Exploring Enrollment

Analyzing trends in 20 years of UCLA Registrar data

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How Big is a Department?

The size of a department can have tremendous impact on the department's ability to schedule and offer courses, produce research, and receive funding from the university. However, statistics about the size of various departments are not easily accessible.

In this section, we attempt to quantify department size using a number of different metrics including number of subject areas offered, number of sections offered, and total number of enrolled students.

We'll also analyze department growth by looking at these enrollment trends over time.

Department Size

By Subject Area

We'll first examine department size by subject areas. The top departments for subject area offerings are almost all language departments, where each subject area listing corresponds to a language. The sole exception to this is the Management department, which offers eight different subject areas, one for each degree program it offers.

The vast majority of departments only offer one to two subject areas.

By Courses

When we look at the departments with the most course offerings, the list differs drastically from the departments that offer the most subject areas.

The History, English, and Law departments are the top three departments in terms of number of courses offered. This is because many of the courses offered by these departments are variable/special topics courses that are often only taught once. The History and English departments also hold the top spots for Fiat Lux courses taught, with 169 and 112 respectively.

By Sections

When we examine the top departments by the number of sections offered, we again get a very different list.

Psychology is one of UCLA's most popular undergraduate majors, so it's not surprising to see it at the top. Other departments, like Chemistry and Biochemstry, Physics and Astronomy, English, and Mathematics also make sense as they all offer popular lower-division series that are required by a wide variety of majors.

More surprising to me was the inclusion of Music, Theater, and Film departments in the top ten. My guess is that these are due to an average lower section capacity than the more South Campus departments.

I graphed out the number of section offerings for the top four departments – Psychology, Management, Music, and Chemistry and Biochemistry – over time. There was a lot of noise as a result of the seasonality of course offerings, but all four departments experienced a general trend upwards.

By enrollment

We can also examine the top departments by the total number of students enrolled across all sections offered from 1999–2020. Note that this metric double counts students both if they're enrolled in multiple courses from the same department. That's likely the reason why Management has the top spot, because their MBA program consists almost entirely of courses offered by the Management department, leading to lots of double counting.

A more useful metric might be enrollment numbers for a department over time. Like the number of sections, the enrollment numbers for the top four biggest departments for enrollment has a linear trend upwards.

Are the humanities in crisis at UCLA?

Much has been written about the decline in humanities degrees as graduates instead pick majors that are more likely to yield better job prospects.

Using enrollment count as our proxy for popularity, we can see that Humanities enrollment has slightly decreased while enrollment in the Social Sciences, Physical Sciences, and Life Sciences has increased.