Why do arts students only need six science credits and science students need 12 arts credits?

Ever think it's unfair that science students need 12 arts credits while arts students only need six science credits? According to UBC, there is a reason for it. 

The arts and science faculties were one faculty until 1953, said Paul Harrison, Associate Dean of Science in Student Services. Once they separated, the Faculty of Science still kept the requirement that science students must take a minimum number of arts credits.

“A basic belief in the Faculty of Science is that a majors student should be broadly educated,” said Harrison. “Knowing something about other cultures, peoples [and] other areas of learning is important for a science graduate to be able to apply their sciences in different walks of life.”

Stefania Burk, associate dean of arts in academics, also believes that arts students should have a diverse range of knowledge beyond their faculty. 

“Both faculties probably think about the kinds of education their students receive and are looking at breadth — or a combination of breadth and depth — as they put together their degree requirements,” she said.

Both associate deans also acknowledge the potential for modifications in the requirements. Harrison said that the Faculty of Science is looking to put together a committee later this fall to look at the curriculum and whether an adjustment is in order.

However, for students, an increase or decrease in the credit requirements may not be the answer. For arts students in particular, it seems that it should be the system itself that should be revisited.

“Right now, you can take any science course to satisfy the requirement, with some exceptions, but mostly any science course. So what ends up happening is students just look for the easy science courses that all arts students take,” said Daniel Munro, Arts Undergraduate Society student senator and AMS associate VP academic and university affairs.

He said that, while those courses may be great, they're not always relevant to the students' main field of study. Several first-year earth and ocean sciences courses as well as a food and nutrition course are some that are well-known “easy” science courses that many arts students take.

“Rather than just saying, ‘Here’s a requirement, take something that lets you check off this box,’ we should be saying, ‘Take something that's relevant to you or the goals you have in the future,’” said Munro.

Munro suggested that an improvement would be that the science requirements be expanded to “a scientific or quantitative reasoning type requirement” and that students provide a rationale for how the course is relevant to their field of study. He believes that, in the event of reform in the Faculty of Arts, students should be included in the conversation. 

In fact, Burk agrees.

“The Faculty of Arts is the most diverse and largest faculty at the university. It would require a thoughtful process of consultation with various stakeholders, students, faculty, advisors [and] departments,” she said. 

At the end of the day, both faculties have meaningful skills to offer and the requirements allow for students to explore their options.

“Making everything a little more cohesive while also encouraging that breadth of study is, I think, a great thing,” said Munro. “I would be really interested in seeing what they come up with to replace what we have now.”