Registration Agitation

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Tyler Parmelee and Danial McGhie

To say the spring semester registration process was a train wreck would be an understatement. Decisions for multiple capstones had yet to be made; there were THREE options for MENA courses, and, unless you were a PhD candidate, one option for fulfilling the research methods requirement: econometrics. Next semester’s course availability, or lack thereof, sparked a wave of outrage among the student body.

By the Numbers

Excluding language courses and “closed” courses, there are 121 classes offered this spring. As of November 30:

  • 72% of classes have a waitlist
  • 51% of classes have more than 5 students on the waitlist 
  • 35% have more than 10 students on the waitlist 
  • 79% of waitlist seats are number 6 or higher on the waitlist  
  • Total seat registration is 132% of max seats available for classes


The completion of a capstone is a graduation requirement all second-year MAIR students must complete. These can take the form of a practicum project, study trip, practical research paper, or an approved internship. Once accepted into a capstone, a student must register for it in SIS like any other course. 

At first glance, this doesn’t seem like it would be an issue. However, as of now, there have been no decisions made for the Policy Consulting Practicum, the Emerging Technology and Geopolitical Risk Practicum, and a number of research seminars. Decisions for the National Security and Emerging Technologies Practicum and China at the Border Research Seminar were released on November 28th, over a month after the application deadline. 

Why it is taking so long to get a decision back is unknown (how many applications there are, who reviews the applications, how in-depth the selection process is, etc., is a total mystery), but what is known is that it makes registration all the more difficult. 

Should a student risk registering for a class they find super interesting, only to have to drop it if selected for a capstone? Should a student risk have to take a class they don’t want to because they are gambling on getting accepted into a capstone course? What happens if a student registered for a course just to find out later that it is at the same time as the capstone they need for graduation? 

Couldn’t tell you– I haven’t gotten my application results back yet.

Regional Diversity

SAIS is a leading institution in the study of international relations that prepares students with the knowledge, skills, and experiences to tackle complex global challenges, and its lack of regional-specific classes (20 out of 129 offered courses) is frustrating and disappointing to students. Student interest in regionally specific classes is high, as seen by the number of classes with waitlists (19/20) and the total waitlists seats relative to the max seats (292 out of 524 seats or 56%). Within these classes, SAIS has a clear preference—Asia-specific classes.

 “Regional Class Over Registration” demonstrates the total demand for seats relative to seats offered.This is further broken down by “Regional Classes Excess Seat Demand” which demonstrates the number of excess seats demanded by students (total waitlist seats) relative to the seats actually offered (Max Seats).

 “Regional Class Over Registration” demonstrates the total demand for seats relative to seats offered.This is further broken down by “Regional Classes Excess Seat Demand” which demonstrates the number of excess seats demanded by students (total waitlist seats) relative to the seats actually offered (Max Seats). 

There is persistent and high over-registration for country classes. Current registration for country-specific classes is 156% of the maximum seats– exceeding the total-class average of 131%. 

In contrast, there are 34 courses offered in the International Economics and International Economics and Finance areas of study. It is perfectly understandable for SAIS to value the study of economics in its comprehensive approach to teaching international relations– but it shouldn’t come at the expense of entire swaths of the world.

The SAIS administration’s failure to recognize the overwhelming demand for regionally specific classes is disappointing, especially when the geopolitical, historical, and cultural diversity within each region is vast. 

Research Methods

Anger can be a great unifier, and nothing has unified enraged students more than the research methods debacle. This spring, there were two options for fulfilling the research methods requirement this semester: Econometrics (normal, applied, or macro) or Theories and Methods of Qualitative Political Research. 

As if only offering a single qualitative research methods class wasn’t bad enough, this class had a cap of only 15 students. To add insult to injury,  it was not made known to the student body until 20 minutes before registration opened that the class was meant for PhD students, and any MAIR looking to use this class to fulfill the research methods requirement would need to send a statement of interest to the professor. In practice, this meant the only course available to fulfill the research methods requirement would be econometrics. 

A fire broke out in the Signal chat. Questions came pouring through: Is it possible to take a Research Methods course through Carey? How is it fair to force students who have already taken econometrics to take a more advanced econometrics course when it’s a subject they may not be interested in? How is it possible for there to only be one type of research methods course available? What are students interested in exploring qualitative research supposed to do, especially if it is their last semester? 

In response, academic advising insists new research methods courses will be offered in the spring. However, what those classes are and when they will be available on SIS is entirely unknown.

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