To receive a baccalaureate degree, a student must satisfy requirements related to credits, grade point average, program of study, and courses. The university maintains some of these requirements in concordance with nationally recognized expectations of academic performance and achievement. Other requirements, such as the General Education program, have the additional purpose of identifying those elements which give coherence to an undergraduate education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Through the General Education program, the major courses of study, and the offering of elective courses, the University provides students with both breadth and depth of study. It is the university’s hope that, through these, students will gain an appreciation for the value of learning as a lifelong process.
It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that all requirements for graduation are fulfilled in timely fashion. To assist students in this, the Registrar’s Office provides an Academic Requirements Report for each student, specifying all the university, college, and major requirements, and indicating whether the student has met the requirement and, if not, what the student must do to meet the requirement. The Report is available online through SPIRE. The Registrar’s Office certifies completion of university requirements and clears students for graduation; undergraduate deans and chief undergraduate advisers authorize this clearance for college and major requirements. The requirements for graduation, and the rationale for curricular requirements, are as follows.
A minimum of 120 credits (128-136 for Engineering majors), at least 45 of which must be earned in residence. For this purpose, residence credits are defined as being credits earned for work done while registered on the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts or while enrolled in one of the university’s formal exchange programs. In addition, students generally must complete their final year in residence, residence in this sense meaning continuous enrollment and regular attendance in classes conducted on the Amherst campus.
A cumulative average of at least C (2.000) overall and in the major. The official grading system runs from A (4.000) through F (0.0) and includes such options as Incompletes, Withdrawals, Audits, and passes. A Pass/Fail option exists to encourage students to be venturesome in their choice of courses, but there are restrictions on how students may then use these courses.
The purpose of the General Education requirement is to stretch students’ minds, broaden their experiences, and prepare them for:
- Their college experiences and subsequent professional training
- Their careers and productive lives
- Community engagement and informed citizenship
- A diverse and rapidly changing world
- A lifetime of learning
The General Education curriculum does this by engaging students in:
- Fundamental questions, ideas, and methods of analysis in the humanities and fine arts, social sciences, mathematics, and natural and physical sciences;
- The application and integration of these methods of analysis to real world problems and contexts;
- Creative, analytical, quantitative, and critical thinking through inquiry, problem solving, and synthesis;
- Pluralistic perspective-taking and awareness of the relationship among culture, self, and others;
- Understanding and evaluating the consequences of one’s choices and the implications of one’s actions;
- Opportunities to develop and practice the skills of critical thinking, reasoning, communication, and integration of knowledge and perspectives, including: Communicating persuasively and effectively orally and in writing;
- Working effectively and collaboratively (in groups, across perspectives);
- Developing information and technological literacy
While acknowledging that these skills are developed throughout a person’s lifetime, and do not terminate with the completion of any set of courses, the university has determined that roughly one-third of the baccalaureate degree program should be devoted to the common General Education curriculum, and has established a set of course requirements in several different areas for this purpose, as described below. Courses that are included in the General Education program are listed with letter designations in the official online Course Guides.
Writing: College Writing (CW) is taken during the freshman year. The Junior Year Writing requirement (which does not carry a letter designation) is completed as part of the requirements for the student’s major.
The Social World: Students must take courses in the curriculum areas of Arts and Literature, Historical Studies, and Social and Behavioral Sciences. The required distribution of sixteen credits in the curriculum areas is as follows: four credits in Literature (AL) or the Arts (AT); four credits in Historical Studies (HS); four credits in the Social and Behavioral Sciences (SB); and an additional four credits in any of the areas within the Social World (AL, AT, or SB), or an Interdisciplinary (I) or Science Interdisciplinary (SI) course.
Social and Cultural Diversity: Within the Social World Area, students are expected to take two courses in diversity—one focused on diversity in the United States (DU) and a second on diversity in a global context (DG). All diversity courses are offered as a joint designation, paired with an additional Social World designation (e.g., ALDU, ATDG, HSDU, SBDG, or IDU). Beginning Fall 2018, students are required to take one diversity course (either a DU or DG) during their first year on campus.
The Biological and Physical World: Eight credits are required, with at least four credits in a Biological Science (BS) and at least four credits in a Physical Science (PS).
Basic Math Skills: A student may be exempted from the Basic Math Skills requirement by achieving a sufficiently high score on the Basic Math Skills Exemption Exam. Students not exempted by examination score or transferable credit must take one Basic Math Skills (R1) course.
Analytic Reasoning: All students must take one course designated R2.
Note: Some advanced courses that presuppose knowledge of basic math skills may satisfy the R1 requirement. A list of these courses is available at http://www.umass.edu/registrar/students/general-educationacademic-requirements/r1r2-gen-ed-requirements
Some of these courses also have an R2 designation and can satisfy both the R1 and R2 requirements.
Integrative Experience: Students must enroll in an upper-division integrative experience during their advanced years of study. This experience provides a structured context for students to reflect on their own learning and explore the connections between the broad exposure provided by General Education and the more focused exposure of their major. It does not carry a designation and the courses that satisfy the requirement are related to the major.
Note: These requirements are in effect for students entering in fall 2010 or later. More information is available at the General Education website: www.umass.edu/gened/.
Only one course in the student’s major department may be counted toward satisfaction of the following General Education requirements: AL, AT, HS, SB, BS, PS, I, SI, or R2. A student may use one course in the major department to fulfill one of the two diversity requirements. At least one diversity requirement must be fulfilled outside the major department.
No General Education requirement will be fulfilled by a course for which a “pass” grade (P) is recorded or which the student elected on a Pass/Fail basis (regardless of whether a grade or a P appears on the transcript).
College or School Requirements
Where applicable. See descriptions in the introductory sections of the Colleges and Schools.
A major, constituting intensive or specialized work in a particular department or program, provides depth in an undergraduate education. The number of credits required for a major varies widely, depending on the field of study. Every major requires the successful completion of at least 30 credits in a coherent and extensive set of courses with a particular discipline or focus; many require more. The university now offers 92 majors, including the Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration (BDIC), a major that the student creates in conjunction with a faculty sponsor. Departmental major requirements may change yearly. Considerable majors information is available in this Guide under major field headings, and details can be requested directly from the specific department on campus.