Since its introduction in 2005, Horizons has offered a new flexibility and choice to students, granting them an opportunity to shape their degrees as they wished, an educational independence not heard of in any of the competiting Irish universities. The university’s move to re-develop Horizons in 2010, therefore should be praised highly. Any attempt, especially one taken so soon, to evaluate and improve the educational experience of students should be met with praise.
However, news of these preliminary discussions were received with surprise and caution by both academic staff and students. While the success of Horizons cannot be disputed, the administrative nightmare that accompanied the introduction of the new modularised system will not be forgotten quickly by anyone on the Belfield campus. Students and staff who have only recently recovered from seemingly continuous registration headaches are justified in their caution towards talk of a revamp of the programme.
The dust has settled since the problems of implementing semesterisation and modularisation, and students are happy to explore subjects which otherwise would remain alien to them. Electives help furnish students with a well-rounded knowledge of economics, politics or law while continuous assessment has ensured that graduates are prepared to perform at consistently high levels when they enter into their careers.
As it has become stable, it is natural that Horizons will expand while the possibility of creating topical degrees from across schools is particularly exciting as it offers students an even greater academic freedom than ever before. If solid research and proper investigation illustrate that a limited number of entry routes into omnibus degree programmes will enhance the undergraduate experience for students, then the university would be foolish not to adopt to such a system
What is slightly worrying is that while there is talk of plans to narrow down the number of entry routes to just ten, staff members don’t seem to be aware of any details of the proposal. As the university learnt in 2005, a large overhall of academic structure won’t be possible without the combined efforts of staff members, who will only feel ignored if they are left out of the discussions which are scheduled to occur over the coming months.
While the Students’ Union seemed to be completely unaware of proposals for academic restructuring, it would be wise for the university to include the student view in their discussions. Students may have a reputation for political apathy, and while the majority appear not to be particularly motivated by talks of re-introducing third level fees, UCD students have shown strong opposition to changes to their degrees before and can almost be guaranteed to do so again.
The university should be admired for showing innovation and striving to improve their standing worldwide but this applause should not be drowned out by disgruntled students and staff members. The only way that UCD can ensure they receive the response deserving of such modernisation is by communicating with those who share the lecture theatres of this university. Oversight on simple registration issues resulted in a painful transmission to Horizons in 2005, the university simply can’t be prepared to sit back and watch history repeat itself only five years later.