The Value of Curricular Choice Through Student Eyes

Teun Dekker*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Web of Science)


In Europe, liberal arts and sciences undergraduate university programmes are typically characterised by a high degree of freedom of choice in the curriculum. Educators often present this as allowing students to design an integrated, interdisciplinary curriculum around their particular interests. This paper explores how students in such programmes understand and experience that freedom. It postulates a theoretical typology of reasons why one might value curricular freedom and, based on 59 interviews with students from 13 such programmes, considers what aspects of this typology resonate with students. The paper concludes that students overwhelmingly see freedom of choice in the curriculum as an opportunity to try out different disciplines to discover which ones they enjoy most. While this eventually does lead them to making tailored choices about their studies, their path to this goal is more meandering than is commonly understood. This insight allows programmes with a significant amount of freedom of choice to better support students in their educational development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)198-214
Number of pages17
JournalCurriculum Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • freedom of choice
  • higher education
  • liberal arts and sciences
  • open curriculum

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