Global Engagement Solutions for Higher Education


Industry Acronyms Made Simple

October 1, 2018


Quick definitions for nearly two dozen common industry abbreviations.

In today’s fast-paced world, we’re inundated with acronyms. Co-workers ask for information ASAP, company websites provide handy answers on their FAQ pages, and friends respond to humorous texts with an LOL. Industries, including international education, have adopted their own shorthand, too. But sometimes all the acronyms can seem like alphabet soup, making your head spin.

This article sheds light on some of the most common abbreviations used in international education. For convenience, they’re divided into general terms and organizations.


(Hope this helps).


Border and Transportation Security
The Border and Transportation Security Directorate is a unit of the Department of Homeland Security that is responsible for securing U.S. borders and transportation systems, as well as enforcing the country’s immigration laws.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection
The largest federal law enforcement agency of the Department of Homeland Security, the CBP is the nation’s primary border control organization. It prevents people from entering the country illegally or bringing anything illegal or harmful into the United States.DSO Designated School OfficialSchools that are certified by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP— see below) must have dedicated employees who assist and oversee enrolled nonimmigrant F (academic) and M (vocational) students. Each instructional site location must have at least one principal designated school official (PDSO) as the main point of contact and may have additional DSOs depending on the school’s specific needs.

Employment Authorization Document
An employment authorization document, obtained by filling out a form with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, provides proof that a foreign citizen can work legally in the United States for a specific period.

English as a Second Language
Also known as English as a Foreign Language (EFL), ESL relates to the study of the English language by non-native speakers. The industry also refers to TEFL—the teaching of English as a foreign language.

Foreign Student Advisor
Also called an international student advisor, FSA’s main objective is to provide programs and services that allow students to succeed in their academic programs and cultural adjustment. That is achieved through advisement on academic, immigration, social and cultural matters.

Intensive English Program
Intensive English Programs provide non-native English speakers with the skills, fluency, and confidence to communicate effectively. Full-time IEPs typically provide 15 or more hours of class instruction weekly.

International Student and Scholar Services
ISSS offices at colleges and universities are committed to supporting programs and services for international students and scholars.

Student and Exchange Visitor Information Program
Maintained by the Department of Homeland Security, SEVIS is a web-based system for maintaining information on international nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors in the United States. Schools are required to keep compliant with SEVIS regulations.

Student and Exchange Visitor Program
SEVP is the Department of Homeland Security program that administers SEVIS to ensure that government agencies have essential data related to nonimmigrant students and exchange visitors.

Senior International Officer
Senior international officers within colleges and universities lead and facilitate campus-wide internationalization efforts.VWP Visa Waiver ProgramAdministered by the Department of Homeland Security, the Visa Waiver Program allows citizens from 38 countries to travel to the U.S. for tourism or business for up to 90 days without a visa.


American Council on Education
As the major coordinating body for the nation’s colleges and universities, ACE mobilizes the higher education community to shape effective public policy and foster high-quality practice. It represents nearly 1,700 college and university presidents and the executives at related associations.

Alliance for International Education
The AIE’s statement of purpose is “to bring together those who are committed to advancing international education and intercultural understanding to develop ideas and practices through sharing and exploring their similarities and differences.”

Association of International Education Administrators
This association is devoted exclusively to senior leaders in the field of international education, giving them the opportunity to join forces, share institutional strategies and provide a voice on matters of public policy.

Asia-Pacific Association for International Education
Founded in Seoul, South Korea, in 2004 APAIE encouraged cooperation among universities, international educators and related organizations in the Asia-Pacific region to enrich and support international programs, activities, and exchanges.

European Association of International Education
The association serves as the European center for expertise, networking, and resources in the internationalization of higher education.

Fund for Education Abroad
The mission of FEA, which was established in 2010, is to provide scholarships and ongoing support to students who are underrepresented among the U.S. study abroad population.

Higher Education International Business Officers
Founded in 2014, HEIBO develops and advances the knowledge, skills, best practices and network of professionals who provide financial, operational and business leadership for global higher education.

International Education Association of Australia
The IEAA strives to empower professionals, engage institutions and enhance Australia’s reputation as a provider of world-class education.

Institute of International Education
The IIE’s vision is to help people and organizations leverage the power of international education to thrive in today’s interconnected world. Its work focuses on three primary areas: advancing scholarship, building economies and promoting access to opportunity.

Formerly the National Association of Foreign Student Affairs
Founded 70 years ago, NAFSA: Association of International Educators is the world’s largest nonprofit association dedicated to international education and exchange. It has 10,000 members in more than 150 countries.

University Risk Management & Insurance Association
URMIA’s core purpose is to promote the advancement and application of practical risk management principles and practices in higher education institutions.