Villanova University is nationally renowned as a liberal arts-based university. As such, it requires an extensive core curriculum, the goal of which is to ensure that each student develops a solid, well-rounded foundation of knowledge and exposure to broader perspectives and subjects. While the intentions are honest, this curriculum must be tempered by the need to provide students the best educational opportunities in their chosen field of study. Due to schedule restrictions imposed by the overlapping core requirements, many students find themselves unable to dive deeper into their chosen major or explore other areas that are of interest to them outside of their major or the traditional humanities.
Students in the College of Arts and Sciences are required to take two Augustine and Culture Seminar courses, along with two philosophy and one ethics course. The subject matter, reading and discussions required of courses are not only overlapping but are oftentimes identical. Professors commonly cover the same select readings of Aristotle, Plato and Augustine in these five courses. While exposure to these works is certainly beneficial, even necessary to a solid educational foundation, the constant revisiting of these materials is neither beneficial nor necessary and serves only to prohibit students from enrolling in courses more directly applicable to their desired learnings.
Currently, the core curriculum for the College of Arts and Sciences requires 22 separate courses. This means that the average student uses more than half of his or her courses to fulfill requirements outside of their major. This situation is not unique to the College of Arts and Sciences; Villanova School of Business also requires 14 liberal arts courses, in addition to several general introduction-level courses to each of the various fields of business.
To students, the seemingly excessive core requirements can be very frustrating. It leaves students with less flexibility to choose courses in which they are genuinely interested. This has an adverse effect on student investment in the course and could lead to more skipped classes and lower levels of achievement. Unmotivated and irritated students affect the classroom environment and professor satisfaction.
While we should definitely take pride in our liberal arts programs, it may be time to rethink which courses are necessary assets to our education. A strong liberal arts program is founded on outstanding curricula and superb teachers, not the sheer quantity of courses involved in the program. It is possible that a downsizing of the core curriculum, allowing students to pursue their own diverse interests, could effectively improve the overall quality of an already laudable program.