The original purpose of the Free Major program
YU says on the official website, “The free major program helps students who get into the university without a specific major to choose the most appropriate major that would match their aptitude and personality by systematically exploring various subjects with an academic adviser for one year. The goal is to make the maximum academic achievement for an individual major that students will choose next year.”
The mismatch between reality and vision
The vision is ideal. Unfortunately, vision is in contrast with reality. Students are assigned to professors who do not have any relationship with the major they want to go to and therefore have difficulties in getting information and advice about their university career. Also, there is no systematic major exploration program. These situdations cannot serve any support for students. In other words, students have to decide on their own when they enter into a university and choose their major without any support from the university.
Lack of curriculum, so many students
First, the problem is that the number of students in the Free Major department is too many. For instance, when a freshmen visit the administrative office in charge of the Free Major, he asked questions, “Why can’t students be assigned to professors who are related with the major which students want to go to?” The reply from the other side would be, “Lots of Free Major students pick some popular majors like Business administration, Public administration, Department of English Language and Literature. So, it is hard to match their preferred major with their professor individually so we have to divide the students at random.” In addition, when students choose their major in the second year, they cannot be assigned to the major they want because the number of students who want to go to the popular majors are bigger than the number of allotted slots available. The school cuts students by their grades. In this situation, students who cannot go to the major they want to could not take the required courses at freshman year so they have a disadvantage to choose classes. These situations fully go against the purpose of the program and force students to give up the chance of searching for a major.
Interview with Jun-ho Che Professor Administration
Q) How are the professors of Free Major be selected?
A) Professors are selected from popular majors that the students are preference. For example, 307 Freshmen from the Class of 2014 are assigned to professors of 19 majors that the students put down as the preferred major. Also, they are collected by the Departmental Meeting, one person per major.
Q) Is it impossible to assign students to professors who match their major preference?
A) It is hard to match them because freshmen who enter into the Free Major tend to volunteer to some popular majors. Also, it is hard to select many professors in these majors. However, if the major is unmatched between the students and professors, they have a hard time gathering information about their preferred major, so we will make plans to support the students of the Free Major. Also, there is some opinion that professors almost don’t teach anything in their class ‘University Life and Volunteer,’ so we will change it to support the students’ major exploration.
Q) Right now, the Free Major department tends to entrust students to select their own major without any support from the department. Also, classes to explore other majors are lacking in class ‘University Life and Volunteer.’ Are there some methods to revise it?
A) I assume the chairman of Free Major this year and I am aware of these problems so we are working to change it. For instance, we will have time to inform features of other majors to freshmen in this semester. It is the best to have students take this class before the start of the semester, however, because of lowparticipation, it is hard to do so before the start of the semester. We give time to students to know each major after the midterm exam of the first semester and make them think about their future major and reflect on it while they choose the courses for the second semester.
Q) The number of Free Major increases annually, but the management of students is somewhat ineffective. What do you think about it?
A) There are some management problems because of the big number of students. We are also aware of this problem. Also, Free Major committee selects too many students, and the level of students become lower. To correct these things, we decided to reduce the number of students from 2014.
Revise the Free Major program
Then, how can we revise the Free Major to match its original purpose? Free Major had many students but there have been various kinds of systematic lack such as a major consultant, major exploring system, curriculum of Free Major, etc. In this condition, making a proper system that can manage many students is a good solution. An example of possible solution is making an original curriculum for Free majors. Now, the Free Major program doesn’t offer its own curriculum to the students because they move to other majors in their second year. If YU can create courses that will help students design their future, it would become a big aid to students. Also, the problem that some students feel a sense of alienation can be solved by effort of students. Students from Free Major and students who are already in a major need to have open mind. The proper decrease of number of the students in the Free Major can contribute to fix the problems. For example, kyungpook National University reduces the number of the Free Major, so most students could move to a major they want to. Also, YU is going to have similar effect by decreasing number in 2014.
It is clear that the vision of the Free Major department helps students who are worried about their future find a major which corresponds with their aptitude. However, what we need to think about is, “Is this vision on track?” If there are no appropriate actions to improve the Free Major, then, the Free Major of YU can be abolished just like the recent examples of other Free Majors at Universities in Seoul. To prevent this case, universities and students must strive to keep the vision together. For example, universities should make various ways to help students find their major while students shouldn’t think of the Free Major program just as an easy passage into a more competitive major. Students should also think once more about their purpose and their future. To make this work, the department needs to recover its original vision and help students find a suitable major. If the Free Major program runs well, both students and the university can be successful together.