Research Proposal: Why Do University Students Make Changes To Their Degree?

The topic I intend to explore for my BCM212 research project is why university students make changes to their degree. Specifically, I would like to find out whether students generally stick with their degree or make some kind of change and why. I also want to consider the fact that some students may not actually enact the process of making these changes, but just ponder on the idea.

Some of the changes students could make to their degree are moving into a second degree to form a double degree program, adding a different major, or switching degrees entirely. This topic resonates with me personally as I have made a change to my degree, I moved from a double degree program into the singular Bachelor of Communication and Media Studies course.

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I believe this research project is timely, as we live in a generation where more Australians are attending University than ever. A 2015 article written by Nick Parr for The Conversation discussed the annual Department of Education statistics and showed that there were 1.2 million higher education students in Australia as of 2013, compared to numbers of around 400,000 in the mid 1980’s.

More university students often means more degrees to choose from, leaving higher chances for students to make changes at some point in time due to the greater amount of options. The University of Wollongong (UOW) for example, currently offers over 400 degrees (University of Wollongong 2018) catering to over 32,000 students (University of Wollongong 2017). The large amount of degree choices can be both exciting and overwhelming for students due to the differing reasons they wish to make changes to their course.

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UOW course areas

This transitions into the relevance of this project, institutions such as UOW may find the research gathered from this project helpful. Understanding why students are making changes to their degrees can allow UOW to ensure effective support systems are in place, as certain research implies that many students find it difficult to alter their degree. A 2015 article written by Amira Langton for Career Chronicles details her close friends experience with changing her degree pathway. Amira’s friend Caitlin stated “I had never really quit anything before so I really struggled with feelings of inadequacy”. Caitlin discussed that it seems easier to not make any real changes, however she encouraged anyone else in her situation to really make the jump if you know “it is the right thing for you in all aspects”.

A similar article was written by Anna Tims for The Guardian in 2010, with the first line reading “switching subjects at University is not easy”. The mere headlines of these articles, “What if you have chosen the wrong degree?” and “why it’s OK to change degrees” hint that there is a negative perception associated with changing university courses. In terms of a current support network at UOW, there is a webpage and a course transfer form that detail information on how students can change their degree, as well as relevant faculty contact information. This research project may provide scope on how UOW could expand the support services in this specific area.

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Changing a course at UOW

While continuing my research as to whether there was something interesting to explore with this topic, I came across many forum posts on the website ‘Whirlpool‘ by searching the keywords “changing degrees”, which further attests to this being a real issue students are discussing. I also conducted my own primary research to add further evidence to my project proposal, I conducted a twitter poll asking my fellow peers if they had either made changes to their degree or thought about changing their degree, or if they had left things the same as when they first began University. My poll recorded 36 votes, with only 28% of the participants stating they had kept their degree the same.

Being able to conduct primary research such as this is what makes my project achievable due to the large pool of students at UOW. I will eventually conduct more detailed surveys, gathering information such as reasoning why my peers have changed their degrees, and whether they experienced any difficulty in the process. I will also seek to gather more secondary research, such as additional statistics, articles or academic sources that will enrich my research project into something I will be proud of.

Reference List:

Langton, A 2015, ‘How to follow your passion: why it’s OK to change degrees’, CareerChronicles, 15 November, viewed 13 March 2018, <http://careerchronicles.com.au/why-its-ok-to-change-your-degree/>.

Parr, N 2015, ‘Who goes to university? The changing profile of our students’, The Conversation, 25 May, viewed 13 March 2018, <http://theconversation.com/who-goes-to-university-the-changing-profile-of-our-students-40373>.

Tims, A 2010, ‘What if you have chosen the wrong degree?’, The Guardian, 20 November, viewed 13 March 2018, <https://www.theguardian.com/money/2010/nov/20/wrong-degree-switching-subjects>.

University of Wollongong 2018, Future Students, University of Wollongong, viewed 13 March, <https://www.uow.edu.au/future/index.html>.

University of Wollongong 2017, Manage Your Enrollment –> Changing Course, University of Wollongong, viewed 13 March 2018, <https://www.uow.edu.au/student/enrolment/UOW153663.html#changecourse>.

University of Wollongong 2017, Statistics, University of Wollongong, viewed 13 March 2018, <https://www.uow.edu.au/about/statistics/index.html>.

Whirlpool 2018, Forums –> Search –> “changing courses”, Whirlpool, viewed 13 March, <https://forums.whirlpool.net.au/forum/?action=search&q=changing+degrees>.

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