The College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences announced last week that the university will no longer offer the avian sciences major. While this choice may be disappointing to current students in the program, it is a good financial decision.
As of fall 2010, there were only 15 students in the avian sciences major. Many of the courses for the major are only offered in alternating years, and several courses in the general catalog are no longer taught.
Meanwhile, UC Davis offers a major in animal science with an emphasis in avian sciences, as well as courses through the department of animal science and management and the department of wildlife, fish and conservation biology. With this concentration in place, university support for avian sciences courses is redundant.
Since 1997, the avian sciences department and the animal science department have run out of the same office. With more students and less money at UC Davis, it makes sense to merge the two majors into one department.
Students serious about the sciences usually go into graduate programs, and the closing of the major will not affect the avian sciences graduate group. There will still be university support and career opportunities for future avian scientists.
When the university closes a major, administrators need to think about how many students are in the major and whether course offerings are redundant. The way the university handled the avian sciences major is a good lesson for the future.