AAU’s undergraduate programs will soon change to meet the strict new accreditation requirements that were recently introduced by the National Accreditation Bureau for Higher Education in the Czech Republic.
The future curriculum structure was proposed by Miroslav Svoboda, the Vice President for Faculty & Study Affairs, and it focuses on majors, minors, and concentrations.
“For the past year, we have worked on designing a new flexible modular structure that will be the same for all undergraduate programs,” he says.
“Within this new formal structure, we have adjusted the current curricula, added new concentrations, and also designed a new degree program.”
The students will be able to select a concentration within their major or pick a shortened version of a different study program as their minor while the length of the bachelor program remains 3 years. Svoboda says that while the new regulations presented a considerable challenge to the university, it is also an opportunity to improve the current program.
Students have been complaining about the current structure. They say there are too many required general education courses and too few courses focusing on individual study programmes. Another main issue is that the consistent change in curriculum leads students and faculty to unnecessary confusion.
The new structure is intended to fix these issues. The number of general education courses will decrease significantly. They will be divided into groups, and students will select one course from each. In doing so the individual will have more control over their studies by being allowed to select more major-related core courses.
Additionally, the issue of the prioritization of exchange students over AAU student in regards to registration and availability of courses, which can become problematic if it is the final semester for a student, was brought up.
“I know many people who didn’t get a spot in a required class because it was full,” says Janel Umarbaeva, a journalism and communications student at AAU. “In many of my classes, the CEA students are the majority. I feel like the regular students should get the priority to register for the required classes.”
Kateřina Vanová, the Assistant Dean for the School of Humanities & Social Sciences and the School of Journalism agrees that situations happened in the past, where full-time AAU students did not get a spot in a required class due to exchange students, had an earlier registration date. However, she explains that the issue has since been solved and that the current system will proceed with the introduction of the new curriculum, as well as prioritizing full-time AAU students.
“We establish quotas for both groups – our degree-seeking students and the study abroad students,” Vanová says. “The quotas are based on our estimate about how many students may need the course for the given semester. This provides space for both groups and prevents any kind of competition between them. Should there be any urgent matter, we may decide to shift the quota either way, depending on the individual case and overall situation. We always try to accommodate the maximum number of the students.”
As for certain courses’ unavailability during the student’s last semester, Vanová explains she discusses the required courses with the students 2-3 semesters prior to their graduation to prevent this situation.
“If a certain required course is not available during a student’s last semester, we strive to do maximum to enable such a student to graduate on time. One option is to take the course on an independent study basis. If this is for some reason not possible, we consider relevant course equivalents. “
Aside from unnecessary difficulty with getting a spot in a class, students have stressed concerns over the overload of general education courses in comparison to courses focused on the program of study.
“I believe we don’t have that much choice of journalism classes,” says Angelina Nikonova, a 3rd-year student of journalism and communications.
“Instead of studying school foundation subjects that we won’t use in our future career, we could have a wider choice of writing, radio, TV classes.”
With the new structure, more courses in core major will be available to students. This will encourage a broader choice of classes and the opportunity for students to specialize within a field of their choice.
“I believe that AAU has strong curriculum regarding each undergraduate degree,” says Fiona Saliu, a Humanities & Social sciences student. “However, I think it would be more motivating and attractive for us if we would be able to mix majors with minors.”
Currently, only the Business and Administration program has the possibility of specializing in a specific field. With the new structure, all students will be able to choose between a few concentrations. To give an example, a future student of Journalism and Communications will choose from concentrations in journalism, media & culture, film studies, public relations & marketing along with a minor in any other study program.
“I think this could be a wonderful way for the students of AAU to not only delve further into their fields of interest but to explore themselves and a wide variety of other subjects,” says Lindsay Salvati, a Humanities & Social Sciences student. “This could be an attractive feature of the university for prospective students, especially those from the United States.”
Svoboda also thinks the changes will help to increase the enrolment number that decreased by 25% in Fall 2016, after the tuition fee increase. “I believe that the greater variety of programs and concentrations, as well as a possibility to combine their major with a minor from a different discipline, will attract significantly more applicants than in the past,” he says.
The new curriculum is projected to apply from Fall 2019. The students that will be close to graduation at that time will not be affected, while others will have the choice to switch to the new structure if they find it more attractive.
Photo credit: Anglo-American University