Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Getting to the core

Earlier this month we published a post with a question from the final exam in International Monetary Theory. It was an opportunity to expose incoming students to the kind of question they will be facing soon and also to the Economics requirements.

Today we turn to another set of obligations: the core requirements.

Before getting into the nitty gritty of the core requirements, a word on why. SAIS students come from very diverse academic backgrounds. This year in Bologna we had 34 nationalities, and for 2011-12, students from 45 different countries have enrolled.

To ensure that all SAIS graduates have acquired a common set of useful skills and knowledge, we require them to meet a set of requirements in Economics, languages, history and political science.

There are four core subjects:
  • American Foreign Policy Since World War II
  • Comparative National Systems
  • Evolution of the International System
  • Theories of International Relations
You can read about the core subjects here and here.

Here is chapter and verse with respect to the core requirements:

M.A. candidates must pass written examinations in two of four core areas (except students in European Studies, who take three European Studies comprehensive exams). Students are urged to pass one of these exams by the end of their first year and to pass both before beginning the second year. Students with an adequate background are encouraged to take the core examinations upon entry. During the year, students may prepare for a core examination by studying on their own, auditing or enrolling for credit in a core course. Core exams are graded with a letter grade. Only passing grades appear on the transcript. Students who fail a core exam twice are required to register for the corresponding core course for credit. After enrolling for credit, a student's result of any prior examination is eliminated from the transcript, and grading requirements for regular courses apply. Core exams are offered three times a year at the Bologna Center: first week in October and at the end of each semester. 

So you can satisfy the core requirements by taking core courses, passing core examinations without taking the course or a combination of the two.

As with Economics waiver exams, you can satisfy a course requirement by passing the exam but you will not receive credit towards the 16 courses that must be completed in order to receive the M.A. It does free you up to take other courses beside the basic Economics or core courses

Prof.Erik Jones
Note that these core requirements apply to candidates for the two-year Master of Arts in International Relations. The MAIA, MIPP and Bologna Diploma requirements are different.

All of that is so complicated that the questions on the core exam in Comparative National Systems may seem, well, comparatively simple. Here is a copy of the exam.

And here is a video of Prof. Erik Jones, who taught that course in Bologna this past Spring semester, discussing the core requirements and his course. He also explains why his office is full of boxes.

Nelson Graves

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