Why is allocating courses to students in universities a challenging task? How difficult is it for institutions to strike a balance between the students’ preferences over courses and what they can make available given the feasibility and other constraints? What are the plausible short-term and long-term effects of this demand-supply mismatch on students’ university experiences and career aspirations? What are the relative pros and cons of allocation mechanisms such as course auctions, rank-order lists and random serial dictatorship used by academic administrators? Can universities design better systems that are simpler, fairer and cannot be gamed yet put students in courses they want? This case attempts to answer these questions by primarily examining the course allocation problem as a two-sided matching issue.
This case illustrates the problem of two-sided matching using the example of course allocations to students at colleges and universities. The central conundrum is how to strike a balance between the students’ preferences over courses and what universities can feasibly make available. It delves into the pros and cons of allocation mechanisms commonly used by academic administrators and offers insights on how the universities can design better systems.