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New Program Proposals

The University Study Abroad Committee (USAC), is charged by the Provost with responsibility for reviewing and approving the academic, cultural, linguistic, logistical, and administrative components of each proposal for a new undergraduate study abroad program, whether it is sponsored and operated by Northwestern, an exchange program, a consortium, or an affiliation with an existing external program abroad.

Proposals for new programs may be introduced, with the permission of the Chair, at any of the 6 USAC meetings during the academic year. Generally, two USAC meetings are required (in rare cases, a third) before a formal vote is taken.

Units planning to develop a new program or to propose a new affiliation are strongly advised to allow sufficient lead time (typically one year) for the development, review, and formal approval of their proposal by USAC, the International Travel Risk Assessment Committee (ITRAC), and the Global Council in order to ensure sufficient time to promote the program prior to the envisioned application deadline and program start date.


Units planning to introduce a new undergraduate academic program abroad should first contact the Director of the Global Learning Office (GLO) to discuss their goals. GLO will then work with the proposing faculty member to determine feasibility and to develop the program proposal for potential approval by USAC after 2 rounds of review. Following a recommendation for approval by USAC, proposals for new programs are subject to review by the International Travel Risk Assessment Committee (ITRAC) and for final review/approval by the Global Council.

Round 1: The Initial Review

At the first meeting, the sponsor(s) of a new proposal, usually the GLO adviser for the program location and sometimes a faculty member from the sponsoring academic department, will provide an executive summary of the proposed program. Following the summary, the Chair will open the floor for questions and discussion, providing Committee members every opportunity for constructive input—and the program sponsors sufficient time to respond to the Committee’s questions and recommendations. 

 Promptly following an in camera session, the Chair will relay any decisions reached or requests for more information to the Director of the Global Learning Office, who will share this action with the appropriate unit. 

 The Global Learning Office will then supply USAC with any requested information at least one week prior to the next USAC meeting—and should be prepared to discuss the proposal further during the open session at the next USAC meeting.

Round 2: Final Review and USAC Vote

At the next scheduled USAC meeting, after the proposal sponsor(s) have provided any additional support materials, updates, or information requested, the Committee will conduct a final discussion and formal vote during the in camera session. If warranted, the Committee may require further discussion of a proposal at a third meeting. 

ITRAC review and approval usually occurs simultaneously with the USAC proposal, review, and approval process.

Once a new program proposal has been approved by both USAC and ITRAC, it will move forward to the Global Council

Only after USAC, ITRAC, and Global Council approval is the program considered formally “approved." No announcements or promotional materials (print or web-based) may be distributed to students until all Committees have approved the program.

Guidelines and Checklist for New Program Proposals

The guidelines and checklist below outline the Committee’s expectations for units planning to seek formal approval for a new program. A complete proposal will generally be 5-6 pages in length but no longer than 8-10 pages. Supplemental proposal materials should be included in an optional Appendix. Proposals will differ significantly in the level of detail expected, depending on the nature of the program. For example, considerably more detail would be expected in a proposal for a program that is administered by Northwestern—and different information expected in proposals for an exchange program, a direct enrollment link, a third-party program, or a consortium model.

Program Summary (bullet list format)

  • Available Terms
  • Disciplinary Coverage
  • Estimated Number of Credits
  • Housing and Meals arrangements
  • Cost of Attendance

Rationale (bullet list format)

  • Describes:
    • why this program is proposed
    • goals it will meet
    • how it adds value to current program offerings;
    • unique features or offerings
    • NU unit sponsor
    • projected learning outcomes

Program Details (3-5 pages)

  • Program Website: Includes link
  • Program Type: identifies whether an Affiliated, Exchange, or Northwestern program
  • Location: identifies City; country; location of university; classrooms; main office; City; country; location of university; classrooms; main office; housing
  • Administration: discusses program’s administrative structure; how it is staffed and led; whether there is an on-site center or office dedicated to the program; how student support services are provided; relationship to host university/institution and that institution’s curricular strengths and reputation
  • Faculty: describes who is responsible for providing instruction; what information is available about their qualifications, affiliations, or credentials
  • Application Requirements: describes eligibility requirements including GPA and foreign language requirements
  • Student cohort: describes size and realistic NU enrollment; student profile: likely fields of study; class; enrollment projections for the first three years. For an NU program, sustainable minimum and maximum enrollment; non-NU enrollment
  • Courses: describes required and optional courses; course credit; prerequisites; provide web-links or, if extant, course syllabi; language of instruction; tutorials available for specialties: e.g.: music, language buddies, etc.; letter of endorsement from the NU department and/or school in fields where credit will be awarded, with indication whether credits will meet major or minor requirements
  • Foreign language acquisition/requirements: notes pre-requisites; language (host language and/or English; does the program offer/require on-site language instruction?); NU language faculty support/relevance to the courses for a major or minor
  • Academic opportunities: describes independent research; volunteer opportunities; excursions; cultural immersion; etc.
  • Experiential or service learning, internships: Describes in full and method for student evaluation if credit is awarded
  • Credit: Semester/quarter credit, ECTS; transcripts, school of record (note if approved by the Registrar, relevant academic unit or curriculum committee)
  • Student life on-site: Describes on-site support for Underrepresented Minority and LGBTQ students (e.g. resources, housing, etc.); extracurricular offerings
  • Housing and meals: describe housing options (residential college, dormitory, home-stay) and how they are administered
  • Financials: Program cost to student: Administrative and course fees/insurance fees; personal expenses; Administrative and course fees/insurance fees; personal expenses; required /recommended vaccines or prophylactic medications

Health and Safety (Risk Profile and Mitigation)

Completed by and/or in consultation with OGSS
  • Health Risks/Mitigation: discusses likely health risks applicable to the location / activities and reasonable mitigation strategies, such as infectious diseases (where applicable, e.g., malaria or dengue fever), but also those based on climate and activity, such as pollution, high-altitude, sunburn or dehydration. And, if applicable, the likelihood of risks to contaminated food or water, mitigation strategies and treatment options.  
  • Health Insurance: indicate what insurance product will apply a) Northwestern’s GeoBlue for Students; host / provider’s GeoBlue plan; host / provider’s equivalent to GeoBlue (such as CISI); a locally-provided insurance plan (that covers “international students” or something else.) If the plan requires review by OGSS to obtain a GeoBlue exemption, contact Beth Osterlund ASAP. 
  • Health Resources: lists clinics and hospitals in the area, including the availability of mental health care resources (such as a campus clinic, GeoBlue networked provider, or other provider with a relationship to the program) as well as clinics or hospitals that specialize in the treatment of sexual assault, if available in that locale. If applicable, also describes the extent of local campus clinical services (is it just routine care? mental health care?), and availability / cost for our students. Discuss any other counseling opportunities available employed by the third-party provider (including or in addition to GeoBlue / CISI, etc.) / host institution to whom the student has access at little or no cost. [OGSS can assist with identifying GeoBlue resources.] 
  • Disabilities: highlight resources available for prospective students with physical limitations (sight- or hearing-impaired, wheelchair-users) to obtain information as well resources or services to available to students with other “invisible” documented medical conditions or disabilities, including learning disabilities (on campus and off). 
  • Safety and Security Risks/Policy Compliance: notes the U.S. Department of State Travel Advisory Level for the destination and, if applicable, a timeline to submit a Travel Permission Request (TPR). See the Undergraduate Travel Policy for a list of “restricted” destinations.  
  • Safety and Security Risks/Mitigation: discusses foreseeable exposure to risks and reasonable mitigation strategies associated with transportation and crime as well as likelihood of harassment based on gender, sexuality, race, religion, etc., and discuss how this will be covered in orientation and responded to on-site. Along with reviewing the U.S. DOS Travel Advisory for the program’s destination(s), additional travel security resources (but are not required) may be referenced especially if the destination is considered “high-risk”, such as OSAC’s Crime and Safety Report (typically limited to the capital city of the destination country - OGSS can obtain); the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), New Zealand’s Safe Travel Advice, Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs Travel Advice and Canada’s Foreign Travel Advice.  
  • Maps: For uncommon destinations, include a map to illustrate location and, if applicable, proximity to areas or regions with heightened risk. 
  • Specialized Risks: discusses student access to program activities or excursions that might increase risks, such as swimming/boating, hiking, weekend excursions, remote travel, biking, agricultural work, laboratory experiments, construction or engineering projects, etc., and proposed mitigation strategies. 
  • Distractions: if applicable, acknowledge likely harmful distractions based on common cultural diversions (such as alcohol or drugs), but also high-risk, free-time opportunities like sky-diving or “Running with the Bulls,” and discusses how they will be presented at orientation (or in other materials/opportunities). 
  • Pastoral Care: Describes who is expected to provide immediate and on-going pastoral care on-site (or where such responsibilities would transfer to campus-based experts) (e.g. illness/injury, homesickness, interpersonal conflict, sexual misconduct, etc.) and particularly after hours. Also acknowledges plans to participate in Trip Leader Training (NU Administered programs with accompanying NU employees only). 

Appendix (optional)

May include:

  • on site faculty CVs
  • course syllabi
  • site visit reports
  • program evaluations
  • director’s reports
  • letters of endorsement from appropriate faculty (e.g. Senior faculty, Department Chair, Director of Undergraduate Study) indicating a clear fit and departmental or school commitment to promote the program and transfer eligible credit for the major or minor 

Additional Considerations:

Site Visits

New program proposals may require a site visit prior to final approval by USAC, ITRAC, and the Global Council. Site visits may include representatives from one or more of the following: GLO, OGSS, and the sponsoring academic unit at Northwestern, depending on location and available funding. Site visits may occur prior to, during, or after the program has been proposed but must take place prior to final formal approval, if required.

Proposals requiring a site visit prior to approval:

  • Northwestern Program
  • Affiliated or Exchange program in a new country
  • New Affiliated or Exchange program partner 

Proposals not requiring a site visit prior to approval:

  • Existing Affiliated or Exchange program partner in a currently approved location (country or city)
  • Modification of an existing program or affiliation, such as the addition of new program tracks, academic offerings, internships, or other programmatic experiences, which are to take place at the same location as an existing program

Program Modifications

Proposals for the modification of an existing program or affiliation, such as the addition of new academic offerings, internships, or other programmatic experiences, which are to take place at the same location as an existing program, must be presented to USAC for review and approval.

Minor modifications of an existing program, such as the addition of a new academic offering/track through an approved program, should include the rationale for the proposed change, new academic features, and any arrangements (e.g. sociocultural programming, housing, academic requirements, cost) that vary from those which are part of the already-approved program; these proposals may typically be presented and reviewed within a single USAC meeting.

Significant modifications of an existing program, such as the addition of a new site to a multi-location program, may require two USAC meetings and, in some instances, a subsequent review by the Office of Global Safety and Security or the International Travel Risk Assessment Committee.