EDITORIAL: Why does HLS make it so difficult for dual-degrees?


The Asia Business Conference hosted this past weekend by Harvard Business School represents a positive trend in Harvard conferences. Jointly prepared by students and faculty from the Business School, Law School, and Kennedy School, the Conference drew on the talents and resources of each of these schools to produce an event with speakers and offerings that no one school would have thought of accomplishing on its own. Over the past few years, more and more conferences have been jointly sponsored by various Harvard graduate and professional schools, leading to greater interdisciplinary collaboration. Here at HLS for example, Alianza, the Latino law student group at HLS, has also worked on conferences in collaboration with other schools in previous years.

It is therefore odd that as more collaboration takes place on the level of conference organizing, very little progress is being made on the level of collaboration as to joint-degree programs. One year ago, the Record ran an article detailing efforts to increase the number of joint-degrees offered by HLS and other schools. Though HBS and HLS have a long-standing agreement, the only other two programs that receive any level of support are the HLS/Kennedy joint-degree and the Public Health/HLS program. Everything else is pretty much ignored or not really explained to students.

In an age where solving complex global problems requires knowledge from various fields, it is odd that HLS lags so far behind in this area. To take one example, students pursuing degrees at HLS and the Divinity School find nothing but roadblocks in their attempt to secure both degrees. The problem, it should be noted, often lies with HLS. The Divinity School, and other graduate programs around Harvard, will often credit a dual-degree candidate with credits towards a degree for time spent at another Harvard school. So, for example, a Master’s student at the Divinity School need only spend three semesters there instead of four if they are also enrolled at HLS. Apparently however the law school feels no need to reciprocate, for this same student cannot transfer any credits over to HLS, whose consistent policy is to not make exceptions for students, unless of course you are studying business, government, or public health policy, in which case HLS will help you out fully and cut your total time to a degree.

Recognizing that law students have diverse interests, the law school should make a strong effort to support dual-degrees more fully, and should also take steps to expand the options for formalized joint-degrees with other schools. Harvard, after all, is not recognized simply for its law school but for the entire continuum of its offerings.

Making it easier for students to immerse themselves in the range of excellent programs that Harvard offers can only be a good thing.