General Education Program

The University at Albany's General Education Program is undergoing a three-year transition to new requirements. The General Education Program requirements effective with this 2012-2013 Undergraduate Bulletin apply to all students matriculating in Fall 2012 through Summer 2013 and to continuing students graduating in December 2012 and thereafter.

Students who matriculate after Summer 2013 will follow requirements based on the Undergraduate Bulletin in effect during the academic year in which they matriculate.

For complete details on the General Education Program, including the timetable for the implementation of the new requirements, see the General Education website:

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 General Education Program is intended to provide students with a foundation that 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 to provide them as well with new ways of thinking and with the ability to engage in critical analysis and creative activity.

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 courses 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.

Requirements of the Program

    1) A minimum of 30 credits of coursework in the following areas:

Math and Statistics 1 course
Writing Intensive* 1 course
Arts** 1 course
Humanities** 1 course
Natural Sciences 1 course
Social Sciences 1 course
U.S. History 1 course
International Perspectives 1 course
Foreign Languages 1 course
Additional approved course in Arts, Humanities, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, U.S. History, International Perspectives, or Foreign Languages 1 course

*Writing Intensive courses must be completed with a grade of S or C or better.
** No single course can be used to satisfy BOTH the Humanities and the Arts requirement.

    2) An Information Literacy course

Please note: effective for all students matriculating Fall 2013 and beyond, students will also be required to choose one course from the UAlbany category "Challenges for the 21st Century."

While the majority of General Education courses are at the 100 and 200 level, the General Education Program at the University at Albany is conceived as extending throughout the four years of undergraduate study. Indeed, certain requirements may be more appropriately completed during the junior and senior years. Students are encouraged, however, to complete the requirements in the categories of Information Literacy and Writing Intensive within the freshman or sophomore years.

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 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. Among these competencies, Writing, Mathematics and Statistics, and Information Literacy are considered to be important foundations for other areas of students’ academic success.

The humanities and arts, natural sciences, and social sciences are commonly considered to be the core of a liberal arts education. Courses in these categories are designed to familiarize students with the objectives, assumptions, subject matters, methods, and boundaries of knowledge organized in terms of academic disciplines. The requirements 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 categories of U.S. History and International Perspectives are designed to increase students’ understanding of the history of this nation (U.S.), of its cultural diversity, of histories and cultures that have played a major role in the development of the U.S., and of cultures and histories beyond those of the U.S.

The Foreign Language requirement is also designed to enhance students' global awareness and to expand their knowledge of different cultures.

Definition of Each General Education Category

Mathematics and Statistics: Approved courses introduce students to or extend their knowledge of precalculus, 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 precalculus will be considered to have fulfilled this requirement.

Writing Intensive: Students must satisfactorily complete with a grade of C or higher or S a Writing Intensive course which is expected to be completed within the freshman or sophomore year. Writing Intensive 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 increasing understanding of the subject of the course.

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 writing intensive requirement at this University.

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 five 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.

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.

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 (Part 1 U.S. History) available to all students or from a list of more specialized courses (Part 2 U.S. History). All other students must complete a Part 1 U.S. History course. The more specialized courses cover to some extent knowledge of common institutions in American society and how they have affected different groups, provide an understanding of America's evolving relationship with the rest of the world, and deal substantially with issues of American history.

International Perspectives: Approved courses enable students to demonstrate:

  1. knowledge and understanding of European history and/or culture, through:
    an understanding of the variety of cultures, regions, and countries that make up Europe;
    knowledge of the distinctiveness of Europe as manifested in the development of diverse histories, institutions, economies, societies, and cultures;
    knowledge of the relationship between Europe and other regions of the world as expressed through political, economic, and cultural contact;
    an understanding of how the knowledge that becomes the basis of historical inquiry is constructed;
  2. OR knowledge and understanding of the history and/or culture of regions beyond Europe, through:
    knowledge of the distinctive features (e.g. history, institutions, economies, societies, cultures) of one region beyond Europe or European North America;
    an understanding of the region from the perspective of its people(s);
    an ability to analyze and contextualize cultural and historical materials relevant to the region;
    an ability to locate and identify distinctive geographical features of the region;
  3. OR knowledge and understanding of cultures and traditions of any region, nation, or society outside the United States, including courses taught in a foreign language beyond the elementary level, through:
    an understanding of the impact (e.g. economic, political, historical, cultural) of nations, regions, and cultures upon other nations, regions, and cultures;
    an understanding of the reciprocal interactions between individuals and global systems; an ability to see cultural groups from their own points of view;
    an ability to use the analytic tools of a specific discipline to engage in comparative analyses of cultures, nations, and regions;
  4. OR knowledge and understanding of a culture other than that of the United States by completion of a study abroad experience that earns credit at the University at Albany.
Foreign Language: One course of at least 3 credits in a language other than English. This requirement is also considered satisfied for students who have:
  • demonstrated competency in a language other than English, including languages not currently offered for formal instruction at this university; or
  • passed a Regents “Checkpoint B” Examination or a Regents-approved equivalent in a foreign language, with a score of 85 or above; or
  • completed three or more years of a foreign language in high school with a course grade in the third year of 85, or B, or better; or
  • earned a score of 530 or better on an SAT II Subject Test in a foreign language.

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Transfer Course Policies

Transfer students who have earned an Associate of Arts (A.A.) or an Associate of Science (A.S.) degree from a SUNY state-operated campus or SUNY community college shall be considered to have completed all University at Albany General Education requirements.

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.

Students may present credit for courses the University deems equivalent to these requirements, but for the transfer course to fulfill the Writing Intensive 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 General Education equivalence for any given course or courses are encouraged to consult with their academic advisor; if the academic advisor determines that the student has not been awarded appropriate equivalency, the student or the advisor 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). For information on appealing how transfer work has been applied to the General Education requirements, see "Transfer Credit Appeals" at

Transfer Credit D Grades: Except for the University’s Writing Intensive requirement, 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 (UAC). This Committee is responsible for the administration of the General Education Program. 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.

The General Education Advisory Board is advisory to the General Education Committee of the UAC. Its purpose is to ensure that the principles and practices of the General Education program are well understood by all stakeholders, and that all concerned parties understand that General Education courses are an integral part of undergraduate work. In this context, the Board is responsible for soliciting student input on an ongoing basis about desirable General Education courses, and work with deans and department chairs to find support for faculty to design and teach such courses. In addition, the General Education Advisory Board will work with major departments and the General Education Assessment Committee to develop a structure or process by which departments will verify how students acquire competencies in critical thinking, oral and written communication, and information literacy within the framework of majors. The General Education Advisory Board’s members are approved by a majority vote of the Undergraduate Academic Council.

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 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 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 T, U, V, or X.

Writing Intensive

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