Three-year College Proposal, Neglected Since

President's Report

The following quotations are excerpts from the President's annual report to the Board of Overseers for the academic year 1949-50, delivered January 8, 1951:

"It is my conviction that we should, and I hope that in the coming months the different faculties here at Harvard will give careful consideration to this question. No one type of institution alone is involved. It seems to me that the four-year liberal arts colleges which are separate from a university, the university colleges like Yale and Harvard, the universities which combine undergraduate and professional work--all have an obligation to re-examine their curricula. In all probability the youth of this nation will be called on to devote two years to military duty. For many, if not at all, the time for entering college will come two years later than in the past, at 20 rather than 18. Can the use of summers and more intensive work in term time enable such students to cover four years' college work in two and a half years or three? How serious would be the sacrifice of some of the imponderables of college life involved in any increase in the tempo? What can be done to shorten professional education with out great damage to the quality of the training?

"In Harvard College it is relatively easy to schedule a satisfactory three-year program for the able students who are willing to increase somewhat the load in the regular terms and to study at least one summer. Indeed I see no reason why, for students who have served two years in uniform, the three-year degree which was so common forty years ago might not mark the usual completion of work in Harvard College.

"In speaking favorably of an undergraduate course of three years, I realize that I am stirring the cold ashes of a fire which once blazed furiously in the Harvard Yard. But the decision of forty years ago which in effect negated President Eliot's repeated proposal for shortening the undergraduate course reflected in large measure the relaxed atmosphere of the period. We may recall that atmosphere with nostalgia, but we cannot recapture the presuppositions of the United States of 1900-1910. Therefore there is no reason why educational decisions then made apparently for all time should not be re-examined."