May 7, 2004

Harvard Releases Plan for Curriculum Changes

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After an 18 month deliberation process, Harvard, the nation’s oldest institution of higher learning, has recently released a plan for the first undergraduate curriculum overhaul since 1978.

According to the Harvard College Curricular Review, proposals include new interdisciplinary courses and smaller class sizes. The review de-emphasized profession directed instruction in favor of a broader liberal arts education placing a novel emphasis on science education and undergraduate experiences abroad.

“Our undergraduates are living in an age of a great scientific and technological revolution, and it is a job of a university in the first part of the 21st century to give our students an education in the sciences that is as broad and deep as is the education that we give in the humanities and social sciences,” Harvard Dean William Kirby, the head of the curriculum review panel, said in a Voice of America news interview.

To provide students with more academic freedom, the curriculum review proposals offer students more time to choose their course of study, and fewer concentration requirements.

“We want our students to have freedom to experiment with various subjects, to choose one, and then be able to change their minds about their deepest interests,” Kirby said.

Distancing itself from other universities, one of Harvard’s more sweeping proposals is a requirement for students to study or intern abroad before graduating.

“We will expect every Harvard college student to have a significant international experience before graduation. This could be formal study abroad. It could mean an internship abroad, that is, work abroad. It could mean research abroad. But in a whole range of ways, we want to get every Harvard College student abroad before graduation,” said Kirby.

In addition to changing the curriculum program, the new plan entails significant structural changes within the University. Proposals for new smaller class sizes, and seminars for freshmen will require a large increase in the size of the faculty.

Building upon the theme of enhanced academic exploration, one of the review proposals detailed a plan for setting aside time for students to participate in unique short term academic endeavors.

To create this new opportunity the review report calls on the university to “liberate January as a month for experimental programs, in and beyond the curriculum.”

If Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences gives the new proposals the required majority vote, students could expect these changes administered in two years.

Archived article by Neil Mukhopadhyay
Sun Staff Writer