Whether you love them or hate them, breadth requirements are a factor every U of T student must consider when planning their course load. The University maintains that breadth requirements are meant to encourage students to explore disciplines outside of their chosen field of interest, and to allow students to develop insight and new ways of thinking. But, breadth requirements can be incredibly detrimental to students who struggle in certain subject areas, even to the point of costing them their degrees. Should U of T still enforce breadth requirements? And do the pros outweigh the cons?
Many students would argue that yes, breadth requirements have been beneficial to them and to their education. Not only are breadth requirements an opportunity to develop new skills, but they also provide students with a break from the content they are constantly surrounded by. For a life science student, a humanities or social science course may allow them to take a break from constant memorization, and instead give them the opportunity to write and think critically and vice-versa. Breadth requirement courses offer a chance for students to experience a different style of learning, as well as the chance to gain knowledge about other areas of interest that they may have.
But for those students who are required to take courses in subject areas that they struggle with, it can lead to them losing key opportunities over breadth courses, which are not necessarily helpful to them in the first place. Humanities, social science, and life science students may need to take mathematics or science courses as a part of their breadth requirements that they have no use for. If they fail these courses, it may cost them graduate programs, internships or other opportunities that have GPA requirements. Breadths also take up precious timetable space, particularly for life science students with full – if not excessive – course loads. Students are forced to take time out of intensive program-specific schedules to make room for courses that they will not use, which can make things difficult for those who want or need to graduate in a certain amount of time.
Though they allow students the chance to explore other subject areas and develop skills which they might not otherwise get to develop, breadth requirements can be damaging to both degrees and GPAs. But, while some students struggle to meet the grade in required courses, others enjoy taking a break from the content and style of learning they experience on a daily basis, and getting the opportunity to try something different. The University believes that breadth requirements are more advantageous than detrimental to students, despite the cons of the breadth system. And, whether the student population agrees with the University in this matter or not, breadth requirements are something that we must factor in to our university plans.
Image courtesy of Ashlee Redmond