Published 1/3/2013 in NewsLAWRENCE (AP) — A new curriculum that begins in the fall at the University of Kansas will have some ramifications for academic departments and graduate students that will have to be considered as the process begins, university administrators said.
This fall's freshman class will be the first to pursue degrees under a curriculum that applies to all undergraduates, regardless of their course of study. The university said the curriculum will provide more flexibility and focus more on allowing students to develop skills, The Lawrence Journal-World reported.
"It's a profound experience in the life of a university," Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little said, "and that's why people don't do it too often."
For example, the current Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of General Studies degrees in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences — which are the degrees most undergraduates pursue — include requirements that can be met by only one or a handful of courses. The new Core Curriculum will give students several options to fill 12 skill-based requirements.
Among questions facing administrators is how the changes will affect graduate students who often pay for their education by teaching introductory courses required for hundreds of undergraduates. And how will the Core Curriculum impact departments that use those general courses to persuade students to major in the subject?
"There might be someone who had a ready audience for a course because it was required, and now is something that students select," Gray-Little said, "and there may be less enrollment or more enrollment. All of those things over time could happen as the result of a curriculum change."
Under the current requirements, about 900 undergraduates each semester take courses such as an introductory public-speaking course offered by the communication studies department, said Tom Beisecker, the department chairman.
"It's obviously important to the department," Beisecker said, "because we have a number of our graduate students who are supported by that course."
Danny Anderson, the dean of liberal arts and sciences, said the new curriculum will allow faculty to suggest new courses.
"On the one hand, if a department had to organize itself around serving a single class, it will have much more flexibility now to think about different kinds of things it can teach," Anderson said. "It will mean that the departments and the college dean's office will need to work together as we watch some of the changes that will happen over time."
Thomas Heilke, dean of graduate studies, said he hoped the new curriculum might eventually help graduate students. The university is re-evaluating education for doctoral students, with a goal of increasing research appointments.
"It'll be a challenge," Heilke said. "It's not clear yet what the nature of the challenge will be."
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