Standards Committee.
  • Program Deans
    Working with local Center Directors, Program Deans identify and hire the finest, most experienced faculty; safeguard academic policies; and conduct strategic planning for the programs operating at those Centers. They also regularly monitor course syllabi.
    Our Program Deans have advanced degrees and extensive international experience. Program Deans also direct all program and Center reviews, leading review teams comprising faculty and staff from our consortium schools and IES Abroad staff members. Deans also serve as liaisons to other IES Abroad departments to ensure that academic quality is at the forefront of all services.
  • Center Directors
    As local leaders of academic programs at our locations, Center Directors work in close collaboration with Program Deans to develop academic programs and ensure their optimal performance. This is accomplished through consistent monitoring of syllabi, reviews of all student and program evaluation results, and recommendations of new curricula designs.

    In addition to developing curricula, many Center Directors are also degreed academicians and teach IES Abroad courses in their field. The vast majority are natives of the countries where their programs are located. They also identify and partner with leading universities and institutions in the host country.
  • Registrar
    Our registrar's office is responsible for registering IES Abroad students, keeping academic records, and working with our School of Record, the University of Rochester, to manage credit transfers. The IES Abroad Registrar has years of professional experience and is committed to upholding the integrity of the student record.
  • Faculty-Led Programs
    We collaborate with faculty and staff at colleges and universities around the country to develop innovative, customized, tailor-made programming to meet institutions’ specific academic needs abroad. Learn more about our Customized and Faculty-Led Programs
  • Our Faculty
    IES Abroad has more than 500 faculty members selected for their world-class academic and professional qualifications and achievements. To enhance our students’ cultural experience and linguistic development, faculty and staff at our Centers are composed primarily of local experts and scholars working in the community.

    Many of our instructors are chaired professors at local universities and have published extensively in their fields. Many are well-known journalists, novelists, or public intellectuals in their countries. Most have Ph.D.s or the international equivalent from foreign or Western universities, and all IES Abroad faculty members are uniquely skilled in cross-cultural instruction.

Academic Governance 
We are comprised of an academic consortium of more than 235 leading U.S. colleges and universities that assist with our academic policy. By conducting regular surveys with faculty, students, and universities and colleges, we can determine the quality of our programs and identify new program opportunities in developing countries.

IES Abroad has a structured academic governance system composed of elected and appointed faculty and staff representing the IES Abroad consortium. Representatives from member colleges and universities collaborate with IES Abroad staff to set academic policy, develop and approve curriculum, review academic quality, and recommend enhancements and innovations in academic programming. Only after an academic program receives the full support of our consortium members is it ever offered to students.

Through specific program evaluation means, the academic consortium schools then work with IES Abroad to continually measure and refine academic programming so that it remains challenging, innovative, and relevant to the changing needs of today’s students.

We also hold an Annual Conference for our members to discuss study abroad topics, including academic standards and assessment, faculty and program development, and how to maximize the academic, personal, and professional benefits of study abroad.

Read Our Academic Policies

Academic Credit
Students studying on our programs may receive full academic credit through programs approved by their home schools or through programs accredited by IES Abroad’s School of Record, the University of Rochester, a long-standing academic consortium member.

Program Quality - QUIP Designation
In 2010, IES Abroad received the prestigious Quality Improvement Process (QUIP 2A) designation from The Forum on Education Abroad, which confirms that we are in substantial conformity with the Forum’s Standards of Good Practice, the highest standards in the education abroad field.

IES Abroad MAP Series ©
In 1999, IES Abroad assembled outstanding leaders in both international and U.S. higher education to address the growing need for more effective program development and assessment in international education. The result of their research and analysis was the IES Abroad Model Assessment Practice for Study Abroad Programs (IES Abroad MAP), the first evaluation tool of its kind.

Today, these guidelines and assessment methods represent best practices in the field of education abroad and now serve as the benchmark for national standards. Based upon our experience sending nearly 6,000 students abroad annually, as well as our work with colleges and universities, we identified additional areas that would benefit from a similar examination and standardization. The resulting guidelines establish standards in language learning, as well as student health and safety.

In 2011, the IES Abroad MAP for Language & Intercultural Communication was published, offering guidelines that offer practical strategies for language learning and assessing language learning programs.

In 2013, the IES Abroad MAP for Student Health, Safety & Crisis Management was published, offering guidelines for addressing student safety and crisis management in study abroad programs.

The complete IES Abroad MAP series is intended to be shared with college and university administrators in international education, faculty, and governing committees that make decisions regarding education abroad for their students.

Learn more at about the IES Abroad MAP series.

Program and Faculty Development 
Site visits and program evaluations are hosted by IES Abroad for representatives from Consortium Member schools to evaluate specific programs and locations and to assess and improve programming. IES Abroad and the participating member school share the cost of these trips, which involve tightly-scheduled, rigorous assessments that play a significant role in our program development process.

We also sponsor annual faculty development programs designed to bring U.S. and foreign faculty together. These programs involve on-site seminars where local and U.S. faculty discuss topics of common interest, including pedagogical issues, which impact program development.

Learn more about Faculty Development.


  • 3-D Learning
    Our 3-D Program Model connects the quality standards of the IES Abroad MAP for Study Abroad Programs with the three dimensions of student learning and development: cognitive, interpersonal, and intrapersonal. This model reflects our belief that carefully planned programming will foster students’ learning as they acquire new knowledge about their host country and culture, adapt to their new environment, examine their cultural and social values, and consider their role in a global society.Our faculty and staff receive detailed training in the model and continually apply the strategies in their classrooms.
  • Curriculum Audit
    We are in the implementation stage of a curriculum audit that examines the IES Abroad curriculum as a whole, across all programs and at all IES Abroad Centers. The overall goal of the audit is to determine how best to serve the academic needs of future students in terms of the expectations and requirements of their home institutions and the latest curricula of specific disciplines.

    The Curriculum Audit Task Force, which first convened in 2004, analyzed data from consortium member schools and enrolled students, as well as the IES Abroad curriculum. The IES Abroad Academic Council reviewed the findings and has set priorities for developing programs or curricular tracks.

    To date, programs and tracks have been established in Health Studies, Business, Engineering, and Environmental Science. Further curriculum development is underway in Communications and Psychology.
  • Faculty Development
    Cultivating academic excellence at all levels of the organization includes developing the scholarship of faculty and staff of academic consortium schools and the overseas IES Abroad faculty. We offer faculty development seminars and familiarization trips, both designed to enhance the knowledge, experience, and insights of consortium member faculty and staff.

Evaluation & Assessment

Every semester, IES Abroad evaluates every academic program and overseas Center as part of its comprehensive evaluation system. Each Center also undergoes periodic, rigorous on-site reviews conducted by academic consortium members and IES Abroad staff.

  • Program Reviews
    In 1976, IES Abroad began conducting regular, formal reviews of its programs, the first in the field of international education to do so. Academic consortium members have played an integral part in ensuring IES Abroad program quality through participation in on-site program reviews. During these reviews, U.S. faculty and administrators from IES Abroad’s academic consortium provide first-hand evaluations of our overseas programs, which IES Abroad uses to continually improve its academic programming.

    Using innovative, proprietary program measurement and standards tools, such as the IES Abroad MAP for Study Abroad Programs, teams review programs and then provide recommendations in virtually every area of a Center’s operation and a program’s execution. Recommendations cover facilities, faculty, teaching methods, cultural programming, and curriculum enhancements.
  • Student Evaluation
    IES Abroad surveys all students about their academic and personal experiences on IES Abroad programs every academic term using a variety of evaluation instruments. These methods include course evaluations and comprehensive, end-of-term evaluations tied to the IES Abroad MAP for Study Abroad Programs to name only two of numerous tools utilized. The results are analyzed, shared with key staff members worldwide, and improvements implemented. A recent evaluation indicated that students in one program wanted to practice their language skills more outside the classroom. As a result, the Center created a “Language Buddy” program that pairs IES Abroad students with local students.
  • Recognized Leadership in Program Evaluation
    The quality, effectiveness, and comprehensiveness of IES Abroad’s evaluation efforts were recognized in 2010, when IES Abroad was the first third-party study abroad provider to receive the prestigious Quality Improvement Process (QUIP 2A) designation from the Forum on Education Abroad.

    The recognition was the end-product of an 18-month process that involved written and on-site examinations of IES Abroad’s program evaluation and quality improvement process. An independent, external team of faculty and staff conducted the review. The designation confirmed IES Abroad’s conformity with the Forum’s Standards of Good Practice, the highest standards in the education abroad field.