A Student’s Guide to the General Education System

In May, 2002 the University Senate adopted a new system of University General Education Guidelines that went into effect with students entering the University of Connecticut in Fall, 2005.  A full description of the new General Education Requirements can be found here.

The Purpose of a General Education Curriculum

Although the specific university general education requirements have changed, the purposes of the university general education requirements remain the same. General education courses are not directed primarily at mastering a body of information or developing professional expertise.  Any system of general education should provide all university undergraduate students with the foundations for learning throughout their years at the university and their entire lives; enable them to understand, appreciate, and enjoy both the past and present diversity of human achievement and perspectives at the levels of individuals, groups, and cultures and in relation to the natural world; prepare them for responsible citizenship; and give them the flexibility and skills necessary to face the changes and challenges of the future.

NECHE General Education Requirements

The University of Connecticut is accredited as an academic institution by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE) and must adhere to their Standards for Accreditation. According to NECHE, general education “embodies the institution’s definition of an educated person and prepares students for the world in which they will live.” While individual institutions have some leeway in determining how general education is structured, NECHE requires that it shows “a balanced regard for what are traditionally referred to as the arts and humanities, the sciences including mathematics, and the social sciences.” NECHE also requires that “all undergraduate students complete at least the equivalent of 40 semester credits in a bachelor’s degree program.”

For more information about why colleges and universities seek accreditation, click here.

General Education Requirements at UConn

The Content Areas:

A pool of approved courses will be associated with each content area.  “Academic unit” refers to the department or program offering the course.

Content Area 1 – Arts and Humanities:
Six credits required; must be taken in two different academic units. (Please note, students in CLAS may have additional requirements for CA1.)

Content Area 2 – Social Science:
Six credits required; must be taken in two different academic units.

Content Area 3 – Science and Technology:
Six or seven credits required; must be taken in two different academic units.  One of the courses must be a “hands-on” laboratory course of four or more credits that teaches fundamental principles of the physical or biological sciences.  However, this laboratory requirement is waived for students who have passed a hands-on laboratory science course in the biological and/or physical sciences.

Content Area 4 – Diversity and Multiculturalism:
Six credits required; all six credits may be in the same academic unit.  One of these courses must have an “International” designation.  Courses in this category, and only this category, can also be approved for one of the other content areas. Students are allowed to “double-dip” one and only one Content Area 4 course, and use it to satisfy simultaneously part of the Content Area 1, 2 or 3 requirements.

Students will normally take eight courses to fulfill the content area requirements, but may take only seven courses if they “double-dip” a Content Area 4 course.

The Competencies

Quantitative Competency:
Two Quantitative (Q) courses are required.  Advisors will assist students to determine their readiness for Q courses based on a combination of their SAT mathematics score and class performance.

Students will be able to seek advice and tutoring at the Q Learning Center.

Writing Competency:
1.   All students must take either English 1007, English 1010, ENGL 1011, or ENGL 2011 (Honors).  Students with Advanced Placement English scores of 4 or 5 are considered to have fulfilled the ENGL 1010 or 1011 requirement.

2.   Additionally, all students must take two writing-intensive W courses, one of which must be a 2000-level or above course approved for the student’s major.  W courses may also satisfy other Content Area requirements.  (Note:  ENGL 1007, 1010, 1011, or 2011 are prerequisites to all writing-intensive courses.)

Students will be able to seek advice and tutoring at the W Learning Center.

Second Language Competency:
Three years of one language in High School or passing the 2nd semester of a second language at UConn is currently required.

The Literacies:

Environmental Literacy:
Students must pass at least one course of at least three credits in Environmental Literacy. Environmental Literacy courses are designated for this purpose as (E) courses. Environmental Literacy courses may be counted toward the major. Students may use an Environmental Literacy course that has one or more Content Area designations to fulfill the Content Area requirements for which the course has been approved, if the established regulations on Content Area course number, credit number, and subject code are met.

Information Literacy:
Information literacy involves a general understanding of how information is created, disseminated and organized, and an ability to access and utilize information in your academic work. There are no entrance expectations, but basic research skills will be developed in ENGL 1007, 1010, ENGL 1011, ENGL 2011 and FYE courses.  Currently, each major field of study defines its own exit standards in information literacy for its majors, and builds opportunities for developing these skills into its curriculum.

University Requirements vs. School/College Requirements

The system applies only to University General Education requirements, and does not affect the separate and independent internal degree requirements of the individual schools and colleges.

It is important for students to be clear on the distinction between university requirements and school/college requirements.  For example, while all University of Connecticut students will be required to take 6 credits of social science courses chosen from a pool of approved courses, the School of Nursing requires SOCI 1001 and HDFS 1070 of its own students. SOCI 1001 and HDFS 1070 are in the pool of courses approved for meeting the University General Education Social Science requirement.  Nursing students would have the option of using SOCI 1001 and HDFS 1070 to meet simultaneously both a university requirement and a School of Nursing requirement, but they cannot be forbidden from taking other social science courses to meet the University General Education Requirement.

Students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) also have additional General Education requirements above and beyond the normal university requirements. For example, while the university requires six credits of CA1, CLAS requires 15 credits of CA1 for a BA or 12 credits of CA1 for a BS across several CLAS-specific categories.

The general education system allows “double-dipping” of courses that jointly satisfy university and school/college requirements.  Your advisor can assist you in determining which courses will satisfy both sets of requirements.


The Senate has authorized the Deans of the Schools and Colleges to make substitutions to the University General Education Requirements.  They are expected to exercise this authority with due regard to the principles that underlie the requirements and make an annual report of these activities to GEOC.  Because the requirements are the same for all schools and colleges, it is expected that substitutions made by one Dean will be effective across all schools and colleges.