One of the big draws of St Andrews is the idea that no student is stuck studying a degree they no longer wish to pursue. St Andrews often emphasises that because each student takes three different modules per semester, students’ experience allows for a wider breadth of study and therefore more room to change areas.
The premise is more compatible with the model found in American liberal arts universities than three year English programs; however, there has been some contention as to whether changing degree is actually as simple as the administration makes it out to be or if it is just not worth the hassle.
As a second year, I know quite a few people (including myself) who have now changed their degrees either by choice or by departmental suggestion. My experience in changing degrees was relatively simple in comparison to others I have discussed. My advisor suggested I re-evaluate my options to find a degree that I was more suited for.
We thought that changing my degree might help me pursue my interests as well as fully enjoy university life. My change was surprisingly easy and speedily done during an advising meeting. This may, however, be due to the fact that I did not have too much of a choice in the matter.
For two good friends of mine, changing degrees proved not only difficult but unmanageable. This came as a shock, as they are both top students. Each had read through the handbook, which boasted that a change was not only possible but easily available.
Unfortunately, upon speaking to their advisors, there seemed to be a lot of controversy within their respective departments as to whether or not they would be allowed to change. After having gone to the top in their departments, one was told that a change was impossible, whilst the other was told that she would have to carry on for an extra year at the university.
Another student unsatisfied with the system is second year Daisy Treloar, who was able to change degrees from Classics to Art History. Still, she claims to not have been completely happy with the options available to her.
“I just recently changed from classics (Latin and Greek) to History of Art, which I did not entirely want to do, to be honest,” Ms Treloar said. “I was only trying to avoid Greek. I would have preferred History of Art and Latin as a joint honours, but they clashed, which I found rather ridiculous considering how relevant they are to one another. So, in the end, I had to choose between two subjects that I love, which, in my opinion, defeats the point of the open system Scottish universities have adopted.”
Nevertheless, second year Graham Reid claims to have been able to change his degrees not once, but thrice, with great ease all three times. He stated that after he applied to university, he fell in love with the modern languages he took in Highers and decided to embark on a modern languages degree, taking philosophy as a third subject.
He soon realised that philosophy was his true passion and decided to pursue a degree in what was initially his third module. “It was so easy,” he told me. “All I had to do was go in, request a change, and boom, it was done. Simple as that, and now I’ve gone from studying French to Philosophy.”
So, it seems as though the University has one very happy customer and, perhaps more importantly, an incredibly satisfied student. I suppose the University would want me to say this is a system that works incredibly well but has its flaws like all systems.
In this case, it seems as though changing degrees is easy to do in some cases, namely to save a degree or switch from one department to another one entirely. I would say that here in Scotland, we are fortunate enough to even have the option to change course, even if the process itself may be a tad arduous for some.
Several of my friends down south have complained about the rigidity of their courses and the lack of flexibility in their departments and overall system. Upon reflection, I suppose I can conclude that this really is a luxury problem.