UCLA students enrolled in six different interdepartmental programs housed under the International Institute will report to the same administration beginning this fall.
The change will cut down administrative costs, open up funds for additional sections and provide further support for the programs, officials said.
An interdepartmental program is a degree that draws on multiple areas of study that focus on a specific topic. Under the new program, six degrees will be condensed into four. Two of the degrees will have redefined geographic areas.
The Southeast Asian studies and East Asian studies programs will be combined to create Asian studies, and two programs focusing on different parts of Africa will be combined to include the entire continent, said Michael Thies, chair of the new international and area studies interdepartmental program.
The four majors that will fall under the new program are Latin studies, European studies, Asian studies, and African and Middle Eastern studies degrees.
These programs do not have their own academic departments and rely heavily on other departments to find teachers for their sections.
In the past, these programs have drawn from the history department to put the history of the areas under study in context, Thies said.
When teachers are borrowed from other departments, the departments ask for compensation to find someone to replace the borrowed faculty, said Richard Weiss, chair of the UCLA Academic Senate's Undergraduate Council.
In tight budget times, this has become increasingly problematic. The history department is shrinking because faculty are retiring, and the university does not have the money to replace them, Thies said.
Under the new program, students can still graduate with degrees in area studies, such as Latin studies. The main difference is that the administration of each program is now combined with those of the other area studies majors instead of operating independently.
The decision to consolidate began about seven years ago when the programs were evaluated as good ideas that required more classes and faculty, Thies said. He added that the International Institute, which itself is not a department, did not have the money to sustain the small programs by hiring more teachers.
Since then, leadership at the International Institute have brainstormed ways to improve the programs without breaking the bank. Without making administrative changes, the programs may have been cut, Weiss said.
Andrew Leuchter, chair of the UCLA Academic Senate, said academic potential was the driving force in the decision making process but acknowledged that funding restrictions played a role as well.
Under the new curriculum requirements, students will not only take courses specific to their major. A set of core classes will teach students how to look at international and area studies, providing a common experience without eliminating concentrations, Weiss said.
Each major will culminate in a capstone project, Thies said.
Changes in the curriculum are intended to make it easier to enroll in the necessary classes and graduate on time, Thies said.
Previously, the small size of the programs made it difficult for students to get the classes they needed because the classes were offered so infrequently.
When students heard it would be hard to graduate on time, they stopped signing up, Thies said.
Officials had discussed creating a single international and area studies major, but they felt that would dilute the various areas of study too much.
One professor of Southeast Asian studies expressed concern that Southeast Asian studies will be consolidated into Asian studies, Thies said. The faculty member thought Southeast Asian studies major can function independently, Thies said.
He added that the committee was sensitive to the concerns of faculty members and all decisions were thoroughly reviewed.
The graduate programs in these fields of study will remain unaffected. Minors in these areas of study will be modified to better match the new majors that will be finalized within the coming months, Thies said.
Students who have already declared their majors have the choice of continuing along the old path or switching to the new program.