Vanderbilt to implement new course numbering system across all schools

(Steve Green/Vanderbilt)

Vanderbilt University will implement a new system for numbering courses across all 10 of its undergraduate and professional schools. This change will take effect in March, when registration for the fall 2015 term begins.

The effort to develop a new course catalog numbering schema has been in the works for more than a year and was led by a task force chaired by Vice Provost for Learning and Residential Affairs Cynthia Cyrus and University Registrar Bart Quinet.

“Vanderbilt will move to a four-digit course numbering scheme that will combine current subject area prefixes with a four-digit course number in the appropriate range,” Quinet explained. “This change is overdue. The old, largely three-digit numbering system no longer has a large enough number range to cover all the courses needed at particular levels or in particular areas.

“Over the last several years, we also have fielded numerous requests from individual departments to reorder their courses to better reflect curricular ideals, and under the old system this would have necessitated the reuse of old numbers for new course content,” he said. “Moreover, the lack of a consistent numbering schema across all programs has made our transcripts difficult to decode.”

Representatives from the Blair School of Music, College of Arts and Science, Peabody College of education and human development, School of Engineering, Divinity School, Graduate School, Law School, Owen Graduate School of Management, School of Medicine and School of Nursing served on the Course Renumbering Task Force, as did representatives from Enrollment Management Systems, the Office of the Provost, the University Registrar’s Office and the Vanderbilt Institutional Research Group.

The task force recommended a new four-digit course numbering scheme that retains existing subject matter prefixes, such as “ENGL,” and utilizes course numbers ranging from 1000–4999 for credit-bearing baccalaureate courses and 5000–9999 for graduate and professional courses. Certain common and trackable aspects are included within the numbering scheme—such as writing credit, senior honors thesis, and dissertation research numbers—but within broad parameters so that schools and programs should be able to cluster courses within a range to convey specialization and groupings for a given subject area.

“The new course numbering schema seeks to provide an institution-wide approved framework that is clear to the external viewer and is in line with other schools’ practices,” Cyrus said. “This change is also timely, in that the recent conversion to PeopleSoft has made available technical improvements, which will facilitate implementation of the new schema.”

How it works

  • Vanderbilt’s new course numbering system will follow a prefix-plus-number model: ENGL 1654; MGT 6145; SPED 8723. Existing alphabetical subject-matter prefixes will largely be retained.
  • Letter identifiers have been significantly restricted, making allowances only for specific meaning. For example, ECON 3257W = satisfied writing requirements; BSCI 1501 and 1501L denote lecture and lab co-requisites; but course sequences will be designated through last digit(s) rather than a, b, c, d.
  • Where possible, standard numbers will be used across the curriculum for common course types—for example, independent study, senior seminar and dissertation research.

Learn more about the Basic Outline of Numbering and Course Renumbering Conventions.

Find a specific course with the Course Renumbering Lookup Tool.

For more information about course renumbering, visit the Office of the University Registrar website.