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Standards, roles & responsibilities

Program standards

We have listed below the features of a strong program to be transparent about our program proposal selection criteria. We encourage you to meet with us to discuss your proposal in the early draft phase. Given advanced notice, we can review your proposal with you to hone your ideas and troubleshoot any issues.

  • Clear and thoroughly laid-out academic goals that are tied to and enhanced by the program site(s).
  • A plan to assess the academic goals of the program.
  • Program activities and field trips that take advantage of the program location and compliment the academic goals of the curriculum.
  • Program activities that provide opportunities for students to interact with people of different backgrounds, cultures, and abilities.
  • Courses that generally mirror courses taught on campus with regard to academic rigor. Elements of tourism are inevitable in study abroad programs, but UW Study Abroad is committed to facilitate academic international programming.
  • Program goals fit that with departmental goals/priorities and coursework that has been vetted and approved.

  • Program directors with strong ties to the program site.
  • At least one of the program directors speaks the local language(s).
  • Program staff maintain a consistent on-site presence with the students.
  • A clear relationship to the sponsoring department. Program directors have an appointment in the sponsoring department (or an associated discipline), the program aims fit with departmental goals/priorities, and the coursework has been vetted and approved.
  • Programs that will be offered on a continuous basis and led by multiple faculty within the department.

  • Programs aligned with the UW’s Race and Equity Initiative, potentially offering courses that meet the UW’s Diversity Requirement.
  • Unique and specific opportunities not available elsewhere in the world of student and study abroad programming at UW.
  • Programs that are designed to be accessible to students of all abilities.

  • A detailed program spending plan that covers the estimated costs of the program and maps accurately to the program itinerary.
  • Both the spending plan and the proposal should include solidly identified housing vendors, classroom spaces and field trips.

  • A thorough assessment of the risks involved associated with the country/countries visited and the specific program activities.
  • A thorough and comprehensive pre-departure orientation plan that informs students of academic requirements, behavioral expectations, health and safety considerations, and living and travel arrangements. Programs must provide at least 3 pre-departure orientation sessions.
  • Use UW Global Travel Security as a resource and to answer questions about the safety and security of your location/program.
  • Check the Department of State and CDC recommendations; see below for questions related to vetting third-party vendors.

Program Director job description

The job of program director is multi-faceted, intensive, challenging and highly rewarding. Leading a program provides unique opportunities for personal and professional growth through teaching outside the classroom and interacting with students on a new level. If you have more questions feel free to contact any member of the Faculty-led team.

Proposing a program

  • Discuss your program idea with your department chair.
  • Consider the feasibility of your program idea, including student interest, in-country contacts, departmental support, potential overlap with existing programs and academic content.
  • Consult with UW Study Abroad to discuss your idea and work on your proposal/renewal, budget and timeline.
  • Develop a preliminary program spending plan using the online Spending Plan Tool. This planning tool will help outline the costs associated with program activities. It will ultimately help identify the program fee and the number of students needed for the program to be sustainable.
  • Contact in-country vendors to get accurate price quotes for the services you will require.
  • Design the program curriculum.
  • Submit your proposal to UW Study Abroad using the online Proposal Tool by the posted deadlines.
  • The Proposal Tool can be accessed via the Proposing a Program page. For more information on using the Spending Plan Tool, see the Creating a Spending Plan page.

  • Work with a UW Study Abroad program manager to further develop your spending plan, identify your ideal number of participants, and set the program’s estimated program fee.


  • Learn how to use the study abroad online application system.
  • Develop program marketing materials, including a brochure, poster and/or website to advertise your program with the UW community. Marketing materials should include a program and site description, summary of the academic content of the program, the program fee and any prerequisites, requirements or expectations for participation in the program.
  • UW Study Abroad will create a program specific page on this website. Students will use the website to apply to the program.
  • Actively recruit applicants for your program using posters, flyers, info sessions, classroom visits, former participants, student organizations, online networking sites, etc.
  • Due to the high volume of programs that we administer, the marketing and recruitment for your program will be largely your responsibility.

Student applications

  • Review your applicant selection criteria.
  • Review your applications using the study abroad online application system.
  • Interview your applicants to get to know them, to answer their questions, and to determine if they are a good fit for the program.
  • Using the study abroad online application system, inform students of their admission decision. Student contracts are generated and distributed by UW Study Abroad.
  • Finalize student roster via the study abroad online application system. Minimum enrollment needed to run is confirmed when all payment contracts are received in UW Study Abroad.

  • Develop course and program syllabi to inform students of course activities and requirements, communicate how students will be evaluated and graded. Communicate your academic and behavioral expectations.
  • Develop a program calendar of your in-country course-related and extracurricular activities.
  • Order any required books or course materials needed for the program.
  • Attend Program Director Workshops annually.
  • Ensure you have a valid passport and visa (if necessary) to travel outside of the U.S. Your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the end of the program.

Program logistics, budget and advance payments

  • You must be in good standing with Financial Services and eligible to take out a field advance. If you have an outstanding field advance, you will not be able to take out another.
  • Finalize program logistics: verify reservations, negotiate final prices and secure resources (instructors, guests, classroom, housing, food, tickets, transportation, activities, etc.).
  • Finalize program spending plan and make any needed adjustments based on enrollment, final logistics, etc.
  • Arrange for any advance payments or deposits. Collect invoices from vendors and forward to UW Study Abroad to process payments.
  • Arrange travel for yourself and other program staff. Make a flight reservation with a travel agency and instruct them to contact UW Study Abroad for payment. Make sure that you receive a finalized ticket from the travel agency.
  • Maintain regular contact with UW Study Abroad staff, remain available via email, phone or Skype.

Orient students

  • Plan at least three required in-person student orientations during the quarter prior to travel to go over program details, course requirements and preparations, travel planning, health and safety, etc.
  • Start to build a collaborative group dynamic and learning community among students.
  • Consult the Orientating Students site for Program Directors and cover all the topics as they relate to your program site.
  • Develop and communicate the arrival plan to your student. Where and when should they meet the group, how do they get to the meeting place, and who they should contact in case they are not able to arrive on time (e.g. missed flight connection).
  • Maintain regular contact with students to answer individual questions or communicate any changes to the program or arrival plan. Make sure they know how to contact all program directors and staff.

Final preparations

  • Provide emergency contact information to UW Study Abroad for the duration of your program. Submit this information before your departure.
  • Schedule a field advance meeting with the UW Study Abroad Finance & Administration Team to request your field advance and review management of program funds.
  • Register the trip with the U.S. State Department.

In the field

  • Confirm safe arrival of all program participants with UW Study Abroad.
  • Oversee all academic aspects of the program.
  • Oversee all program logistics.
  • Act as the custodian and manager of UW field advance funds and resources. Track all program expenditures on-site and collect required documentation (receipts, etc.).
  • Act as primary resource for student inquiries and problems.
  • Act as the initial responder to logistical, medical, behavioral, and other crises.
  • Serve as the program’s primary liaison with UW Study Abroad and the University of Washington.

  • Submit grades to UW Study Abroad by the UW’s deadlines – the first Monday after finals week. UW Study Abroad will supply the necessary form for you to fill in with the students’ course numbers and grades and report them to the Registrar’s Office.
  • Gather receipts and documentation for your field advance reconciliation. Submit your completed paperwork and field advance ledger to your Study Abroad Finance & Administration contact person.
  • Complete UW Study Abroad’s post-program report survey, including information on what went well, what did not go well, what you would keep or change for future programs. This also the opportunity to officially report any incidents that occurred on your program.
  • Review student evaluations collected and sent by UW Study Abroad.

Sponsoring department responsibilities

All UW study abroad programs are reviewed by the chair and dean of the sponsoring department and school/college. Chairs are asked to sign off on the program based on the department’s responsibilities listed below. UW Study Abroad also shares the proposal with the department’s administrator(s) to include them in the planning process from the start.

Please also read the Faculty-led Program Policies page for more information about program requirements.

  • Ensure the program’s courses meet the department’s educational and learning goals
  • Award departmental credit for the courses taught on the program
  • Ensure that the credits offered are correctly designated for areas of knowledge or major/minor requirements
  • Ensure the number of credits are appropriate given the curriculum and duration of the study abroad program
  • Verify that the curriculum offered meets the standards of rigor and content of other courses taught by the department on campus

  • Verify that the faculty and staff listed are qualified to lead the program
  • Review and verify that the faculty and staff monthly salaries are correct
  • Set up appointments for all program faculty and staff. If faculty and staff already have appointments, verify that these appointments will be active during the duration of the program and that the employees can receive salary during this time.
  • Enter salary payments for all faculty and staff from the department leading the study abroad program
  • Ensure that replacement teaching funds are used towards salaries for those faculty teaching on the study abroad program

  • Potentially cover a study abroad program deficit. If a program runs a deficit of more than $5,000, it may be suspended until there is a clear and effective plan in place agreed upon by the chair/dean and the Office of Global Affairs to eliminate the deficit. Programs with deficits that are not renewed are required to have a plan to cover deficits. The plan will be agreed upon by the chair/dean and the Office of Global Affairs.

Asking the Right Questions

Whether you’re putting together a new program or you are making adjustments to a longstanding one, UW Global Travel Security (GTS) exists to help make the trip as safe as possible. Here are lists of questions to help you think through safety and security, particularly when vetting third-party vendors for accommodation, transportation, or excursions.

For a printable version of this checklist, see here.

  • How did you find this accommodation? Does it come recommended? Do other institutions, government agencies, or businesses use them?
  • What information have you gathered regarding the safety of the neighborhood (and bordering neighborhoods)?
  • Are there streets or venues in the neighborhood that students should avoid?
  • Are there any concerns regarding animals or insects (stray animals, mosquitos, etc.)?
  • Are there adequate security measures in place, such as:
    • Do all doors and bathrooms lock from the inside?
    • Are there fire alarms installed in every room and do they work?
    • Are there fire extinguishers on every floor?
    • Are there escape routes in case of fire or other emergency?
    • Is there front desk personnel? What hours do they work?
    • Are there security guards?
    • Are there security cameras?
    • Is the building gated?
    • Are all entrances and exits well-lit?
    • Will students be housed on the ground floor?
    • If there is a balcony, does it pose any fall risks (i.e. no solid railing)?
    • How’s the integrity of the structure? When was the last time materials were updated?
  • If the water in the country is not potable, how accessible is clean drinking water from the lodging?
  • Is there internet service available? Will there be issues with cell service in the building?
  • Taking the climate of the country and time of year into consideration, what climate controls are in the rooms (adjustable AC/heater, blackout curtains, portable fans, etc.)?
  • Are accommodations accessible to students with disabilities?
  • Do accommodations have climate controls appropriate for the destination country and time of year you are traveling?
  • Are there concerns regarding adequate and reliable power? Does the building have backup generators?
  • If housing includes host families, how are they chosen? Have they worked with UW students or your in-country contacts before?
  • What is the distance from the accommodation to:
    • Transportation options (parking, public transit, airport)?
    • Nearest hospital or medical facility?
    • Nearest fire station and police station?
  • Is there a commitment to environmental and social responsibility, as demonstrated by:
      • Is there recycling on site?
      • Do they pay their workers a fair wage?

  • Is public transportation in this country/city considered safe? Is it accessible to students with disabilities? If not, it is strongly advisable you secure alternative means of transportation – including for emergencies.
  • Are the roads in this country/city considered safe? If not, it is strongly advisable you take extra measures of precaution on the road and brief students on risks and best practices.
  • Who is providing transportation to-and-from the airport?
  • What is the transit plan for any excursions? How will you get there, get back, and what transportation is available in case of an emergency?
  • Are you arriving at any locations after sunset?
  • How will students get around, outside of official program travel (walk, public transit, private car, etc.)? Should they receive any additional information or orientation regarding transit safety?
  • How long is the daily commute to the program site?
  • If you are using a private transportation service, are they reputable? How did you hear about them?
  • Does the transportation company have liability insurance? Are their drivers fully licensed per the requirements of the host country?
  • Are the vehicles required to pass inspection and how often are those conducted?
  • What is the hiring process for the company and how experienced are their drivers?
  • What are the safety measures in place in the vehicles (crossbody seat belts, airbags, life jackets on boats, etc.)?

  • Has your excursion been approved by GTS? (Spoiler alert: if it’s bungee jumping in the rainforest, it has not)
  • Have you done this particular excursion with this company before?
  • Are there any recent reports from or about the company, indicating their safety or lack thereof?
  • Does the company have safety ratings or the in-country equivalent of certifications?
  • Does the company have liability insurance?
  • What is the excursion’s security and safety protocol? Do they have evacuation plans and medical personnel?
  • Are there first aid kits on site?