General Education Program

The General Education Program applies to all students admitted to the University with basis of admission “FRESHMAN” in Fall 2000 and thereafter and with basis of admission “TRANSFER” in Fall 2002 or thereafter if the transfer student first matriculated at a college or university in Fall 2000 or thereafter.

Students who transferred to Albany before Fall 2002 or who matriculated at UAlbany or elsewhere before Fall 2000 are required to fulfill the upper division Writing requirement but are not required to meet the other requirements of the General Education Program.

The General Education Program at the University at Albany proposes a set of knowledge areas, perspectives, and competencies considered by the University to be central to the intellectual development of every undergraduate. The Program is divided into three areas–Disciplinary Perspectives, Cultural and Historical Perspectives, and Communication and Reasoning Competencies.

The General Education Program is intended to provide students with a foundation that both prepares them for continued work within their chosen major and minor fields and gives them the intellectual habits that will enable them to become lifelong learners. Courses within the program are designed not only to enhance students’ knowledge, but also to provide them as well with new ways of thinking and with the ability to engage in critical analysis and creative activity.

Courses in the area of Disciplinary Perspectives emphasize multiple perspectives, enabling students to understand that subjects may be approached in a variety of ways and that different disciplines approach subjects in different ways. These courses prepare students for careers that will put them into contact with persons from different disciplinary backgrounds.

Courses in the area of Cultural and Historical Perspectives are designed to help students develop an understanding of their own identity and of their relation to various communities, and to increase their ability to interact effectively with persons from different cultural and regional backgrounds. Courses that focus on U.S. History and U.S. Diversity and Pluralism enable students to explore the U.S. as a nation, how it has developed, and how it relates to other areas of the world. Courses that focus on cultures, regions, and nations beyond the U.S. and on global and cross-cultural issues enable students to recognize the complexity and interconnectedness of the larger world.
Finally, courses in the area of Communication and Reasoning Competencies are designed to provide students with an enhanced ability to communicate with others, both through the written and spoken word, and to enable them to take advantage of computing technology as a medium of communication. Courses in this area are also designed to develop students’ ability to reason in a variety of symbolic systems and contexts.

The characteristics of and the rationale and goals for the specific requirements of the General Education Program are discussed in greater detail below.

Characteristics of General Education Courses

The General Education Program as a whole has the following characteristics. Different categories within the Program emphasize different characteristics.

General education offers explicit understandings of the procedures and practices of disciplines and interdisciplinary fields.

General education provides multiple perspectives on the subject matter, reflecting the intellectual and cultural diversity within and beyond the University.

General education emphasizes active learning in an engaged environment that enables students to become producers as well as consumers of knowledge.

General education promotes critical thinking about the assumptions, goals, and methods of various fields of academic study and the interpretive, analytic, and evaluative competencies central to intellectual development.

The General Education Program at the University at Albany consists of a minimum of 30 credits of coursework in the following areas: disciplinary perspectives, cultural and historical perspectives, and communication and reasoning competencies.

The General Education Program is summarized in the following table:

Requirements of the Program

Disciplinary Perspectives:
Natural Sciences
Social Sciences

(min. 3 crs)
(min. 3 crs)
(min. 6 crs)
(min. 6 crs)

Cultural and Historical Perspectives:
U.S. History
Regions beyond Europe
Global and Cross-Cultural Studies
U.S. Diversity and Pluralism

(min. 3 crs)
(min. 3 crs)
(min. 3 crs)
(min. 3 crs)
(min. 3 crs)

Communication & Reasoning Competencies:
Information Literacy
Oral Discourse
  Written Discourse
    Lower-level Writing
    Upper-level Writing 

(min. 1 course)
(min. 1 course)

(min. 1 course)
(min. 1 course)

Mathematics and Statistics:
   one semester of collegiate study, or the equivalent,
   of mathematics at or above the level of pre-calculus
   and/or probability, statistics, and data analysis


Foreign Language:
   two semesters of collegiate study,
   or the equivalent, of a foreign language


* No single course can be used to satisfy BOTH the Humanities and the Arts requirement.

While the majority of General Education courses are at the 100 and 200 level, particularly in the category of Disciplinary Perspectives, the General Education Program at the University at Albany is conceived as extending throughout the four years of undergraduate study. Indeed, certain requirements, such as those in U.S. History, Global and Cross-Cultural Studies, and Oral Discourse, may be more appropriately completed during the junior and senior year. Students are encouraged, however, to complete the requirements in the category of Disciplinary Perspectives during their first two years. In addition, the Information Literacy and the lower-level writing requirement are expected to be completed within the freshman or sophomore year.

Students may not use the same course to fulfill both the Arts and the Humanities categories. Otherwise, if a course fulfills more than one category, students may use the course to fulfill all of those categories. Although such “double counting” may reduce the number of credits needed to fulfill General Education, to graduate from the University each student must have satisfactorily completed a minimum of thirty (30) graduation credits in courses designated as General Education requirements. If a course fulfilling a General Education category also meets a major or minor requirement, there is no prohibition against counting the course toward General Education and the major or minor.

Overview of the General Education Categories

The humanities and arts, natural sciences, and social sciences are commonly considered to be the core of a liberal arts education. Courses in the category of Disciplinary Perspectives are designed to familiarize students with the objectives, assumptions, subject matters, methods, and boundaries of knowledge organized in terms of academic disciplines. Requirements in this category seek to introduce students to a broad range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary perspectives and areas of knowledge.

Equally central to a liberal arts education is an understanding of history—the recognition that the world we inhabit today had its origins in and has been shaped by the events of the past, and that to understand our current situation we must try as best we can to understand the past. Of similar importance is an understanding of the origins, development and significance of human cultures, and the recognition of cultural distinctiveness and multiplicity. Courses in the category of Cultural and Historical Perspectives are designed to increase students’ understanding of the history of this nation (U.S.), of its cultural diversity (U.S. Diversity and Pluralism), of histories and cultures that have played a major role in the development of the U.S. (Europe), and of cultures and histories beyond those of the U.S. and Europe (Regions beyond Europe).

In addition, these courses seek to introduce students to the complex intersections of the local and global, and to the different perspectives that emerge from a focus on the national, the regional, the global, and the cross-cultural. 21st century students will inhabit an environment increasingly characterized by global dynamics in which decisions made in the United States will affect the lives of people elsewhere and decisions made elsewhere will affect the lives of people in the United States. Moreover, they will inhabit an environment increasingly shaped by forces that transcend national borders and that are reconfiguring the globe’s regions and cultures in the service of various economic and political interests. Courses approved for Global and Cross-Cultural Studies provide students with an opportunity to examine the global forces that give rise to and shape nations, cultures and regions, and to explore the larger perspectives that emerge from cross-cultural comparisons. The Foreign Language requirement is also designed to enhance students' global awareness and to expand their knowledge of different cultures.
The U.S. Diversity and Pluralism requirement reflects the University at Albany’s long-standing commitment to respect for difference, to civic dialogue as a means of negotiating conflicts in cultural and political values arising from human diversity, to understanding the relation of cultural pluralism to political democracy, and to the development of socially responsible citizens. Courses in this category are designed to introduce students to the diversity of cultures that make up the United States, as well as to the historical, political, and economic forces that have led these cultures to develop differently and to be accorded different significance. Approved courses frequently focus on key issues of current concern (e.g., the gay rights movement), setting these issues in the context of how a democratic society defines majorities and minorities and understands the rights and responsibilities of each.

The General Education Program is designed to provide students with a set of competencies essential both for academic success and for becoming effective citizens of the 21st century, including the requirement in Mathematics and Statistics, the Information Literacy requirement, and the Written and Oral Discourse requirements.

Definition of Each General Education Category

Disciplinary Perspectives Categories

The Arts: Approved courses provide instruction in or about a medium of creative expression. Courses may focus on the physical practice and techniques of the medium, on its critical and theoretical interpretation, on its historical development, or on a combination of these approaches. Courses explicate the methods used to study and critique the medium as a vital element of personal or cultural expression and exchange.

Approved courses generally fall into one of four categories (for majors and/or non-majors):

Courses about the development and interpretation of a medium:

(1) introductions to the disciplines;
(2) introductions to subfields in the disciplines;
(3) courses on the physical practice of a medium (studio art, creative writing, music composition or performance, dance, and theatre acting, directing or stagecraft):
(4) instructional courses on the skills and methods required and their critical evaluation;
(5) courses focused upon performance.

Note: The requirement calls for three credits. In the case of categories 3 and 4 (skills and performance), where approved courses may bear only one or two credits, the requirement may be fulfilled through two or three courses with a minimum total of three credits.

Humanities: Approved courses are concerned with defining and disputing that which is understood to be quintessentially "human": studying language, texts, thought, and culture; their definition, interpretation, and historical development; and their reflection of human values, beliefs, and traditions. Courses in a variety of disciplines explicate the underlying assumptions, methods of study, practices, theories, and disputes appropriate to those disciplines.

Approved courses generally fall into one of three categories (all open to majors and non-majors):

(1) introductions to basic materials and methods in the disciplines;
(2) introductions to subfields or groupings of materials in the disciplines;
(3) literature and culture courses taught in a foreign language higher than the third- semester level.

Natural Sciences: Approved courses show how understandings of natural phenomena are obtained using the scientific method, including data collection, hypothesis development, employment of mathematical analysis, and critical evaluation of evidence. Courses provide an overview of major principles and concepts underpinning a discipline's current base of knowledge and discuss major topics at the current frontiers of disciplinary knowledge. Courses show how answers to fundamental questions in science can change the world in which we live and often explore how social issues can influence scientific research. Opportunities for scientific inquiry within laboratory and/or field settings may be provided.

Approved courses generally fall into one of three categories:

(1) introductions to scientific disciplines, designed for majors, non-majors, or both;
(2) introductions to disciplinary subfields, designed for majors, non-majors, or both;
(3) courses open to majors and non-majors on broad topics that are addressed by one or more scientific disciplines and which may focus on the application of science to practical issues.

Social Sciences: Approved courses provide theory and instruction on the role of institutions, groups and individuals in society. The focus of these courses is on the interaction of social, economic, political, geographic, linguistic, religious, and/or cultural factors, with emphasis on the ways humans understand the complex nature of their existence. Courses include discussion of skills and practices used by the social sciences: data collection, hypothesis development, employment of mathematical analysis, and critical evaluation of evidence. Opportunities to experience social science methods in the field may be provided.
Approved courses generally fall into one of three categories:

(1) introductions to the various disciplines of the social sciences;
(2) introductions to disciplinary subfields, designed for majors, non-majors, or both;
(3) courses open to majors and non-majors on broad topics that are addressed by one or more social scientific disciplines.

Cultural and Historical Perspectives Categories

U.S. History: Approved courses focus on specific narratives or themes in the historical unfolding of the United States, including political, economic, social, cultural and/or intellectual dimensions. All courses will feature an explicitly historical organization; deal with topics of national, as opposed to regional or local, import; and consider a topic of sufficient specificity for the course to be coherent, but over a period long enough to ensure that the historical dynamic is clearly visible. Students should acquire knowledge of substance and methods for comprehending the narratives or themes presented.

Certain of these courses will balance topical focus and chronological breadth. A student who has achieved a score of 85 or above on the Regents Examination in “United States History and Government” will be considered to have fulfilled the chronological breadth criterion. Therefore, such a student has the choice of fulfilling the requirement by completing a course chosen from the basic list available to all students or from a list of more specialized courses. Each of the more specialized courses covers to some extent a knowledge of common institutions in American society and how they have affected different groups, provides an understanding of America's evolving relationship with the rest of the world, and deals substantially with issues of American history.

Europe: Approved courses focus on the development and distinctive features of the institutions, economies, societies, and cultures of Europe. Approved courses offer either an explicitly historical approach or emphasize the narratives whereby European cultures have come to gain their specific identity. Preferably, approved courses will have a broad cultural or historical perspective; courses with a more narrow chronological focus or a more specialized narrative topic will relate these interests to larger issues in the history and cultural development of Europe.
Regions Beyond Europe: Approved courses focus on specific cultures (other than those of the United States and Europe) or the world's regions. Courses emphasize the features and processes whereby cultures and regions gain their specific identity. Approved courses will balance topical focus with chronological breadth. Courses may also engage students in considerations of the “local” as opposed to the “global.”

Global and Cross-Cultural Studies: Approved courses engage students in comparative and integrative analyses. Courses offer global perspectives on historical or contemporary events; comparisons between societies, regions, or nations; or models for engaging in global and cross-cultural study. Courses emphasize the dynamic interaction between and among cultures, regions, and nations, and the global forces that give rise to and define cultures, regions, and nations.

U.S. Diversity and Pluralism: Approved courses focus primarily on contemporary experiences in the United States. Courses offer students perspectives on the diversity and pluralism of U.S. society with respect to one or more of the following: age, class, disability, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, and sexual orientation. Given that categories of diversity and pluralism intersect, approved courses will, wherever possible, deal with more than one category.

Approved courses provide students with substantial knowledge of diversity and pluralism as expressed through social, political, ideological, aesthetic, or other aspects of human endeavor. Drawing on the experience of specific groups, courses explore the theories, dynamics, mechanisms, and results of diversity and pluralism, including the sources and manifestations of controversies and conflicts.

Opportunities for student writing and discussion are central to the objectives of the courses in this category. Whenever possible, courses will include at least one writing component, discussion sections, breakout sessions, in-class groups or comparable mechanisms permitting discussion.

Communication and Reasoning Competencies Categories

Information Literacy: Approved courses introduce students to various ways in which information is organized and structured and to the process of finding, using, producing, and distributing information in a variety of media formats, including traditional print as well as computer databases. Students acquire experience with resources available on the Internet and learn to evaluate the quality of information, to use information ethically and professionally, and to adjust to rapidly changing technology tools. Students are encouraged to complete this requirement within the freshman or sophomore year.

Approved Criteria for Information Literacy Courses: Courses that satisfy the Information Literacy requirement will have three characteristics:

Classroom activities on finding, evaluating, citing, and using information in print and electronic sources from the University Libraries, World Wide Web, and other sources. Courses should address questions concerning the ethical use of information, copyrights, and other related issues that promote critical reflection.
Assignments, course work, or tutorials that make extensive use of the University Libraries, World Wide Web, and other information sources. Assignments should include finding, evaluating, and citing information sources.
At least one research project that requires students to find, evaluate, cite, and use information presented in diverse formats from multiple sources and to integrate this information within a single textual, visual, or digital document.

Written Discourse: Students must satisfactorily complete with grades of C or higher or S a lower division Writing Intensive course, which is expected to be completed within the freshman or sophomore year, and a Writing Intensive course at or above the 300 level, normally completed within the student’s major. These courses use writing as an important tool in the discipline studied and are not designed primarily to teach the technical aspects of writing. The emphasis is on using writing as a means of sharpening critical thinking in and understanding of the subject.

Approved courses must meet each of the following four criteria:

1.  A Substantial Body of Finished Work: This is generally expected to be a total of 20+ double-spaced pages in at least two, preferably more, submissions. It may be in a variety of forms—journal, reports, essays, research papers, etc.—not all of which need to be graded.
2.  Opportunity for Students to Receive Assistance in Progress: Such assistance may take several forms, from visits to the Writing Center (HU-140) to conferences with the instructor.
3.  Opportunity to Revise Some Pieces: As revision is an essential characteristic of good writing, students should be able to revise some portion of their work.
4.  Response to Student Writing: Such response may take several forms—from extended comments from the instructor to peer evaluation in student groups. It is expected, however, that the instructor will respond in detail to some extended work of the student.

Note: Transfer students who enter the University with credit for an “English Composition” course or a two-semester combined literature and writing course will be considered to have completed the lower-level writing intensive requirement at this University.

Oral Discourse: Approved courses provide opportunities for students to develop the oral communication skills they need to participate more effectively in public and academic debates and discussions. Courses offer opportunities to participate in a variety of communication contexts and to reflect on the principles and theory relevant to specific oral communication activities. Approved courses include instruction on presentation, as well as feedback and evaluation of oral performance. Feedback can occur in various forms, including peer evaluation in student groups, but it is expected that the instructor will also provide feedback to students on their performance. To fulfill both the spirit and the letter of this requirement, wherever possible courses should have no more than 25 students enrolled.

Approved courses generally have a minimum of two exercises in which oral performance is required and graded. An oral performance exercise can be accomplished in any of the following activities, either live or in a crafted recording:

A discussion within a group, where each member will be required to make 3-5 “paragraph-length” contributions in the course of the discussion

A question and answer dialogic process where the student fields a succession of questions or asks a succession of questions that build on and comment upon prior answers

A rehearsal theatrical presentation or interpretive reading

A stand-up monologue presentation of a minimum of 3-5 minutes

Students will be made aware of the criteria that will be used for evaluation of their oral performances Examples of criteria that may be used include persuasiveness, organization, presentation of evidence, validity of argument, contact with the audience, vocal punctuation and expressiveness, oral language style suited to the exercise, appropriate volume and pace of speech, poise and comfort, vocal fluency, eye contact, and active listening. The final grade in oral intensive courses will include the grade for oral performance as a key component.

Mathematics and Statistics: Approved courses introduce students to or extend their knowledge of pre-calculus, calculus, discrete mathematics, probability, statistics and/or data analysis. Courses may be offered in the Department of Mathematics and Statistics and in other departments that have expertise in quantitative reasoning and data analysis and that offer appropriate courses, particularly in statistics or discrete structures.
A student who has achieved a score of 85 or above on the Regents “Math B” Exam (former “Mathematics Course III” Exam) or on a recognized standardized examination indicating readiness to enter pre-calculus will be considered to have fulfilled this requirement.

Foreign Language: Basic proficiency in the understanding and use of an ancient or modern human language other than English as demonstrated by:

the satisfactory completion of the second college semester (i.e., level Elementary II) of foreign language study or its equivalent; or
passing a Regents “Checkpoint B” Examination or a Regents-approved equivalent with a score of 85 or above; or

demonstration of competency in a language other than English, including languages not currently offered for formal instruction at this university; or
in a study abroad program of any length, satisfactory completion of at least 6 SUNY credits of language instruction in any of the official languages of that country other than English, or, in a study abroad program lasting at least one semester, satisfactory completion of at least 3 SUNY credits of language instruction  in any of the official languages of that country other than English.

Transfer Course Policies

In accordance with the Trustees’ policies, if a student from a SUNY state-operated campus or SUNY community college has fulfilled, as determined by the policies of the other SUNY campus, one or more of the Trustees-mandated general educational categories, the University at Albany will also consider the student to have fulfilled that category or those categories. This is true even if 1) Albany requires more credits or courses for the given category; 2) the requirement is fulfilled by a course whose Albany equivalent does not fulfill the same requirement; 3) the student received a non-transferable but minimally passing grade in the course; 4) due to limits on total transferable credits, the student is unable to include that course among those transferred to Albany; 5) the student was waived from the requirement based on high school achievement or other standards different from those employed by Albany; or 6) the student was covered by a blanket waiver of the requirement by the SUNY Provost because the other SUNY campus was not yet able to implement the given requirement.

The same principle of reciprocity should apply to students who transfer from non-SUNY schools. If a course approved for transfer from a non-SUNY school is deemed to be equivalent to a University at Albany course that meets a general education requirement, the student shall be considered to have fulfilled the Albany general education category represented by that course. This is true even if 1) Albany requires more credits or courses for the given category; 2) the student receives a non-transferable but minimally passing grade in the course; or 3) due to limits on total transferable credits, the student is unable to include that course among those transferred to Albany.

The foregoing conditions only apply to prematriculation credits.

The only exception to the policies outlined above are the University’s Global and Cross-Cultural Studies requirement, the U.S. Diversity and Pluralism requirement, and the upper division Writing Intensive requirement. These requirements shall be considered “local” campus requirements, independent of the SUNY Trustees’ system of General Education, and shall be required of all students whose basis of admission is “transfer” who matriculate at the University in fall 2002 or thereafter. Students may continue to present credit for courses the University deems equivalent to these requirements, but for the transfer course to fulfill the upper division writing requirement it must be completed with a grade of C or better or a grade of S.

Students who feel they have not been appropriately accorded equivalence for any given course or courses are encouraged to consult with their academic adviser; if the academic adviser determines that the student has not been awarded appropriate equivalency, the student or the adviser may then appeal the decision through established procedures. Students who believe their transfer work or academic circumstances may justify a waiver or substitution for part of the general education requirements may appeal to the General Education Committee through the Office of Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education (LC 30). As the requirements are implemented, the units considering transfer equivalencies should, if there is demonstrable ambiguity, decide in favor of the transfer student.

Transfer Credit D Grades:  Except for the University’s writing requirements, for which a grade of C or higher or S is required, either pre- or postmatriculation transfer work graded D+, D or D- in a course that applies to one or more of the University’s General Education requirements may be applied toward fulfilling the requirements, even if the student receives no graduation credit for the course.

Administration of the Program

The Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education is responsible for the administration of the program, including interpretation of legislation, assessing the number of seats required and communicating that information to Deans, evaluation of courses, faculty development and program assessment. The Office of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education shall also have the explicit authority to grant waivers and make appropriate substitutions for individual students, and to decertify courses that do not meet the program’s standards. The Vice Provost shall have sufficient material and human resources to meet these responsibilities.

The General Education Committee is a committee of the Undergraduate Academic Council. Its composition is determined by the University Senate.

Course proposals originate in departments or programs, pass through college and school curriculum committees where appropriate, and are reviewed by the General Education Committee. It is the responsibility of the Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education and of the General Education Committee to insure that course proposals meet the values and criteria of the General Education Program. New course proposals must also be approved by the Undergraduate Academic Council of the University Senate; revisions to existing courses designed to qualify them for the general education program will be reviewed only by the General Education Committee.
The General Education Committee will review approved courses on a regular cycle of three years. At the end of the review process, the committee will continue the course for another three-year cycle, suggest revisions necessary for its continuance, or designate the course to be discontinued as a general education course, effective at the end of the spring term of the next academic year. Any decision to discontinue a course must provide sufficient opportunity for appeal and revision.

General Education Courses

The most up-to-date information on courses approved for General Education categories can be found on the General Education website’s “General Education Lookup” page:


On MyUAlbany, the “Search Class Schedules” capability also allows students to search for courses in a term that fulfill one or more of these General Education categories. This same search capability exists from the University’s homepage:

to find courses that meet one or more of the General Education requirements.

In addition, sections of courses that fulfill the categories Writing Intensive, Oral Discourse, and Information Literacy can be identified by the suffix attached to the course number. Students should note that the General Education Look-up page indicates only whether a course has been approved to be offered as a Writing, Oral Discourse or Information Literacy course. When the suffix is attached to the course offering in the Schedule of Classes the General Education content of the course is included in that specific course offering.

Information Literacy

A section of a University at Albany course will fulfill the Information Literacy requirement if the course number ends in the suffix X or V or U or T.

Oral Discourse:

A section of a University at Albany course will fulfill the Oral Discourse requirement if the course number ends in the suffix Y or W or U or T.

Writing Intensive

A section of a University at Albany course will fulfill the Writing Intensive requirement if the course number ends in the suffix Z or W or V or T.

A 100- or 200-level course with one of those suffixes may be used to meet the lower division requirements; a 300-level or above course with one of those suffixes, the upper division requirement.