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Think before you go for dual majors

It may open new career options in multiple fields but may at the same time, deprive you of in-depth knowledge of a subject reports Vimal Chander Joshi

education Updated: Jul 14, 2010 10:24 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi

Dr BR Ambedkar University set a precedent in Delhi if not in the entire country by being one of the first to start a four-year dual major programme at the undergraduate level. The programme was started after a lot of deliberations among industry-academia committees, says Dr Shyam Menon, vice chancellor. “We had a series of meetings with leading teachers from the University of Delhi, experts from the CII (Confederation of Indian Industry), development agencies and companies to design the curriculum. This four year long dual major programme will give a broader base to the students who want to develop a multi dimensional approach towards learning,” he says.

|Though the concept of dual majors is in its nascent stage in India, in western countries especially in the US varsities, it finds many takers.

With industry jobs getting multi-dimensional, and job roles that demand the knowledge of more than one stream becoming the order of the day, dual majors could be the next ‘in-thing’ in the future campuses. “Employers don’t want graduates of just one discipline. If an IT company needs a manager, an MBA with technical background is preferred,” says career counsellor Usha Albuquerque.

Guided by varied interests and inclinations, Amrita Dhillon, a student of Bard College, New York, enrolled for a Bachelor of Arts with majors in psychology and history last year. The subjects though, are not related but she calls this the “right” combination and a sound grounding to pursue her future goal of becoming a lawyer. “A human rights lawyer must understand the social psychology and history is something which I enjoy studying,” says Dhillon.

Dhillon appreciates the study of diverse combinations, which helps you become an all-rounder. In the first semester, she studied subjects as diverse as modern European history, introduction to psychology, calculus and jazz. “I took jazz because I like to sing. It’s a common practice in US universities to choose the courses as diverse as chalk and cheese.”

Bard College is not alone. Penn State University also encourages students to pick more than one discipline at the undergraduate level. “Multiple majors and minors allow students to be truly well-rounded in their education while also preparing them for the required flexibility that a modern workplace demands,” says Dr Christian Brady, dean of the Schreyer Honours College, Penn State University.

Here we must note that studying dual major also has a few disadvantages. Some universities do not encourage their students to study dual majors. College of Arts and Science of Cornell University makes provisions for those wishing to study dual majors but cautions them against probable repercussions. “Completing two majors within eight semesters will mean losing some of the flexibility built into the arts and sciences degree which allows you to explore a variety of interests,” says the university website.

The USIEF (United States India Education Foundation), however, endorses dual major options. “A double major is especially helpful when they are complementary the student who has a double major in finance and economics is more knowledgeable (and can do more for an employer) than someone who only studied one of those majors,” says Renuka Raja Rao, country coordinator, educational advising services, USIEF.