GLOBALIZATION – THIS is undoubtedly one of the hottest trends of the 21st Century. Recently, many universities have been taking measures to globalize through exchange programs, inviting their students to go abroad, to see the bigger world. Through exchange programs, students are able to visit schools in foreign countries and experience a different lifestyle. Most students recommend this experience and rate it very highly. However, once the students return to their home universities, they often become frustrated due to difficulties in the process of having their credits approved. Where does it all go wrong and what is causing this difficulty among students? Wallposter has taken this chance to look closely and analyze the conflicts that arise from the process of approving academic credit from exchange program.
The Standards and Process of Credit Transfer
Many people who have been on the student exchange programs, especially sun-baes or the upperclassmen, recommend that students go on student exchange student programs. This is because student exchange programs allow students to experience another country’s culture and environment, while they study. However, according to Kim Young-mi, (Sr., Dept. of Chinese Language and Lit. and Dept. of Econ.), herself and those who have had these experiences, advice students around them to expect spending another term after coming back from the program. This is because of the difficulty many students face in getting approvals for the credits they earned during their exchange programs. Thus, the students must prepare to register for an extra term to make up for the missing credits, ultimately extending the number of terms for graduation. However, is this true? Which aspects of credit approval is the actual cause of this complication?
Before getting into details, there are two main types of approvals students can receive: approval as a major and as a subject. Whether the earned credit is qualified to be a major or not, depends solely on the dean of the college. The dean compares the course syllabus of the university abroad, with the syllabus of the same titled course in Yonsei. The comparisons are made to check if the two curricula are similar enough to be considered as the same major. Once the earned credit is marked as either a major or a subject, it is the department chair who decides which level, from 1000 to 4000, the course marked as a major belongs to or which type of elective the course marked as a subject is. Through the same process the dean goes through to classify major credits, the department chair classifies the subject credits.
Apart from the standards, the actual process of applying and receiving approval for the credits is just as important. After the student hand in the syllabi, bulletin and “Credit Transfer Form” to the Office of International Affairs, their transcript with the grades from the university abroad will be converted into grades in Yonsei. The student must next receive the official seals from both the department chair and dean of college, and only then can all these documents be submitted to the Registrar’s Team for the final approval. Along with the standards kept it mind, this is the process the student must go through in order to transfer credits to Yonsei.
The Students’ Misunderstandings
Based on the standards and process revealed previously, the process itself of the credit transfer is complex, but not impossible to perform. Then where do the problems occur? Why do former students, like Kim, who have been on exchange programs say that they must risk losing one term? Kang Chul-won (Staff, YIC Administration Center) has presented two areas where students may potentially be misled.
First of all, perhaps one of the biggest misunderstandings among students is caused by the quarter based schools abroad. Yonsei University is based on semesters, but the majority of the schools in the U.S. and Europe use the trimester system, with each quarter held in spring, fall and winter. The problem is two quarters would be longer than a semester but one quarter would be shorter than a semester. Because of this difference in systems, there are limitations to converting credits earned from the quarter based system to the semester based system of Yonsei University. According to university regulations, conversion of credits from a quarter based system to credits of a semester based system is done by calculating two thirds of the credits received in the quarter based school. Students often misinterpret this act assuming that Yonsei University ignores partial credits, but this is not true. Students are definitely not losing credits.
Moreover, one misconception students hold is that it takes a lot of time for the Registrar’s Team to approve credits is a huge misunderstanding. According to Kang, this belief is another fallacy because it is mostly the students who delay their work in meeting up with either the dean of college or the department chairs. On every introductory session on Student Abroad Programs and Visiting Student Programs, he explains to the students about this process and advices them to start the process of receiving approval for credits after a month since they return to Yonsei. Those who also have a double major or minor should especially start the process as soon as possible, since they have more credits to get approved of. This way, the students will know during their vacation period what class they have to register for, in order to graduate in time.
Another cause of the extra-term risk and delayed graduation is a case where the students do not hand in all of the necessary documents required by the Registrar’s Team. If the student is missing a single document, out of all the listed documents, the Registrar’s Team cannot approve the credits. Therefore because of that one document, the student will have to find either the dean of college or department chair again, receive the approval and bring it back. This frustrating and complicated process could have to be started all over because of a single document.
Yonsei University’s Consideration
In order to surely say that Yonsei University has provided the students all they could, some notifications must be clarified, so that there is no further misunderstanding in the future. There are two rules that have been established by the school’s administration for the students’ benefit. These two rules are both associated with the process of approving credits, and have made it easier for students to receive credits than the past.
One of the rules is applied in the process of calculating the students’ credits. This usually occurs while converting credits from schools abroad to Yonsei. Because the credits are converted, from quarter based schools to a semester based school, the resulting credit is likely to include a decimal point. Yonsei University has been very generous to the students by allowing them to round up the received credits, despite it not being roundable. For example, if a total of 20 credits were to be converted, the result would be 13.3. Mathematically this number cannot be rounded up but the Yonsei University Registrar’s Team rounds the number up, providing the students with 14 credits.
Certain parts of the credit system are not the only benefits for the students. Yonsei University has also widened the scope as to what extent students can receive credits. Kang has also stated that since the year 2011 or 2012, Yonsei University acknowledges the credits as long as the students have not received an F on the subject. Before, students were not able to receive approval of credit for subjects with a D or lower. However, Yonsei University now gives students more chances and privileges by relaxing the standards. These two chances have been provided by Yonsei University for the benefit of not the schools, but for the students.
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Misinterpretation is the result of lack of communication. If the school had advertised clearly to the students about the introductory sessions, perhaps it could have caused less confusion among students, because then they would have heard of the necessary information. Both the students and the school are responsible for the current situation, and earlier measure should have been made to clarify any misunderstanding. Once a compromise can be made by both sides, perhaps there, will come a day when there will be no more misunderstanding regarding the student exchange program.