NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
ERIC Number: ED555643
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2013-Nov
Pages: 12
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
General Education at UNC-Chapel Hill
Schalin, Jay; Robinson, Jenna Ashley
John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy
The general education program at UNC-Chapel Hill has abandoned the concept of a core curriculum. Instead, students choose their "required" classes from lists of thousands of courses that may be as narrow and idiosyncratic as Love, Sex and Marriage in Soviet Culture (RUSS 277) or The Gardens, Shrines and Temples of Japan (ASIA 586). General education consists of the courses that a college or university requires a student to take in order to be a "well-rounded person." Usually, students can choose from a variety of courses that fall into categories of knowledge determined by the school to be of particular importance. When properly designed, general education (GenEd) can be the most valuable part of a student's college education. It emphasizes skills, knowledge, and reasoning that are applicable to all careers. These include the ability to organize thoughts and write well, the ability to use logical, scientific, probabilistic, or other forms of reasoning, an awareness of mankind's past activities and ideas as influences on the present and future, the power of analysis, and much more. In today's world, in which graduates will likely change jobs numerous times or possibly never work in their major field of study, such skills are paramount for their success. Society also benefits from a well-designed general education because it teaches students about citizenship, ethics, and culture. A good general education program should elevate a student's sense of what it means to be moral, good, or just. Yet, despite its importance, general education is often treated like a poor second cousin compared to the concentrated study of a specific major discipline. Nowhere is that more true than at UNC-Chapel Hill. The current general education curriculum at UNC-Chapel Hill is far from optimal. Indeed, it is incoherent. UNC-Chapel Hill's general education program follows an all-too-typical "smorgasbord" approach. Students choose from thousands of courses, many of them as narrow as The Folk Revival: The Singing Left in Mid-20th Century America (AMST 266), or as trendy as First Year Seminar: Kung-fu: The Concept of Heroism in Chinese Culture (ASIA 55). Why is the GenEd curriculum so unstructured and unwieldy? A major reason is that it reflects the control of curriculum by faculty, many of whom regard it as a means to advance their own department's courses and even their own narrow fields of research. The inclusion or exclusion of a course in the GenEd program can influence course enrollment and thus the course's possible continuation or elimination. With campus politics at play, faculties frequently create general education programs that are so all-inclusive that they lack any reasonable size or structure. That is the case at UNC-Chapel Hill. This report outlines and examines the UNC-Chapel Hill general education requirements. The actual list of courses (more than 4700 courses) can be found online in a spreadsheet developed by the Pope Center (
John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy. 353 East Six Forks Road Suite 150, Raleigh, NC 27609. Tel: 919-828-1400; Fax: 919-828-7455; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy
Identifiers - Location: North Carolina