FAQ: Expanded course offerings

Q: Why has the campus decided to expand the number of language courses offered?
A: The recently announced decision to expand the number of foreign language courses offered at UC Berkeley is part of a broader effort campus leaders launched earlier this school year to ensure that students have greater access to certain critical courses that are typically overenrolled.  These “common-good” courses are vitally important to students beyond their own degree programs and broadly serve the intellectual development of students across the campus.

Campus leaders identified three critical areas of the “common-good curriculum” – reading and composition (R&C courses); math and science lower division courses; and foreign language instruction  – where the number of courses offered did not keep pace with the increasing number of students enrolling at UC Berkeley. This effort was designed to allow the campus to meet student demand and to facilitate students’ efforts to graduate on time.

The campus allocated approximately $2.5 million in 2010-11 to expand courses and to address pent-up demand in R&C and math/science courses.  In 2011-12, the amount allocated will increase to $3.75 million, including approximately half a million dollars for foreign languages.  From 2012-13 on, the campus will provide on-going funding to address enrollment demand in these areas of the curriculum

Q.  When will this latest course expansion effort take effect?
A: The increase in the number of basic foreign language courses offered to undergraduates and graduates will begin in fall 2011. The increase in lower-division R&C courses began in 2010-11; the increase in lower-division math and science courses began in spring 2011.

Q: How have the allocations improved access to courses to date?
A: In 2010-11, the campus added over 1,000 enrollment seats for R&C courses.  In spring 2011, the campus added an additional 600 enrollment seats for math/science lower division courses in chemistry, math, physics and statistics.

Campus data show that despite budget cuts, UC Berkeley has been able to protect undergraduate instruction. Although final data are not yet available for spring 2011, projected data for this academic year show that campuswide course offerings have increased at the lower division level for both primary courses (by more than 100) and secondary sections (by more than 50).  The course expansion effort for R&C courses and for math/science lower division courses contributed to this overall increase and helped ensure that additional course offerings were targeted at those areas of the curriculum where students have the most need.  Of course, there will always be individual students who will not get into the course of their choosing.

Q. Given past budget cuts from Sacramento and perhaps more cuts underway, how can the campus afford to take this action?
A: Campus leaders have taken a very strategic approach to cutting costs, generating new funds and increasing efficiencies.  A key component of that effort involves reducing costs on the non-academic side –which is a major component of the campus’s overall cost-saving effort known as Operational Excellence –while also investing in the academic side to maintain academic excellence.

Q. What is the source of the funds?
A: A portion of the undergraduate fee increases, as well as some of the revenue generated by increasing enrollment of out-of-state and international students, is being used to protect the quality of undergraduate instruction, including the effort to expand the number of courses offered in critical areas of the curriculum.

Q: How many new language courses will be offered?
A: The chancellor and the executive vice chancellor & provost announced this month (February 2011) that the campus is allocating more than $500,000 to provide an additional 30 language courses to undergraduate and graduate students in their first four years of language instruction.

Languages that will benefit from the increased funding include Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese.  Multiple sections will be added in high demand languages.  For the coming year, these include Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Spanish.  The campus has also committed additional support for African language instruction in conjunction with a Title VI grant awarded this year.

A joint UC Berkeley Academic Senate and administrative task force made these determinations after reviewing enrollment data for specific language programs, assessing unmet needs, and consulting with department chairs regarding their ability to identify instructors to teach the additional courses and thus launch the new courses.

Q: Who enrolls in most language courses at UC Berkeley? Is there a particular student profile?
A: These courses serve undergraduates as well as some graduate students in a wide range of disciplines, schools and colleges across the campus, including the sciences and engineering—only five percent of students taking such courses represent declared majors in the offering department at either the undergraduate or graduate level.

UC Berkeley offers some 60 ancient and modern languages across 12 departments and programs, making it one of the leading universities in the nation in the breadth and depth of its language curricular offerings.  These courses serve undergraduates as well as graduate students in a wide range of disciplines, schools and colleges across the campus, including the sciences and engineering—only five percent of students taking such courses represent declared majors in the offering department at either the undergraduate or graduate level.

Q: What is the Berkeley Language Center, and why will it receive additional funding?
A: A portion of the course-expansion funding will be directed to the Berkeley Language Center for the operation of language laboratories and classrooms serving UC Berkeley students enrolled in language courses, as well as for activities designed to support the 80 lecturers who teach a large portion of the language courses.