FAS Council Endorses Concurrent Degree Program, Name Change for VES


The Faculty Council voted to approve a proposal to allow undergraduates to obtain concurrent bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard at its first meeting of 2019.

The Council — the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ highest governing body — first heard the concurrent degree program proposal at one of its biweekly meetings last December. The proposal follows the Faculty’s recent decision to abolish the College’s Advanced Standing program, a decades-old initiative which allowed students who complete enough advanced coursework in high school to enter Harvard with a year’s worth of college credits. Students could then choose to earn a bachelor’s degree in three years or both a master’s and a bachelor’s in four.

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education Noël Bisson said in 2017 that only a “tiny” portion of the student body chose to pursue Advanced Standing each year, though she declined to specify how many.

Under the proposed system — first presented to the Council by Comparative Literature Professor Karen L. Thornber — students would be allowed to double-count three courses toward both bachelor’s and master’s degrees, according to Council member David L. Howell.


“This is a proposal for a new way for some students who are well-qualified and highly motivated to get both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in four years,” Howell said.

The Council’s referendum is purely advisory, however, and the proposal must go before the full Faculty for a vote before it can be approved. If it passes, students starting with the Class of 2022 would be eligible to apply, and the program would be reviewed during the 2024-2025 academic year.

The Council heard two other proposals — one concerning the Visual and Environmental Studies department and the other about the FAS Standing Committee on the Library — at its “very brief” meeting, according to Howell.

The VES proposal suggests changing the name of the department — which houses classes for the visual arts as well as the “study of the built environment” — to Art, Film, and Visual Studies. Department Chair Robb Moss first presented the proposal at the Council’s Dec. 14, meeting, and Council members voted in favor of the change Wednesday.

The Council also voted to approve a proposal to dissolve the FAS Standing Committee on the Library, Howell said. The proposal — first presented to the Council by Vice President for the Harvard Library Sarah E. Thomas at the Dec. 14 meeting — relegates the committee’s duties to the University-wide Faculty Advisory Council, which reserves seven seats for professors within FAS.

Unlike the votes in favor of the concurrent degree system and the renaming of the VES department, the Council’s decision to dissolve the committee is binding, according to Howell.

—Staff writer Molly C. McCafferty can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @mollmccaff.


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