The current English department curriculum has been in place for 10 years. TOM KUHN/THE VARSITY

After a two-year program review, the English department is changing the requirements for its specialist and major programs, effective for this year’s enrolment. The department is also introducing more courses that focus on broader themes.

The changes are intended to allow for more flexibility through decreased breadth requirements within the program and a clearer path for students to choose courses. The department has also introduced an Indigenous and postcolonial literature requirement.

The new requirements will apply to all students enrolling in English programs beginning in 2018, and current students in the program will be able to switch to the new requirements if they are interested.

One of the significant changes to the program is adapting 300-level courses to cover broader themes in literature instead of specific historical periods or authors, as is currently the case.

According to Professor Jeremy Lopez, introducing 300-level “topics” courses will give more freedom to “instructors who want to teach some kind of course that might combine or transcend or move between periods or genres of national literatures.”

The program will also include four new “gateway courses” that are intended to give English students a strong background in the major areas of English literature and help them succeed in upper-level courses. These courses will be the first required English courses and will be designed to foster a sense of community for the specialist and major students who take them.

Three new courses will be introduced to help increase interest in English programs, including a course geared toward science students called Literature and the Sciences.

In addition to making changes to the program, Lopez said that the changes are also set against the backdrop of decreasing student enrolment in English programs over the past five years.

“The current curriculum has been around for 10 years, and usually curriculums have about a 10 year life,” explained Lopez.

The decrease in English enrolment at U of T is not specific to this university or subject, but it is part of a wider trend of reduced enrolment in the humanities at many universities. In acknowledging this trend, the English department’s focus was “increasing the value of the program in the face of it being smaller.”

Elena Matas, a third-year English student, believes that the changes strike a good balance between giving students freedom of choice and providing them with a clear trajectory.

“It gives students the opportunity to explore important aspects of the literary canon,” said Matas. “But it also gives them flexibility in their later years to study the aspect of literature that appeals the most to them, which is an opportunity I wish I had gotten.”

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