Thursday 1 Jun, 2017

The biggest hurdles when planning study abroad programs (and a possible solution)

Find out how your administrative approval deadline impacts enrollment numbers and student finances.

We recently ran international training programs to help first-time faculty leaders prepare to take their students abroad. This seemed like the perfect opportunity for us to learn from our faculty leaders, so we surveyed them about the biggest challenges they’ve come up against in developing their programs. Here’s what they told us:

  • 72% cited student finances as their biggest challenge
  • 52% cited enrolling students as the biggest challenge

While these findings were interesting, they weren’t particularly surprising. The good news? With a little extra time to prepare for their programs, faculty leaders can help make the cost of study abroad more manageable for students, which means more students can enroll. Because as it turns out, timing really is everything. The timing of administrative approval, that is.

To explain this, let’s return to our survey. Another question we asked focused on the program approval deadlines instituted by their administrations. Here’s what we found:

  • 76% of faculty leaders specified their program approval deadlines fell 12-18 months prior to their program departure 

That may sound like a long time, but the closer the administrative approval deadline falls to a program’s departure date, the less time faculty leaders have to enroll students—and the less time students have to pay, which means their monthly payments are higher.

When faculty leaders have 18 months or more to enroll students and plan their study abroad curriculum, students’ average monthly payment amount decreases, and the number of students enrolled increases.

Time leading up to program:

12-18 months

6-11 months

<6 months

Average increase in




Average reduction in
students enrolled




So what’s the solution?
It’s simple. The earlier faculty leaders receive administrative approval, the more students will be able to participate in study abroad programs, thanks to lower monthly payments and a lower overall program price. We recommend setting administrative approval deadlines for at least 18 months prior to a program’s departure date to give faculty leaders sufficient time to plan their program, enroll students, and grow their group size. It’s a win-win for faculty leaders and students alike.

So, let’s get started
Our team is dedicated to helping faculty leaders work with their administrations to increase their program approval timelines. It’s our goal to make planning short-term study abroad programs seamless—and the experience for students nothing short of life-changing.

To learn more or to start planning a short-term study abroad program, please get in touch! As a reminder, you can always browse our programs here.

Caitlyn Walker, Director of University Partnerships


For over 50 years, EF has worked with educators across the world to help millions of students become citizens of the world through one global mission: Opening the World Through Education. With more than 500 schools and offices in over 50 countries, our staff can respond in person wherever you are, 24-hours a day.

Our faculty-led study abroad programs are collaboratively designed to put your institution first. When you partner with us, your students experience immersive coursework abroad in a way that complements your curriculum and campus schedule.


Over 500 schools and offices in more than 50 countries