Freedom and Frustration

Christiaan Cakici
02 juli 2018

Steve Jobs, a Stanford college dropout, once said: “the minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn’t interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.” In your senior year of the bachelor Econometrics & Operations Research and the bachelor Actuarial Sciences, you get to choose electives. Finally students can take on courses they like instead of attending mind-numbing compulsory courses. The course registration deadline has already passed and as many of you already have encountered, there are not many electives to choose from. In fact, there was hardly any choice at all!

There are three possible ways to fill up the free-space in your senior year. The first one is a semester abroad, the second is a minor and the third option is to choose electives freely. Students who opt to for a semester abroad, will come across several issues. The academic calendar of dutch universities differs from the rest of the world. Our semesters are longer and our holidays shorter. For example, in the year 2018 our first semester ended on February 2, while other universities around the world had already started with their second semester. This makes it impossible for students to go on a semester abroad without having to waste an entire year of their lives. It is not allowed to miss the first week at the host university for students in the exchange program. This means the course in block 3 cannot be finished and student have to wait an entire year to graduate, just because they have to finish one course.

A similar problem occurs with minors. While it is possible to pursue a minor ánd not waste an entire year of your life, the only possibility to do so is by having an extremely cluttered schedule. In the first semester, the schedule allows for one elective in block 1 and one in block 2, and in the second semester two in block 4 and one in block 5. There is no minor that fits this description. The only possibility is to take on more than two courses in one block and one or maybe none in another block, depending on the minor chosen.

How about choosing electives freely? The UvA provides a list of six recommend elective, but the harsh truth is that those are the only courses somewhat related to your bachelor. Out of those six recommended electives, two are from each specialization: econometrics, actuarial science and operations research. This means that a student interested in econometrics has to take on courses from the other specializations, while he or she might not be interested in them. There are many interesting courses available from other bachelor- and master degrees, but the dreaded entry requirements make it impossible to choose those as electives. Another problem encountered by students, are so-called limited capacity courses. For example, none of the courses in the bachelor artificial intelligence or master machine learning can be chosen, not because the entry requirements are not met, but due to a lack of space.

It seems students do not have the freedom to choose the electives they are interested in. Luckily the academic calendar of the senior year will be changed for students who started their bachelor in 2017. Although nothing can be done for current sophomores, it is nice to see the UvA improving.