A Better BA

Research Paper, Education, Antonio Buccini, Ivan Holloway

This report investigates the quality and standards of the Bachelor of Arts program that is currently being offered to students at the University of Manitoba. The standards which were used to judge the Honours, Advanced, and General degrees were historical perspective, intrinsic value, and cross-sectional comparisons between institutions. It is important to understand, however, that this is not an exhaustive investigation of the issues currently facing the Bachelor of Arts program. Given its breadth of coverage, it is only feasible to bring attention to problems that have been identified. It was not possible to provide definitive conclusions in any section of the paper. It is our hope, however, that discussion will result from this and further investigation will be initiated where it is deemed necessary.

Government, business, faculty deans, department heads, faculty members, students at large, and student leadership were canvassed. Each group was asked questions based on their unique expertise and perspective. Our main sources of information are interviews, questionnaires, the Institutional Statistics Books, archival records, Faculty of Arts internal reports and studies, University of Manitoba reports and studies, and external reports and studies on post-secondary education.

Included are discussions on grading, undergraduate skills, high school graduate skills, voluntary withdrawal dates, course structure, political correctness, and social and academic culture. Not included in this report are such issues as the quality of academic staff, the hiring and tenure process, and administrative structure and efficiency.

Although this report focuses specifically on the quality and standards of the BA program, many of the issues addressed are in fact issues that pertain to, and have to be dealt with by, the University as a whole. Many issues, such as first year class sizes and library resources, are well-recognized problems but often result from external financial considerations and are not entirely within the control of the Faculty of Arts. Furthermore, many of the concerns raised in this report are not isolated to the Bachelor of Arts program at the University of Manitoba but seem to be common to many universities across Canada and North America.

It is our sincere hope that the information and ideas put forth in this document will constructively contribute to the current fund of knowledge at the University’s disposal to improve the quality of education provided through the BA program- and contribute to the ongoing debate.

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