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Contextual studies are one of the University of St.Gallen's most important unique selling propositions. They were created in the course of the implementation of the Bologna reform in 2001. "The fundamental principle of contextual studies has always been part of the HSG, though," says Caspar Hirschi, Full Professor of History and Director of Contextual Studies. It was already part of the foundation curriculum of the Commercial Academy in 1898 and has been developed ever since. "By now, it is part of the HSG's DNA."
"The fundamental principle of contextual studies has always been part of the HSG, though.
By now, it is part of the HSG's DNA."
The idea of contextual studies consists in endowing students with a social, historical and cultural awareness besides their expertise, which will provide them with bearings in their professional and public lives. "In 2001, compatibility with the Bologna reform was important. Thus we made a distinction between the three pillars of cultural awareness, critical thinking and leadership skills," says Ulrich Schmid, Full Professor of Russian Culture and Society. "This distinction has turned out to be less than clear-cut over the years." Also, the range of subjects became more and more diverse owing to rising student numbers. Thus the President’s Board decided to reform contextual studies in 2013.
Ulrich Schmid, then Dean of Humanities and Social Sciences (SHSS-HSG), planned the reform together with Caspar Hirschi. "We had to rearrange both the organisation of contextual studies and their subject-related structure. The result was eight focus areas in which students can specialise: media, cultures, history, society, responsibility, creativity, law and technologies. "In this way they can establish a new community in contextual studies and acquire additional qualifications, which are explicitly reported in the diploma supplement," says Caspar Hirschi.
The result was eight focus areas in which students can specialise:
media, cultures, history, society, responsibility, creativity, law and technologies.
The contextual studies starting in Autumn Semester 2018 will also provide students with an opportunity to conclude their focus area with intensively supervised synthesis work in a portfolio course by innovatively linking two focus area seminars they attended earlier with a core subject course. This would establish inter-subject links both within contextual studies and between core subjects and contextual studies, say Schmid and Hirschi. Opting
for a focus area will not be compulsory for students. "Those who want to can also pursue their contextual studies in the previous way after Autumn Semester 2018," says Caspar Hirschi.
To date, the two professors have received gratifying feedback – surely because the reform was conducted in close cooperation with students. Thus both are convinced: "The possibility that the value of the contextual studies will increase among the students is good."