Why is it so hard to enrol in courses from other faculties? Osiris says …. NO!

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Students at Utrecht University are encouraged to make their education as interdisciplinary as possible by enrolling in courses from other faculties. Medical student Matthew Tan thinks that’s a good idea. However, in practice he and other students often get frustrated because Osiris makes it difficult to register for relevant courses at another faculty.

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Have you ever tried signing up for a course that is really applicable to your field of study, only to find out on Osiris that you can’t do so? To add insult to injury, the notification provides no further explanation on why you are not allowed to take the course, other than that you are registered at a department or faculty other than the one providing said course.

Or perhaps you are someone who has had to turn down a student enthusiastic about the course you are giving because of an administrative order reserving the course for students of a specific programme - even though you know there is enough space to accommodate a few extra students. Either way, this can be a point of annoyance for students and lecturers alike, given the university’s commitment to interdisciplinary education.

We, as a university community, put alumni like Rutger Bregman on a pedestal for their interdisciplinary approach to understanding the world we live in. A generation before student loans, they took their time to broadly explore their chosen field from varying perspectives while mingling with students from a diverse academic pool. This interdisciplinary approach has borne much fruit. Bregman himself attended courses in philosophy and sociology, next to his major in history, and has credited part of his achievements to the broad and liberal education he received at the UU during his time as a student.

Yet, the ability to take courses across different faculties outside of the prescribed script constitutes an administrative hurdle for some students today. To quote a Dutch proverb, such students often lose sight of the forest while navigating through the trees of red tape. That said, the UU has certainly attempted to implement an interdisciplinary spirit as well as spread cooperation between faculties. Programmes such as Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE), One Health, and Liberal Arts & Sciences show that the UU is committed to providing a broad and holistic education. Even a relatively rigid programme, such as Medicine, offers minor tracks ranging from Data Science to Medical Humanities. Such initiatives to bridge different fields have been met with applause by students and staff alike.

Nevertheless, stray outside of the beaten path and you will likely be met with resistance from course coordinators who are likely to come up with a bureaucratic reason why you cannot enrol or be considered for an exception. Obviously, students for whom these courses are mandatory should be prioritised. However, this need not always result in the exclusion of other students should extra spots be available. After all, that’s where there is opportunity for further growth. Hence, the plea to get rid of the strict course enrolment restrictions on Osiris, or to at the very least provide an alternative. For example, by making the course material openly available and more large-scale lectures publicly accessible for students to attend. Consequently, making it a tad easier for students to acquire knowledge, not required of them but rather required by them.

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