Class of 2024 declare their majors: MCS remains most popular major, with ES a close second

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Story | Suman (they/them), Managing Editor

Photo | Joshua Vargas (he/him), Graphics

Figure 1: Distribution of Majors in Class of 2024

On the 18th of March in AY2021-2022, the Class of 2024 finished their major declaration exercise, with a total of 213 participants, including 13 DDP students. This year, more so than in the past, there have been significant changes in the spread of majors chosen across the batch (Figure 1).

As has been the case for the past two years, Mathematical, Computational, and Statistical Sciences (MCS) remained the most popular major choice. A record-high number of 36 students declared MCS as their major, breaking the previous record from the Class of 2023 with 33 students. 

However, the second most popular major choice, Environmental Studies, has beaten out other usually popular majors like Global Affairs and Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) with yet-another record breaking high of 30 students.

In a drastic change, majors like Literature and History have overtaken Philosophy and Arts and Humanities, typically the least popular majors, as the least declared ones with at a new low, 3.

The significant changes have also changed the general proportionality of students in every division. The proportion of students in the Science division has increased from 22%, for the Class of 2023, to 24.5% for the rising juniors. Similarly, the proportion of students in the Social Sciences has also risen from 50% to 51.2%. This increase has also led to the corresponding drop in the Humanities department quite considerably from 13% to 8.4% (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Proportion of students spread across departments

With these unprecedented changes (much like the closure), the changes in class composition from the previous batch to this one have been significant. The most note-worthy changes were in the Literature and Environmental Studies majors, respectively decreasing in almost 67.4% and increasing by 42.4% (Fig. 3).   

Figure 3:

nota bene: Small changes in absolute numbers can lead to large percentage fluctuations for majors with low enrollment

Comparing across different batches, the trend seems to remain similar and STEM subjects remain more in demand, but the significant change in the raw numbers, especially for the Humanities, may hint at a similar trend for the Class of 2025’s major declaration exercise next academic year, the last one in Yale-NUS’ history, where the Sciences and Social Sciences may also be overwhelmingly popular.

More so than the effects of online learning and the pandemic on Yale-NUS’ education, the College’s closure and departure of several faculty members, and the subsequent abnormally small list of modules for the next academic year, have heavily impacted this year’s major declaration exercise and how it might impact the decisions of next year’s batch. 

These implications, especially in the last few years of a tangible Yale NUS existence, become increasingly relevant when we consider the “limited edition degree” some 2000 or so students around the world will have by the mid 2020s. Majors like Urban Studies don’t have an exact equivalent in the greater NUS or other Singaporean higher education institutions, and the popularity of such degrees will become much more poignant in the future job markets, especially in a country like Singapore where a need for urban planning arises. 

For some rising juniors, the results of the major declaration didn’t affect the choices as much as the course lists did. On the other hand, for some juniors like Ryan Yeo ‘24, a Philosophy major, it didn’t make a much of a difference and they said that “the course list might have factored into my thinking as I was undecided between lit[erature] and philo[sophy] until recently…but it wouldn’t have changed what major I actually declared.”  

Figure 4: Raw Numbers of Students per major from different batches

Major20172018201920202021202220232024
Anthropology1014159137127
ArtsHum161016118665
DDP81311121581313
Economics89131619271721
Env. Studies1412131317202330
Global Affairs101111712202518
History10914511883
Life Sciences388612988
Literature69512819103
MCS1214223327243336
Philosophy45578667
PPE1723133431322121
Phys. Sciences3584126108
Psychology1313121719192218
Urban Studies9918820171815
Total143164184194232228232213

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