Ryerson’s mutating programs

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As Ryerson continues to evolve, growing in both geographical size and student population, programs are being revamped to accommodate the change. But administrators may not understand the effect on students

As Ryerson continues to expand in size it also drastically changes its academic programs every few years. For students in the midst of their degrees, these changes could mean anything from additional work hours to a complete re-design of programs and faculties.

Since 2006, a total of 13 different programs experienced changes.

The majority of the changes occurred in the engineering department as mechanical, electrical, computer, civil, aerospace and chemical engineering all underwent changes in 2007.

Based on Ryerson’s governing structure, in order to change a program it must be approved by the dean of the individual department. If the proposed change is drastic it must be approved by Senate before the department can start to phase in the program.

Some students greatest concern is the disruption of their academic plans, which has the potential to weaken the quality of their education.

“In our year, some kids got really screwed over,” said Paul James, a fifth-year architecture student. “It was just really sloppy.”

James, said the architecture program was more challenging before it received a major change in curriculum after 2006.

According to the chair of Architecture, Kendra Schank Smith, major changes were implemented in 2007. “We make these changes to update the curriculum and make it more relevant for students,” Smith said.

The new curriculum requires students to complete assignments on the computer instead of drafting by hand, a process that requires focus and attention to detail, James said.

Christopher Evans, Vice Provost Academic, said the university puts processes in place to protect the school’s reputation as it continues to modify degrees and faculties.

“No student is placed at academic risk by program change,” Evans said.

According to Evans, significant program changes are phased in over a number of years to ensure that all students who started in the older curriculum can finish before it is phased out.

Evans said occasionally there are students who take an extended leave from school and come back to see the curriculum is no longer offered. In those cases, the school will make accommodations for students.

According to the university’s current academic plan, Ryerson may undergo another round of expansion, increasing enrolment by 30 to 50 per cent in the next decade, to meet the demand for post-secondary education in a growing GTA.

Last year, the Provost’s Academic Structure Commission, a committee tasked with recommending changes to the university’s faculty structure, delivered its final report recommending changes to accommodate the anticipated growth. If put forward and approved by the Senate, the faculty of engineering, architecture and science would separate into distinct faculties, and a faculty of law would be formed.

Ryerson President Sheldon Levy said it’s crucial that Ryerson maintain its tradition of partnering theory with practice when restructuring programs. “That’s our distinctive character. If we didn’t do that, we would slowly become someone who we’re not.”

— With files from Rebecca Burton, Sarah Del Giallo and Emma Prestwich

Photo by: Chelsea Pottage

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