Is five years the new norm to graduate?

Of the 79 per cent of UBC students enrolled in a four-year program, 60 per cent expect to take longer to complete their degree, according to the 2015 AMS Academic Survey Report.

The results may be unsurprising for many. Still, for this year's survey the AMS brought in an external market research company, Insights West, to analyze the reasons behind the results.

Out of the 60 per cent of students who were going to take 4.5-6.5 years to graduate, 56 per cent cited “other experiences” as reason for their extended studies.

“This means they got involved in something,” said VP Academic Jenna Omassi. “We didn’t ask what it was since we wanted to leave it broad and open about what that means to students. But over 50 per cent of students -- that’s a huge percentage.”

31 per cent said that their degree extension was due to taking a “reduced course load for personal reasons,” which was the second highest reason given. This was followed by 28 per cent of respondents saying that they are, simply, “not in a hurry to graduate."

21 per cent selected “unable to take required courses” and 20 per cent “switched degrees between programs," compared to “reduced course load for financial reasons” which yielded 7 per cent.

According to Omassi, the AMS has been working on several initiatives based on these findings and previous reports. One fundamental change is the university’s message to students.

“At Imagine Day, we should be saying this year ‘welcome to the class of 2016’ instead of ‘class of 2019’, because 60 per cent of them won’t be the class of 2019. If 60 per cent of students are not completing in four years, putting undue stress on students into thinking that is the norm is problematic,” said Omassi.

Other proposals include working with faculties to review degree requirements, supporting the Enhanced Learning Record that will give credit to extra-curricular experiences and introducing a mid-term break in the fall semester.

Regarding future reports, Omassi said, “next year we’ll break the questions down even more to get a better sense of what the experiences are, as well as the reasons. Were those experiences within your faculty? Or within the university? Are those working positions?”

Omassi also hopes to increase diversity in the survey demographic. “We would like to look at intersections, looking at how certain populations feel about different questions, making sure that we are thinking about all students and not generalizing, then figuring out how we can make changes and recommendations to the university.”