1. About
  2. Features
  3. Explore

A student from another university is planning on taking a class I'll be teaching this fall and will be doing it as a transient student. Apparently, in order to have their transient status approved, they need a copy of the course syllabus, and so requested it from me by email.

I don't normally finalize my syllabi until a few days before classes start — certainly not five months in advance —, and the course itself is not one that is identical each semester so I don't feel comfortable just sending an old syllabus. (And even that wouldn't exist if it were a new class or a special topics class)

It seems odd to need the syllabi so early — AFAIK the normal process is for his home institution to review the syllabi after taking the classes to determine credit given.

So two parter:

  1. Is this a normal request that somehow has just never come by me before?
  2. If it is, how do you handle for courses that don't have syllabus ready to go?

1 Answer 1

Is this a normal request that somehow has just never come by me before?

I've never heard of such a request either, and I've being writing syllabi at American universities for a good while now. So...not too normal, anyway.

If it is, how do you handle for courses that don't have syllabus ready to go?

In my local academic culture, a course syllabus is a good faith effort to inform students of key course procedures and requirements. It does not absolutely bind the instructor to do what the syllabus says; I would say only that an instructor has an ethical requirement to make changes in the course syllabus for good reasons. In fact, at my university it is a standard practice to include the following sentence in course syllabi:

The course syllabus is a general plan for the course; deviations announced to the class by the instructor may be necessary.

Thus I would say that the most helpful thing you could do would be to make a tentative syllabus for the course, which includes language at least as strong as the above. You should be clear to the student that this syllabus need not be the same as the one you'll give out on the first day of class. However, if the student needs a syllabus in order to take the class (no, not a practice I recognize, but there is a lot of academic bureaucracy out there), this seems to be the best way to accommodate the request.

By the way, I think you are certainly within your rights to say, "Course syllabi are simply not available five months in advance. Based on the conditions you mention, it seems that you will not be able to enroll in the course." That is, you are certainly not obligated to hack together a tentative or pseudo-syllabus in order to accommodate someone else's bureaucratic requirement. Whether it is worth your time to do so is really up to you.