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The Dual Nature of SKKU’s Dual Degree Program

Sungkyunkwan University (SKKU) is known for having a relatively lenient double major program as an alternative to allowing students to completely switch majors. SKKU actively promotes and emphasizes the leniency of its double major program and the fact that they issue diplomas based on their students’ needs – either one collective diploma or separate diplomas for each earned degree. This is a great advantage for students in terms of both learning opportunity and employment, but it certainly comes with some problems. Students in their original majors have been making calls for improvement as they continue to complain about the increasing diff­iculty class enrollment caused by the unending increase of students that decide to take their course. Through this article, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) would like to ­find out more about SKKU’s dual major program.

The Concept of the Dual Degree Program

The Beginning of the Dual Degree Program

A dual major program involves the undertaking of several academic fields by selecting two or more majors to pursue, including the main course. Different schools label them with various names such as multi major, joint degree, and double major. When the system was ­first introduced to Korea in 1974, it had to undergo a long and tedious process of establishment over a period of more than 20 years. After many trials and errors, in 1995, the program finally became what we know it as now, under the influence of the 5.31 Education Reform Plan, which allowed universities to design various educational programs autonomously. Under the education reform agenda, in order to allow college students to experience various academic fi­elds, a new collective system for university departments and a standard for the minimum number of units that should be taken by different fi­elds were explicitly set in place, and this was when university students were able to apply for dual major programs without much difficulty. As of late, many universities have gone a step further and put forward double major programs as a prerequisite for graduation with the purpose of combatting unemployment and shaping students into multidisciplinary individuals. The mandatory second major program was first implemented at Korea University in 2004, and since then, the number of schools following this initiative has increased, with Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in 2007 and Seoul National University following suit the next year.

The Characteristics of SKKU's Dual Degree Program

Kingos are eligible to apply for the dual major program after completing their third semester. Recently, the Department of Business Administration has also made the program mandatory. Kingos are free to select among majors in all departments except for Business Administration, Economics, and Statistics and specialized majors. Specialized majors include Global Economics, Global Business Administration, Global Leader, Semiconductor Systems Engineering, Global Biomedical Engineering, Pharmacy, and the School of Medicine. Students are required a certain grade point average (GPA) – usually set at the end of the three-point range – to apply for Business Administration, Economics, and Statistics, while they are allowed to apply to all other departments regardless of their GPA. The fact that SKKU issues two different types of diplomas for anyone undertaking the double major program is also an advantage. Students are given a separate diploma for each major alongside a collective diploma that has the names of all undertaken majors. Therefore, students are given the liberty to submit a diploma according to what is necessary when applying for jobs. Company representatives will be unable to discriminate solely based on one’s college major.

Building for Semiconductor System Engineering Major (skku.edu)

Problems of SKKU's Dual Degree Program

Difficulty in Applying for Classes

The current dual major system allows all students of a particular major to register for classes in the same way. This is a problem when there are too many students who want to take classes with minimal slots, which may cause a “class enrollment war”. The number of classes SKKU provides is not enough to accommodate all students, making it very diffi­cult for those in popular majors, and this is the fundamental cause of the semesterly competition. In the case of popular majors, normal students are overpowered by the large number of students double majoring, and often, they are unable to enroll in the classes necessary for graduating. Students with double majors are also concerned, however, as they have to plan a stricter regime for the semester and may be forced to enroll in additional semesters due to a failure to meet graduation guidelines. SKKU has since implemented a class system to alleviate students’ concerns. This system prioritizes students that are not part of the dual degree program and assigns them into the necessary core subjects for two years. However, it is still difficult for students with multiple majors to apply for these classes as most slots are already assigned and taken. Starting in 2020, students in the double major program will also be given the benefi­t of a similar class system, albeit only for the duration of one semester. This does not fix all their problems, however, as students will be unable to apply for the professors they wish to learn from and will automatically be ineligible for class assignments when deciding to take a gap year.

Limits of Learning for Students in the Double Major Program

1. Lack of Time to Search for Double Majors

In the case of double majors, it is diffi­cult to choose either fi­eld because of a lack of time from balancing different coursework. Although it highly depends on the department, when one chooses to take a double major, they are given leeway and are allowed to graduate with less credits taken compared to students with single majors, lessening their chances to explore more detailed subjects. These students have less time to experience the learning curve and may have to plan their years right away without the enough searching period. If one wanted to take extra credits, they would have to pay to take additional semesters. In other words, it is almost impossible to explore one’s majors in-depth within the set number of semesters.

2. No Reliable Sources

Due to the lack of information, the competition between original major students and those taking double majors is unequal. On the contrary to original major students who have friends in their major classes, when one chooses to double major, they attend lectures alone. Students with double majors lack sources of information that other students may have, and there is no way for them to get inside information in relation to their second major unless they actively make friends. In addition, it is very difficult for them to get their hands on exam questionnaires, which, in many cases, are essential to studying for exams.

Barriers to Interdisciplinary Learning

Previously, students’ preferences for double majors were mainly focused around Business Administration, Statistics, or Economics, in order to maximize their chances of being employed. Nowadays, however, as multidisciplinary individuals have become trends in the job market, the number of students from the humanities pursuing double majors in the sciences has greatly increased. Universities, consequently, are creating more interdisciplinary majors, such as Data Science and Arti­cial Intelligence, alongside eliminating stereotypical barriers between different majors. In the case of SKKU, freshmen are required to take at least two software courses, giving them a competitive advantage outside their majors. However, this is far from suf­ficient to serve as the foundation for a double major in the field of engineering. A huge gap exists with regards to vocabulary, studying techniques, and, most importantly, the basic academic knowledge necessary to study the sciences. Humanities students applying to majors in the sciences are accepted and thrown into classes with students who already have enough knowledge and vice versa. Therefore, students are forced to invest money in private education to minimize the wide gap.

Where to Head to

The fundamental cause of overheated competition during the class enrollment period is the lack of classes available each semester. Especially in the case of popular majors, extra classes are necessary to prevent students from being forced to take additional semesters. SKKU should allot more financial resources and provide students with more classes each semester.

Separate Slots for Different Students

There is a way to separate the allotted slots for classes by dividing students into several categories. Keeping the number of slots for original major students and those pursuing a double major student distinct, would help resolve the plights of both groups. Also, it would be much more effi­cient if the ratio of students is taken into consideration when allotting slots for each group. For example, with the current system, if the ratio of original major and double major students in a particular major is 30:10, all 40 would have to compete for the same number of spots, heightening competition between all students. If the number of slots, however, is appropriately adjusted to the ratio of students in the particular major, conflicts between students will significantly reduce, and the factors of fairness and equality regarding the current class enrollment system will greatly increase.

Course Exploration Program and Make Up Classes

Currently, SKKU students are allowed to apply for a double major in their 4th semester, and there are no programs or activities that help students makeup for what they have missed the previous semesters. This is why students struggle to prepare for their classes and experience practical learning diffi­culties. Making up for previous semesters should be done on campus, not in other private institutions. SKKU needs to invest in designing an education program for students who wish to double major in fi­elds unrelated to their initial majors and help them by providing fundamental knowledge and information regarding the new field. For those who do not require make up classes, SKKU can provide concise orientations to help students explore their second majors and be the reliable source that these students need.

Increasing Number of Humanities Students with Engineering Dual Major (news.mt.co.kr)

In this era of rapid change and desire for more complex talent, the university's dual major program is necessary in order to give students more learning opportunities and transition into society well- prepared. However, in order for the system to be used further than a tactic to promote the school, SKKU needs to invest in the cultivation of students who are competent and continue to communicate with students, making revisions to the system according to their needs.

고수연  suyunkoh@skku.edu

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