Faculty of Arts streamlines offerings to give students more contact with professors

Posted on Friday, January 18, 2013

Dean of Arts Christopher Manfredi / Photo: Owen Egan.

By McGill Reporter Staff

Changes are coming to the Faculty of Arts as part of its effort to improve the quality and learning experience for students, Dean Christopher Manfredi said.

“Keeping our course offerings current and based on the highest level of scholarship, while eliminating courses that show consistently low enrolment, will allow us to devote more resources to those more sought after by students and enhance student-professor interaction,” he said.

The changes, which could see a reduction in the number of low-enrolment courses offered on a regular basis, will be discussed with students Tuesday (Jan. 22) at a Town Hall meeting.

The changes have already been the subject of discussions at Faculty council meetings (since September), discussions at meetings with Chairs and Directors, and department-by-department consultations. And they respond to a key recommendation of a Deans’ working group in 2010-11 that said: “It is in the interest of the Faculty to examine how our teaching, advising, and administrative resources are currently invested and how we can make changes that will preserve the quality and integrity of our programs while allowing us to reinvest our resources in support of our core mission.”

“There will be two main benefits for Arts students,” Manfredi said. “First, more Arts students will be taught by professors who devote their careers to the advancement of their discipline, something students have been asking for regularly in recent years.” Second, he said, the money saved by eliminating low-enrolment courses will be put directly into other teaching support (namely TAs, usually graduate students who are furthering their own learning through interaction with undergrads) and other activities that benefit students (e.g. the internship program, student advising).

“Additional TAs and TA-ships will mean more financial support for graduate students, smaller conference sections, better undergraduate student access to certain courses, and more time for professors to have substantive interactions with students,” Manfredi said.

Manfredi outlined three ways the Faculty can achieve its objective: it can ask professors to teach slightly fewer lower-enrolment courses and instead teach more of the larger introductory and intermediate courses; it can rotate lower-enrolment courses so that they are taught only every two or three years; it can consolidate several of the lower-enrolment courses.

Individual departments within the Faculty will decide how they wish to proceed.

There are plenty of low-enrolment courses in the Faculty, Manfredi said, noting that in 2011-12, the Faculty offered 443 undergraduate courses with 20 or fewer students,  about 37 per cent of all the courses it offered that year.

“This process will bring more students in contact with professors without significantly increasing average class sizes in the Faculty,” he said.



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