Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume. 34, Number 12. June 16, 1971
new b.a. regulations
new b.a. regulations
New regulations governing the B.A. degree which change the whole structure of the subjects offered in the Arts faculty were approved at this month's meeting of the Arts Faculty. The new regulations, introducing sub-unit courses are likely to come into force in 1972.
The old, nine unit degree is, under the proposed regulations, abolished, and a new degree composed of 108 credits is substituted in its place. The basis for conversion from present units into the credit system is a duodecimal one.
1 Unit= 12 Credits.
This will apply to all units, irrespective of whether they are Stage 1, 2, or 3. Students will now sit for courses carrying a certain number of credits, mostly of less than 12, to meet the degree requirements of 108 credits.
All students in order to fulfil the requirements for the B.A. degree, will have to meet at least one major subject requirement. These are specified in the regulations and vary from department to department. Most are roughly equivalent to the present regulations, although some departments appear to have taken the opportunity to upgrade their requirements, e.g. Anthropology.
While the strict concept of Stages 1, 2, and 3, will no longer exist, the new regulations include a similar structure. Courses are denoted by numbers, the first digit of which, corresponds in the case of existing courses to the stage at which the course is now offered. A student will have to complete at least 48 credits from courses numbered 201 to 399.
Most departments will not alter their present courses in the first year of operation, although they will mainly be prepared to split their present units up to enable them to be credited separately.
What are the advantages of a system of Sub-Unit Courses?
1/ The major advantage is flexibility, both as regards the choice of courses for the student and the opportunity to present new courses for the academic staff. Under the present unit system, students are forced to take papers in which they have neither interest or aptitude in order to take a section of a course in which they are interested. Staff are aware that the links between such courses are often tenuous and of no more than historical significance.
At present, a staff member who is well equipped to present a short course on a specialised topic may well be held back from doing so, because it is awkward to include within an existing unit. Under the new regulations such a course could be offered for separate credit.
2/ Inter departmental efficiency. Especially at higher levels, different departments are offering within their present units, courses which to a certain extent duplicate one another. This is especially prevalent amongst the social sciences - even this year a Political Science II class is attending lectures in a Sociology class. The new system will far extend the possibilities for such inter-departmental co-operation.
3/ A system of sub-unit courses will be especially suited to an assessment system based on in-course assessment. The university is gradually moving in this direction.
Why a Duodecimal System?
One staff member has remarked upon the irony, in an age of growing decimalisation, that we should only now be beginning to realise the properties of the number 12. Like the old unit system, the number is largely arbitrary, and when it gives a degree composed of 108 credits, then it appears downright clumsy. This last point may be covered in the not too distant future by the reduction of the number of credits required for the degree to 100.
Some basis of conversion from the unit system to the new credit system was required however, and the duodecimal system has many advantages in this respect.
1/ It fits with the Science Faculty one third and one quarter units, being divisable by both 3 and 4.
2/ It fits well with the reaper division of present Arts units, most Stage 3 units being composed of 3 papers and other units of 2 papers.
3/ Being a large number, it permits more variations in the possible size of courses. Course may carry credits of any number from 1 to 12, so that it should be possible for credits to reflect work loads et. more accurately than the present system.
Does the scheme have disadvantages for students?
Any scheme of regulations will contain some apparent injustices, the aim of reform is to minimize perceived injustices. Like all reforms, the new B.A. degree has certain disadvantages.
1/ Whereas under the present unit system a student may fail in one paper and yet gain a passing grade for the unit as a whole, under the sub-unit course system each paper will be credited separately.
Thus, whereas under the present system a student in Political Science I may get 48 for paper A and 53 for paper B and so obtain a passing grade for the whole unit, under the new system assuming that the papers were available for separate credit at 6 credits each he would obtain only 6 credits or half of a present unit.
This disadvantage is partially offset by the obverse case; a student who under the present unit system gets marks of 40 and 53 now gets no credit wheras under the new system he would again get 6 credits.
University statistics do however reveal that the number of students who would fall into the first catagory, do outnumber the latter type of case.
This disadvantage may well be minimized however, to the extent that students will presumably be more likely to choose those courses in which they are likely to be interested and/or successful.
2/ At least in the initial transition period, the new system is liable to be cumbersome and rather confusing for staff and students alike. The benefits of the new system are likely to be realised only slowly, and students in the meantime will face problems of adaption.
3/ Under the new regulations the number of separate courses available will be greatly increased. This fact has important implications for academic counselling in the faculty. It will obviously be essential for students to be able to receive better advice on their choice of courses than they have commonly received in the past.
The academic staff are aware of this and preparations are being made to disseminate information on he new system and the details of courses which will be offered in 1972. Students who are enrolled this year should familiarize themselves with the new system and learn how to take advantage of it. Start asking questions now and don't leave it till March next year.
Will Advanced Courses still have Prerequisites?
Most courses do have either prerequisites or co-requisites. Each course will be listed in the Calendar with the relevant prerequisites and co-requisites beisside it, This will appear in tabular form. Generally, prerequisites will be somewhat easier than under the present system. Many pre-requisites under the new system will not be strict, and students who lack the prerequisites listed may be admitted to the course at the discretion of the Head of Department concerned.
How does the Scheme fit in with other Faculties and Universities?
The duodecimal system was chosen partly on the grounds that it was the system which conflicted least with the present system (e.g. the Commerce Faculty) and the other types of sub-unit courses available (e.g. the Science Faculty quarter and third units). Major difficulties in cross-crediting are therefore not likely within this university.
Cross-crediting of units gained at other N.Z. Universities, (with the exception of Waikato) should present no more difficulties, than will crediting of units already passed at Victoria. The conversion basis will still be 1 unit = 12 credits.
Crediting of courses gained at Waikato towards a Victoria B.A. will be complicated as Waikato operate a vastly different system of credits to all other N.Z. Universities. The new system should not make a great deal of difference. The Committee which originally considered the various methods of making sub-unit courses available, did examine the Waikato system. The obstacles to such a scheme were far too great however and the Faculty has settled for a scheme which fits the present situation and other faculties most easily.
So far as courses passed at this University under the proposed regulations are concerned, the situation is more uncertain. No problem arises where courses are of 12 credits value - that is, equivalent to the present unit. For courses of 6 credits of 4 or 3 credits, the situation is more complex. It is likely, given the system of co-requisites and prerequisites, that most courses will be grouped in a student's course in a fashion that will in some way resemble a cluster of units.
There are two problems involved here (1) the carrying over of a certain amount of credit for courses passed (2) permission to proceed in a particular subject.
The first problem can probably easily be met by the 12 credits = 1 unit conversion which will operate within Victoria.
The second problem will find different solutions in each case, as it does now. Since such permission is normally granted in terms of areas covered rather than names or dimensions of courses, the problem will probably not be much greater under the new system.
Will the new system lead to disjointed meaningless degrees?
The easiest retort to this question is that the present degrees are disjointed and meaningless. If anything, the new structure may lead to more specialised degrees - it certainly offers the possibility to the student.
Students will still be required to fulfil a major subject requirement, so that a certain number of credits must be grouped around a single subject.
A certain amount of advanced work must be passed (48 credits from courses numbered 201-339). The system of prerequisites and co-requisites will minimize the diversity of courses which may be grouped into a degree.
This article is intended to be no more than a generally explanatory review of the proposed set of regulations. The writer has been involved with the drafting of the regulations but the views in the article are in no sense official. The regulations will be widely publicized when they are finally approved, and in the meantime a set of the draft regulations will be available in the Studass Office.
So far the regulations have only been approved at the Arts Faculty level. They will be presented to the next meeting of the Professorial Board for its approval on June 17th.
Assuming that Board approved the regulations, they will be next considered by the University Council (meeting 28th June). Students are represented on both Board and Council and student representatives would be happy to hear suggestions and complaints from students before these meetings.
The Curriculum committee of the University Grants Committee will be required to finally approve the new scheme.
The crucial step has probably been taken already however, and the new B.A. is likely to be introduced in 1972.