Open Major becomes shortcut to popular majors and state examination preparationThe first Open Major graduates received their diplomas early this year, leading to criticism that the original purpose and intention of the major had not come through as expected.
Such voices arose when statistics showed students in the Open Major department continuously flocked to focus on certain popular fields when the time came for them to pick a major. Moreover, some universities abolished the major to create a new department that concentrates on helping students prepare for state examinations, further deviating from the major’s original goal.
The Open Major department first appeared in 2009, when the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology announced a policy to abolish the Department of Law if a university were to adopt the Law School system. The main purpose of the Open Major department was to enable students to study interdisciplinary courses which encompass various fields of studies.
Usually after one year of freely encountering courses from diverse majors, students under the Open Major department choose their main major as they move up to their sophomore year. However, during this period students tend to select majors that do not seem to match the established goals of the Open Major department.
In the case of Seoul National University, 201 out of 922 Open Major entrants chose the Department of Economics, 159 chose Business School, and 61 students each selected the Department of Political Science and International Relations and the School of Biological Sciences.
To cope with a similar situation, Yonsei University modified its regulations last year by limiting the number of students selecting the same major to one-third of the total number of Open Major students. As a result, among the 92 entrants of the scholastic year 2012, 30 students were allocated each to the School of Economics and the School of Business with roughly 10 other students choosing the Department of Applied Statistics as their major.
“We modified the policy in order to prevent further concentration in certain popular majors,” said an official in the University College of Yonsei University.
As for Ewha, the Scranton College founded in 2007 functions as the Open Major department. First-year students in this department enter without having a fixed major and are later able to select their main major, further choosing a self-designed major.
However, a similar phenomenon is displayed as the percentage of students selecting the College of Business Administration, the College of Social Science, and the College of Natural Sciences greatly outweighs that of those choosing the College of Liberal Arts.
On the other hand, some universities have abolished the Open Major department, replacing it with majors or departments that operate as a state examination preparing institute.
Chung-Ang University had established the Open Major department in 2009, but as complaints targeting the practicality of the course rose from the students, it changed the department to the College of Public Service in 2010.
“The College of Public Service can be viewed as a substitute for the Open Major department that formerly existed to receive openings in place of the Department of Law,” said Jeong Da-un, an official in the College of Public Service. “Thus, our department includes students wanting to prepare for Law Schools and those who wish to prepare for other state examinations.”
Similarly, Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) established the Department of Public Affairs in place of its Open Major department, which is composed of two main tracks: Policy Track and Law Track.
“The Policy Track goes by a curriculum that provides students with classes mainly dealing with subjects in the Higher Civil Service Examination and the Law Track assists students to get ready for Law School,” said Kim Joong-hwan, the deputy director of the Department of Public Affairs at SKKU.
Students in the Open Major department show differing opinions on the proposed problems.
“Although the department provides students with the opportunity to ponder over their careers, such given time of two semesters is relatively short to discover what I can do best,” Yoon Jae-yeon (Yonsei University, 3) said. “Thus, I decided to choose Business as my major since I thought it would broaden my career opportunities as it is the most relevant knowledge required in today’s society.”
Some students hold a more positive opinion towards the Open Major course system.
“Unlike the students who have not yet thought deeply about their majors, but were only driven to receive high grades to get into a popular department, my friends and I have had time to look ahead and select our majors with more consideration without being restricted by a credit requisite,” said Cho Yun-ha (Seoul National University, 3), a former Open Major student who chose Anthropology as her major. “Therefore, I believe it is not right to view us in the same light as students from other departments.”
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