[MA] Benefits and costs of international university alliances: prototyping a digital evaluation tool

Thesis Advisor:

Eike Trost

Doctoral Student

Department of Strategic Planning
S-PROJEKT - Strategische Projekte

Thesis Description:

General Topic: Benefits and costs of international university alliances: prototyping a digital evaluation tool

Research environment: European Universities are transnational alliances, promoting European values and identity, and revolutionizing the quality and competitiveness of European higher education. In order to achieve this major step forward, the European Commission is testing different cooperation models for European Universities with two calls for proposals under the Erasmus+ programme. As result of the 2019 call, the first 17 European University alliances involving 114 higher education institutions from 24 Member States were selected. As result of the 2020 call, 24 new European Universities alliances have been selected involving 165 higher education institutions from 26 Member States and other countries participating in the Erasmus+ programme.

Goal: Approaching the submission of half-time reports of the European Universities initiative, evaluating diverse prototypes of European Universities initiatives becomes a major issue for the European Commission itself as well of for the top management of different European Universities initiatives. The benefits and costs of strategic international university alliances are well researched and summarized in literature reviews. However, a digital, science-based tool that can be jointly used by different stakeholders to assess these benefits and costs of international university alliances is still missing. Therefore, it is the goal of this thesis to follow the principle of “learning by building” and to develop an interactive tool (artifact) that allows organisations to evaluate the benefits and costs of university alliances systematically and secondly, to evaluate this technological solution afterwards.

Requirements: This thesis offering is in the field of IS and requires business understanding, motivation to learn new applications to create the evaluation tool and interest in academic research. Coding skills are required, depending on the tool with which you aim to create the solution. The thesis should be written in English.

Approach: This thesis takes an Design Science Research (DSR) approach (Hevner et al., 2004) to develop a solution (artifact). A free course on DSR is provided online: Design Science Research – Essentials Series . It is the goal to use the European University alliance EELISA, with all its possibilities, challenges, actors and structures as use case and research environment. Students can establish in this scientific environment the context of application, the definition of requirements of the artifact as well as the definition of success criteria for the artifact. The existing literature on how to build evaluation tools, the literature reviews on benefits and costs of international strategic university alliances as well as existing evaluation artifacts (e.g. surveys by the European Commission) can help to set up a relevant knowledge base. As methods within the design science methodology to establish the knowledge base and to explore the research environment, literature reviews, interviews, workshops, desk research as well as surveys can be conducted with EELISA stakeholders.

Context and connected projects: European Universities initiative & European University EELISA

Target group: It is possible to apply for this master thesis as a single person or as a tandem, however, students need to hand in two separate master theses.


  1. Apply for this thesis by sending an e-mail with a short motivational text, your CV and current transcript to eike.trost@fau.de
  2. Initial meeting to discuss the topic and get to know each other
  3. Drafting an exposé
    1. Refine the problem statement
    2. Demonstrate the relevance
    3. Find your research question
    4. Build your research design
  4. Feedback meetings with supervisor during development
  5. Hand-in your thesis


Jeroen Huisman, Harry de Boer, Renze Kolster, Ben Jongbloed (2021): Prospective Report on the Future of Transnational Collaboration in European Higher Education. Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union.

Craciun, Daniela; Orosz, Kata (2018): Benefits and costs of transnational collaborative partnerships in higher education. In: EENEE Analytical Report (36), S. 1–53. DOI: 10.2766/53660.

Curaj, Adrian; Deca, Ligia; Pricopie, Remus (Hg.) (2020): European Higher Education Area: Challenges for a New Decade. Cham: Springer International Publishing.

Damon Burg (2017): International university partnerships: a cost-benefit analysis. PhD Thesis.

Doyle, Cathal; Sammon, Dave; Neville, Karen (2016): A design science research (DSR) case study: building an evaluation framework for social media enabled collaborative learning environments (SMECLEs). In: Journal of Decision Systems 25 (sup1), S. 125–144. DOI: 10.1080/12460125.2016.1187411.

Holtbrügge, Dirk (2004): Management of international strategic business cooperation: Situational conditions, performance criteria, and success factors. In: Thunderbird Int’l Bus Rev 46 (3), S. 255–274. DOI: 10.1002/tie.20008.

Hevner; March; Park; Ram (2004): Design Science in Information Systems Research. In: MIS Quarterly 28 (1), S. 75. DOI: 10.2307/25148625.