The admissions average for the Faculty of Science will go up to 80 per cent for students applying in 2013.
Citing an overabundance of students, the faculty will be upping its admissions average requirement by four per cent from the current level of 76 per cent — and to 85 per cent for students seeking an honors degree.
Although raising this percentage was not something Dean of Science Jonathan Schaeffer was keen on doing, he says it was necessary to control sustainability of the program.
“To me personally, it’s not something I want to do — it goes against everything I believe in. But the reality is the only way I can control admissions is through this average,” he said.
“If I want to reduce the numbers to be more in line with our financial expectations, that’s what I have to do.”
Provincial base funding helps cover the costs for 6,100 of the 6,700 students currently enrolled in the Faculty of Science. However, this leaves the faculty to cover the price of the remaining 600 students.
The faculty has undertaken other initiatives in recent years, like combining smaller classes and taking out a $5 million dollar loan over five years to increase staff. But with more students flowing into the sciences, it has become difficult to manage certain costs where courses — especially labs — are required to meet specific enrolment demands.
“Those labs only accommodate 20 students at a time. 21 students in a lab means one more lab section with one more teaching assistant who has to manage it and one more set of supplies or equipment that has to be purchased. So there’s real costs involved,” Schaeffer explained.
While the entire university has had to deal with budgetary constraints, Schaeffer noted science programs are under more pressure due to the vast amount of students coming through their doors.
Despite these setbacks, he said he feels the quality of the program has still been held to a high standard.
“I would say quite frankly that our faculty and staff and instructors have done an amazing job this year in rising to the challenge of handling all of these students,” he said.
“We’ve gone above and beyond the call of duty to ensure that we make sure it’s the best quality offering we can possibly give.”
The new average comes as the latest installment in rapidly-rising admissions averages for the faculty, which sat at 72 per cent in 2010 and rose to 75 per cent in 2011. The required average rose another one per cent last year, with the new 80 per cent requirement setting the standard for students starting in Sept. 2013.
While he is uncertain whether the admissions average will continue to rise in years to come, Schaeffer stated based on historical data the number of students eligible to get into the faculty should decrease.
He also stressed that by raising the admission admittance percentage, the U of A science faculty was becoming more consistent with the standard for other top institutions across the country.
The dean wants the Faculty of Science to ensure program sustainability and quality while continuing to capture the fascination and imagination of those interested in post-secondary education.
“Something has changed in the last few years: science is popular, science is cool, science is sexy. I don’t know whether it’s because of things like the big physics experiment in Switzerland — the Higgs boson that was discovered in July — or whether it’s the Mars Rover. Maybe it’s social networking with Facebook, or maybe it’s the success of Apple,” Schaeffer said.
“Who know where this will lead? I guess from my point of view (in) the Faculty of Science at the University of Alberta, we need to do whatever we can to educate as many Albertans as possible.”
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