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Common First Year on the Cards?

Dec 20 2001 15:37
Simon Scrapmetal
Imperial College’s re-organisation into a faculty-based structure could be the first step towards common first years for IC courses.
Rumours suggest that Sir Richard Sykes is in favour of common first years.

With Imperial’s faculties now taking administrative shape, questions are beginning to be raised about how courses at Imperial should adapt to take advantage of the new situation. Amidst various unexciting suggestions for allowing students to take advanced courses taught by departments other than their own the controversial topic of a common first year appears to be rearing its head again.

Some rumours have suggested that the Rector himself is in favour of the idea, with even extreme options such as a common first year for all courses at Imperial College (including Medicine) under consideration. While this remains an outside possibility, a common first year for each faculty seems much more likely – with substantial similarities between many modules taken in different departments in the first year. An obvious candidate for the elimination of duplication in first year modules is the engineering mathematics course, taught virtually identically across a variety of departments.

There are also suggestions that a slimmed down, less specific common first year could be a way of moving Imperial from 4 to 5 year degrees. The reaction of current students to any concrete proposal along these lines remains to be seen.

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Discussion about “Common First Year on the Cards?”

The comments below are unmoderated submissions by Live! readers. The Editor accepts no liability for their content, nor for any offence caused by them. Any complaints should be directed to the Editor.
Dec 21 2001 00:34

Admit students to the college and not the departments. Allow students to pick their courses, with requisite number of courses in certain concentrations to graduate. Some compulsory courses are so unimportant and boring. Making courses optional would force some lecturers to pull up their socks.

Dec 21 2001 10:10

I can see how a common first year might make sense for those who don't know what they want to do, but it makes no sense at all for people who DO know, which I think would include 99% of medics (you kinda have to prove you're committed from interview).

I'd be interested in other views...

Dec 21 2001 22:32

Common first years = bad.

Any objections?

Dec 21 2001 22:58

One of the reasons people come to IC rather than certain other places, is becuase they do not have to spend two years (or even one) doing courses they don't want to do! Nothing against other Engineering courses, but I like Electrical so i chose EEE. If I had wanted to do Mech Eng, I would have applied for it!!

5. Buffy   
Dec 21 2001 23:02

Sounds like IC is tending towards two other well known universities! I wonder which?

Dec 22 2001 21:24


For the Faculty of Engineering, at least, a common first year "is not on the agenda" - the Principal's choice of words, note mine.

It is true that at a brainstorming session for Faculty Officers, someone, whose name happened to be Richard Sykes, suggested a Common First Year for the whole of IC. The Idea being that everyone would come together to form a single IC community spirit, rather than pigeon-holing themselves in their department. Of course, the first year would be watered-down academically (very American. This would therefore mean 5 years to an MEng/MSci (rather than the current 4) and would neatly help IC become the first English university to implement the Bologne Declaration (if we stop doing BEng / BSc).

In practice, everyone at the brainstorming session agreed that:

  • it was too complicated to even think about whether it was a good idea!
  • timetabling would be a nightmare
  • you would have to split everyone into groups of 100 so (about the same size as a dept...)

However, I think it was an interesting idea, despite the practicalities. Its certainly *not* the same as having a common Engineering first year like Oxbridge. You would still have just an in-depth course by virtue of the extra year.

Dec 22 2001 22:34

5 years at IC, just so i can do some stupid common first year?

I think not ladies and gentlemen.

what value does a common first year actually have... What does a biology degree and an electronic engineering degree have in common? I really don't see the point of doing this. If you want to foster community spirit, create more nice communal ares in college. Turn Sherfield into an amusement park so everyone from every course can enjopy themselves as a community during the lunch hour.

in fact do whatever you want, just don't introduce a common first year just to be trendy. It's the one reason i didn't apply to Canbridge, don't make me hate Imperial too.

Dec 23 2001 13:07

Well if IC really want to become an overspill for people who couldn't get into Oxbridge that's their problem.

The reason I applied to IC (real ISE) has already gone anyway.

Dec 24 2001 18:45

Don't get me started on whether 5 years is a long time at IC....


Dec 24 2001 22:16

We could all become more like medics! What a terrible thought...

Feb 12 2002 16:17

So, as degrees become more expense to complete, with tution fees to pay and less financial support (and that you get having to be paid back) IC thinks another year would be good? Do they just want rich students to come here or something?

Feb 15 2002 00:57

I would have liked to learn about other areas of engineering than just eee. Many jobs require a broad understanding of several disciplies as well as specialisation in one. If you're an electronic engineer working on an engine management system, but you dont know suck squash bang blow, you are unlikely to be as good as someone who does. If the common first year was set up so you could stick mainly to one discipline if you wanted, but could also do courses in other areas then it would be a good idea. Perhaps someone who studied biology and electronic engineering would be well set to work on things like the new analogue cochlea implant developed by Prof Tomazou for example.

Feb 17 2002 00:02

Contrary to popular opinion, Andy, there's no requirement to extend what is already a long degree course by being a Sabb... :)

14. Atul   
Feb 17 2002 15:49

The 1st and 2nd Year maths of most engineering departments are common already since they are taught (and the exam papers set) by the Maths department.

Closed This discussion is closed.

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