Reserved seats at enrolment makes internal transfers frustrating

Changing a declared major is hard when departments prioritize their own students

Sampling other disciplines is necessary but often difficult. Photo courtesy of Daniil Kuželev via Unsplash

Author: Kitty Cheung, Staff Writer

As enrolment comes around, my love/hate relationship with the School of Computing Science rears its ugly head. I’ve had my fair share of enrolment difficulties as an intended internal transfer student. To give a bit of background, I entered university with an intended program of world literature. While exploring other courses and pursuing my WQB requirements, I decided I wanted to switch majors into computing science (CMPT).

Part of what makes this particular transfer process difficult is the number of seats in CMPT courses that are reserved for declared students in CMPT or associated programs, such as engineering, data science, and mathematics and computing science. As a designated arts student, when it comes to course enrolment, I can only add myself to the waitlist. It won’t be until the second week of classes that I’ll actually be added to the course. This is assuming there will still be space at that time.

I do not say this to boast, but my enrolment date is usually pretty damn early. Despite placing myself on the waitlist early though, enrolment priority still goes to the students listed above (those studying engineering, data science, etc.). This means that if I place myself on the waitlist at spot number one and someone declared in engineering waitlists after me, they will get pushed in front to spot number one and I get bumped below.

The irony that many intended internal transfer students face is that you’re not allowed to directly enroll in your program’s courses unless you’re a declared student in that program. The thing is, in order to complete the transfer process and declare your major, you need to have completed a certain number of courses . . . the ones you can’t get into because of these bureaucratic processes.

It’s a headache, for sure. If SFU prides itself on being “Canada’s leading comprehensive university,” specifically by making it a requirement for students to take Writing, Quantitative, and Breadth (WQB) courses to give us a more well-rounded breadth of knowledge and generally prepare us for our careers, why is it so difficult to explore different options? 

I do believe that space should be made for declared students to enroll in their required courses. However, this system makes it difficult for intended transfer students or even students merely wanting to explore different subjects to actually try out these courses.

In a perfect world abstracted from budget constraints and university politics, we could solve these issues by hiring more professors and expanding course offerings to accommodate students trying to get into obviously popular classes. 

Working within the realm of reality, however, SFU could do more to work with students at the course planning phase so that students looking to internally transfer or explore other academic avenues aren’t necessarily disadvantaged by declared students. This could involve polling the student body on its intended academic pathways either via web survey or as part of the course evaluation process. The university could also set percentage limitations for courses that don’t have them and adjust them for the courses that do (60% for declared students, 20% for students in associated programs, and 20% for students who fall outside of these characteristics, for example).

Students shouldn’t feel pigeonholed into their first program of choice due to course allocation limitations. The ability to sample a wide variety of courses and disciplines is one of SFU’s advertised strengths. It should do more to make internal transfers easier for its students.