Banner Advance Home Navigation Bar Advance Home Issue Index Read past articles Weekly Calendar

March 21, 2005

Renumbering To Help Clarify
Course Levels

The University Senate on March 14 unanimously approved a proposal to renumber nearly 6,000 courses offered through the Storrs-based programs, greatly expanding a decades old system that has become confusing and too compressed.

The change, says Jeffrey von Munkwitz-Smith, University Registrar, will help faculty, students and their advisors by making course progressions more transparent, make it easier for students to understand what courses they need for graduation, and help departments find numbers for new courses.

Currently, undergraduate courses are numbered between 100 and 299, while graduate courses fall between 300 and 499. The new system allots the numbers 1000-1999 to freshman courses; 2000-2999 for sophomores; 3000-3999 to juniors, and 4000-4999 for seniors. Graduate courses will be numbered from 5000-6999, and courses at the UConn School of Law will be numbered from 7000-7999.

“I think it is a relatively small action with multiple ramifications and positive effects,” says Gregory Anderson, head of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. “This will help faculty, undergraduates, graduates, transfer students – those coming into or leaving the University – and even high school counselors. Really, I can’t think of anybody it would not help.”

Anderson says the current system, adopted in 1931, confuses external audiences and students who mistakenly think 200s level courses are for second year students, as is the case at many universities. They also are confused when a junior or senior level course – EEB200 or EEB203, for example – has a lower number than a sophomore-level course such as EEB 245. That occurred, says Anderson, because the lower numbers were the only ones available when the department added the course for juniors and seniors.

Senators briefly debated an alternate proposal offered by physics Professor Philip Mannheim to merely add a “0” to all existing numbers, which he said could be done without involving the University’s more than 100 academic departments. He also said it would make the transition easier.

Von Munkwitz-Smith and other senators, however, said that change would not alleviate the confusion, internally and externally, created by having seniors taking 200 level courses.

Most universities, von Munkwitz-Smith said, use a numbering system similar to the one adopted last Monday, using either 100s or 1000s for freshmen, 200s or 2000s for sophomores, 300s or 3000s for juniors and 400s or 4000s for seniors. Seven of the eight institutions in UConn’s peer group use such systems, three using four digits and four using three digits.

Departments have until November to forward new course numbers to the registrar’s office. That office, and other administrative units, including admissions, will then have until early 2007 to make all the necessary changes in the system. The new numbers will be included in the 2007-08 course catalogue and will go into use in May 2007.

“We hope departments will seize this important opportunity to reflect on the goals and objectives of their curriculum, and analyze the developmental sequence of courses that will best serve the students at different levels,” says Anne Hiskes, an associate professor of philosophy and associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences who served on the committee.

Von Munkwitz-Smith, who led a committee that included Anderson, Hiskes, business Professor David Palmer and Kathryn Hayden, a staff member in the Office of Institutional Research, also said he expects to create a web page that will help faculty make the transition between the new and the old, indicating, for example, what EEB3045 is equivalent to in the current system.

“The process represented the very best of involving every interested party early enough to incorporate their ideas in ways that improved the proposal. It became a collaborative effort with a high quality outcome because everyone knew their views were considered seriously,” Palmer says.