Students will now be allowed to use credits from both a summer and semester abroad toward the 36 credits required to graduate, University faculty decided Thursday.
In a move to encourage international exploration, the proposal — presented by the Committee on Honors and Academic Standing to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences — will permit students to apply up to two approved credits earned at institutions other than Yale, which include summer study abroad programs, as well as four credits from a term abroad. The new policy is markedly different from the previous one, which was more restrictive in the number of outside credits that could be applied toward graduation.
“It opens up substantial opportunity to study abroad and to hone additional skills in the summer at another institution if that’s the ideal solution for a student,” Yale College Dean Mary Miller said, “while nevertheless retaining a focus on an education in Yale College.”
The new policy will also function retroactively, returning summer credits to currently enrolled students who previously had to give them up in order to count credits from a single semester abroad.
The old policy held that students could only apply two outside credit towards graduation, with the exception of a term (four credits) or year (nine credits) abroad. This meant that if a student studied abroad during the summer, then studied abroad again during the term, he or she would have to forsake the summer credits.
The change comes as the administration ramps up its efforts to encourage students to gain international experience and a global perspective during their time at Yale.
Dean of Academic Affairs Mark Schenker said his committee first started considering the issue based on a recommendation from the Faculty Task Force on International Education, created last year by then-Dean Peter Salovey. Associate Dean of International Affairs Jane Edwards, who was the chairwoman of the task force, said it was created as part of the plan to implement the international education goals contained in the 2003 Committee on Yale College Education curricular report.
The old policy provided a disincentive for students to study abroad more than once, she said, adding that she hopes the new one will remove this obstacle.
“Multiple experiences abroad can clearly contribute greatly to a student’s language acquisition and cultural competency,” Edwards said in an e-mail. “There are also students who wish to combine different kinds of programs — perhaps a summer field-based program in environmental studies with a semester-long program in comparative environmental policy — for whom our current policy raises a barrier.”
Paul Treadgold ’10 said he understands the rationale behind the old policy, but called it “outdated and unfair.”
Treadgold, who is currently studying in Denmark, had to forego two credits from a summer in China in order to receive credit for this semester.
He said he has found the study abroad programs in which he has participated to be as academically rigorous as courses at Yale.
“The world today is more interconnected than ever,” Treadgold said in an e-mail from Copenhagen. “Students should be encouraged to go out and experience this globalization first-hand and as often as they want.”
When told about the institution of the new policy following Thursday’s vote, Treadgold commended Yale’s “willingness to not just be a world-class institution, but also a world-focused institution.”
Still, the proposal is not identical to the task force’s original recommendation, which would have allowed students even more freedom to earn credits abroad. One of the options the task force recommended was that students be allowed a total limit of nine non-Yale credits. But Schenker said this could potentially have allowed students to undertake both a term abroad and two summers abroad, for about the same number of credits as a full term abroad.
He said his committee did not think that such mixing and matching of credits would be as rigorous as an equivalent number of Yale courses.
“Our feeling was that this remains within the parameters of being stringent about outside credit and removes the concern the task force had about disincentives,” Schenker said. “And it does not go so far that it might discourage people from a more rigorous full year [abroad].”
During the 2007-’08 academic year, 34 students did an academic semester or year as well as a summer abroad, Edwards said.