Talk:Major (academic)

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I live in Canada and we too use the term "Major", suggest that "U.S" be changed to universities in "North America" instead? Wait, what does the university of Mexico use? - AK-999 (Dec 7th, 2005)

UK situation[edit]

The latest edit has:

In... the United Kingdom, secondary school students take several different qualifications for different subjects rather than just one "degree". Undergraduate students are also normally required to concentrate on more than one subject throughout their degree, so the concept of a "major" is not relevant.

First of all, this article isn't about secondary schools. And I don't think secondary school students in the UK take degrees; they get qualifications for entering degree programs (see College admissions). And having looked at the program(me)s of several UK universities, it seems to me that they still have the system of set subjects, not "concentrate on more than one subject". Indeed, a friend of mine studying medieval English history was once told she couldn't take a class in Old English (directly relevant to what she was studying!), because that would be a literature class, not a history class, and therefore was not part of the history degree. --Macrakis 03:17, 19 December 2005 (UTC)

I also think this paragraph is misleading. British students do take one degree. I would guess (although I don't have figures) that the majority of UK degrees are in fact in a single subject (biology, economics, english literature, etc.) with a large minority being joint (business & french, physics & maths, etc). We don't have the concept of a "major" (or at least I, a British graduate with almost entirely British graduate friends and family, have never heard it used), so probably the UK shouldn't be mentioned in this article at all. Didsbury ryder 22:08, 28 December 2005 (UTC)
Some UK universities do indeed offer something along these lines. From this page on the Liverpool John Moores University website:
...you can opt to continue with both subjects as a joint or major/minor combination.
I'm not saying this is necessarily common in the UK, but I remember that JMU was offering major/minor degrees, distinguishing them from joint degrees, even when I was living there in the mid-1990s. Loganberry (Talk) 08:53, 8 April 2006 (UTC)

I added that some universities in the UK do offer a Major/Minor scheme, although I think it's a bit different to the US system. At Lancaster, you choose three subjects, and study the first year of the degree in each subject. You can choose to major in any of them (usually, there are some exceptions), and you have to pass all the subjects to enter second year. I know that Glasgow and Reading run similar schemes, and I went to a Cambridge open day a few years ago and they mentioned something similar, it might be operated in a different way (anyone know?) Darksun 11:01, 3 July 2006 (UTC)

Staffordshire University used a similar system when I studied there (graduated this summer, so fairly recent). We could choose elctive modules which made up 60 credits of our course, and then had several core modules that we had to do in order to graduate with a degree in our area of study. Lostsocks 17:46, 20 September 2006 (UTC)

In some British Unis it is a requirement to take a Major and a Minor discipline, the University of Lancaster for example. I dont have a source for this claim, but an ex, who attends Lancaster, mentioned it. In my university, SOAS London, one is expected to take a 'floater' course alongside your main subject, usually something that compliments it. For example, I study Arabic and I take a floater in Islamic Studies. I agree with "Didsbury ryder" in that what happens in the UK isnt really relevant to this article. Something along the lines of 'many countries, however, simply focus on a single discipline throughout their degree programmes' would be far more concise. Lots of Love, Tim

Can someone please clarify the article's reference to Cambridge University? I've been there for years and I've no idea what 'studying the first year material from three degrees' means - I'm pretty sure this isn't something that happens at Cam. Ajcounter 14:20, 3 February 2007 (UTC)

I didn't understand what that sentence meant either, but I guess the original author was thinking about Cambridge courses like the Natural Sciences Tripos where one can take a combination of physics, chemistry and biology classes (plus mathematics) in the first year and specialize in a single science later. I believe the Social and Political Sciences Tripos (SPS) is also organized in a similar fashion, i.e., students cover political science, sociology, (social) anthropology, and (social and developmental) psychology together in the first year and concentrate in either one or a combination of two subjects in the second and third years.200.177.194.166 01:59, 12 July 2007 (UTC)

There seems to be quite a lot of confusion about how to "translate" the US concept into the UK system. With British degrees becoming ever more modular it is possible for students to take "optional", "elective" or "wild" modules as part of their overall credits alongside their main courses - in my first year at Kent only 60 of the 120 credits (or whatever scheme was in use in the paperwork) had to be from the single honours subject and I could take up to 60 further wild credits out of the 240 in my second and final years. (Even on my Masters it was possible to substitute one 30 credit module with another from within the faculty.) Many other institutions have such arrangements but I don't think calling the primary subject "a major" really maps to this.

(Historically Kent originally began trying to promote inter-disciplinarity, with a common first year for all students in each of the three faculties, followed by specialisation in a particular subject in the second and third years. But this scheme rapidly proved unworkable as the English education system starts specialising earlier - two typical problems encountered were i) that many chemistry undergraduates hadn't done A-Level maths and vice versa so either a lot of students were going to be bored while the rest were brought back up to speed or the faculty started dividing up the year 1 course; and ii) social sciences were not generally studied at A-Level and the faculty wanted the first year to teach the basics indepth of a new field of study, not do a shallow "tour of all the houses". This led to more and more first year specialisation. I suspect some of the other 1960s universities may have started with similar aims - the Lancaster scheme sounds like a way to encourage potential students to both study more than one field but also could serve as a way to make it easier to change the intended subject once at university. By my day Kent similarly was willing to allow a change of subject at the end of the first year and encouraged out of subject wild modules.)

Open similarly began just offering "open" degrees made up of modules chosen and from recollection even today some subjects can be studied only on an "open" degree but taking many modules in one area. This is perhaps closer to the concept of major.

The Scottish education system is traditionally more broad ranging at a later stage and so an undergraduate at a Scottish university will be studying more than one subject - here the major/minor concept may apply. Timrollpickering 12:48, 25 August 2007 (UTC)

Just let you know that.....[edit]

Some of the course search engines are not user friendly--222.64.29.96 (talk) 23:39, 22 July 2009 (UTC)

Isn't the dual honours system in the UK the equivalent to a double major? 129.12.200.50 (talk) 13:23, 5 May 2010 (UTC)

Clarification ?[edit]

Can someone knowledgeable have a pen of compassion for those readers which are not of English mother tongue and did not grew up in an educational system shaped along the same principle, please?

Coming from Switzerland, it took me a while to understand and I am not sure I did it correctly.

May I suggest:

  • Some examples. Three to five, rather than an comprehensive list.
  • Simpler English. I mean, less focused on specialists familiar with reading scientific publications in educational science.
  • Boundaries. For example, why do you make a distinction between Major and Minor. What is the difference between a Major and a Discipline.
  • A chart. Always appreciated.

--AlainD (talk) 10:28, 25 October 2012 (UTC)

"Today, an academic major typically consists of a core curriculum, prescribed courses, a liberal arts curriculum, and several elective courses.", what on Earth does that mean!? We're not all fucking yanks, so please translate that into English!!

Content under "Choosing a Major"[edit]

This section is incredibly unencylopedic in tone and content, this article or any other is not supposed to be a how-to guide or instructional. 99.224.207.223 (talk) 02:00, 25 November 2013 (UTC)

Agreed. An anonymous user, possibly a sockpuppet, restored User:Homo sapiens's deletion of it; I deleted it again. If someone tries to restore it again we can invoke the three-revert rule. –Ringbang (talk) 14:55, 2 December 2013 (UTC)