General Education Requirement

The General Education program is the cornerstone of the Harvard College curriculum. Focusing on urgent problems and enduring questions, Gen Ed courses are unusually explicit in connecting the subjects students study to the people they will become and the world beyond the classroom. Transcending disciplinary divisions, these courses demonstrate the value of embedding what students will learn in their concentrations within the broader context of the liberal arts.

Starting in Fall 2019, students graduating in May 2020 or later must complete four General Education courses, one from each of the following four General Education categories:

  • Aesthetics & Culture 
    • Aesthetics and Culture courses engage diverse artistic genres and cultural traditions, helping students situate themselves and others as products of and participants in art and culture.
  • Ethics & Civics
    • Ethics and Civics courses engage with large questions about right and wrong, helping students grapple with the nature of civic virtue and the ethical dimensions of what they say and do.
  • Histories, Societies, Individuals
    • Histories, Societies, Individuals courses engage questions of identity and social change, helping students understand the histories and traditions that they will encounter in a global context.
  • Science & Technology in Society
    • Science and Technology in Society courses engage students in the study of scientific innovations and their social contexts, helping students assess the promise and pitfalls of current and future innovations using methods of scientific inquiry.

Three of these courses must be letter-graded. One may be taken pass/fail, with the permission of the instructor. However, if that same course is being used to fulfill a concentration or secondary field requirement, there may be limitations on pass/fail options. Students should check with their advisers.

There are no constraints regarding the timing of these courses, as long as all are completed by graduation.

General Education requirements will not be reduced for Advanced Standing, Transfer Students, or Term Time Study Abroad.

Only courses approved by the Standing Committee on General Education can be used to fulfill General Education requirements. Students may not petition to have courses count.

Designated Harvard Summer School and Harvard Summer Study Abroad courses may count for General Education. Ordinarily, summer courses count if they are identical to courses that receive General Education credit during the academic year and are taught by the same Harvard faculty members who teach them during the academic year (or by a member of the same department).

For questions, students should contact the General Education Office (617-495-2563, Smith Campus Center Fourth Floor).