Government, Economics Rank Low in Department Satisfaction

Danielle Kim

Last year’s seniors panned the economics and government concentrations in the annual exit surveys completed in May, while the English Department ranked first in satisfaction among the largest concentrations.

The 2010 senior survey, compiled by the Office of Research and Analysis in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, was distributed to the Faculty earlier this month and obtained by The Crimson this weekend.

Despite their low scores, economics and government—the two largest concentrations in the College—followed a FAS-wide trend of improving survey scores since the beginning of the decade.

Economics and government received scores of 3.72 and 3.92 respectively in a five-point satisfaction scale, below the 4.18 mean among the 38 FAS concentrations with more than six respondents.

But both departments rose nearly half a point since 2002, the earliest year cited in the report.


Other large concentrations fared better while displaying similar improvements since 2002. History and psychology both ranked just below the mean, while Social Studies received a 4.33­­—the highest score among the five largest concentrations.

English, which improved from 3.94 to 4.34 between 2002 to 2010, ranked the highest in concentration satisfaction for departments over 50 students.

English administrators and concentrators said that its high rating is primarily due to departmental reforms in 2009.

“I don’t want to sound overconfident, but one obvious reason is the new curriculum,” English Department Chair W. James Simpson said. “It has four distinct aspects: new common ground courses, much smaller classes, more electives, and a new advisory system that allows much closer access with students.”

The English department’s reforms are part of a broader movement to re-engineer existing departmental advising models across FAS.

The economics department overhauled its advising structure last year, while government continues to tweak an advising model that has been revamped over several years.

In an e-mail to the English department community, Simpson listed a series of high marks found in the concentration survey.

Satisfaction ratings doubled in departmental advising, intellectual excitement, quality of instruction, and overall satisfaction, Simpson wrote.

“I congratulate each constituency of the department on this remarkable result, and look forward to building on these figures as we move forward,” Simpson wrote in his e-mail.

English concentrators also praised the recent changes—such as small-sized “common ground” courses that explore literary themes—saying that the reforms increased face time between students and professors.