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Harvard Goes Global

Harvard University announced recommendations on Monday for a sweeping overhaul of its curriculum to require undergraduates to study or do research abroad, place a greater emphasis on the sciences and establish a new set of core classes.

William C. Kirby, dean of the faculty of arts and sciences, described the proposed emphasis as "an integral part of what it means to be educated in the first part of the 21st century."

"If you're going to come to Harvard College, it would be very good to have a passport," he said.

The report from an undergraduate curriculum review committee capped about 18 months of review of Harvard's curriculum, which has not been substantially examined or changed in three decades.

The committee also recommended that the current system of general education be replaced with a new system in which faculty would be responsible for defining what students should learn and how, so that they continue to learn long after graduation.

In addition, the university would give graduates until the middle of their sophomore year to declare a major, rather than in the freshman year, and require fewer core course requirements for a major.

The recommendations would set aside the month of January for students to pursue experimental programs, and create small classes, including a required "small-group, faculty-led seminar" in the first year.

Any curriculum changes would require a majority vote of the arts and sciences faculty, Kirby said. He said he expected the faculty to vote on changes next year, and those could be implemented within two years.

The changes would mean a significant increase in the size of the faculty. There currently are close to 2,000 faculty members and about 6,600 undergraduates, according to statistics posted on Harvard's Web site.

The review of Harvard's curriculum was launched in the fall of 2002 following revelations of grade inflation at the school, where 91 percent of seniors graduated with some kind of honors in 2001.

By Theo Emery