In the era of millennials, universities and colleges are looking for programs that fit today’s diverse labour market.

Self-design programs are bachelor of arts or science degrees that give students the liberty to choose most or all of their classes. Each year, more universities and colleges in the U.S. and Canada offer this type of program. Today, there are more than 30 self-design program universities around the world.

(Graphic by Ammi Parmar)

Since 2008, Ryerson has offered an undeclared arts program to first-year students, allowing them to choose all of their classes. Last year the school changed the syllabus of their arts and contemporary studies degree  in order to give students more liberty and options on class selection. Now, students who attend this program can create their own curriculum.

Maggie Currie, a fourth-year contemporary studies student, says that the flexibility of her course enables her to only study things that interest her. Currie thinks this should be every student’s goal.

“I think this program is really liberating because it recognizes that an individual has many different interests,” she said. “Regardless of the labour market, you have to enjoy your career. But how are you going to know what you like if you are only studying one thing for four years?’’

Self-design programs allow students to take courses from different fields. Currie, for example, says that this semester she is taking a class on world religions and another one on environmental issues.

Some critics say this educational ambiguity might leave students to graduate from programs that have no real demand in the labour market. A study that was published in September, conducted in more than 30 universities around the world, found that 80 per cent of students are enrolled in programs that have no demand in the job market.

Ian Ingles, a career education specialist from the Career Center at Ryerson, disagrees. He says that the job market has changed, and employers are now looking for comprehensive professionals who are able to take on several tasks.

“A lot of employers want graduates with a well-rounded skill set,” Ingles said. “A lot of science-related jobs, for example, have report writing, presentations and communication. These are now all key aspects of any job.”

Kathleen Kellett-Betsos, associate dean of the Faculty of Arts, says self-design programs give students the ability to keep up with the constant changes in the labour market.

“There are jobs that exist today that did not exist before. With programs like contemporary studies, we look for students to develop an overall sense of how the world functions,” she said.

This year, Dell Technologies published a study estimating that 85 per cent of the jobs that will exist in 2030 have not been invented yet.

Self-design programs might be the answer for some of these future professions.

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