Senate Committee on Educational Policy Proposal for Revision of Undergraduate General Education Requirements

EP.89.09 – May 8, 1989

Note: This document contains language approved at the May 8, 1989 meeting.

I. Background

Since 1985, the UIUC Senate Committee on Educational Policy has been discussing recommendations for the enhancement of undergraduate education on this campus, attending particularly to the quality of undergraduate instruction, the quality of undergraduate advising, and the nature of the campus General Education requirements for baccalaureate degrees. In an effort to focus Senate discussion on the third of those areas, General Education, the Educational Policy Committee presented the Senate with a “Proposal for Revision of Undergraduate General Education Requirements” (EP.89.09) as a discussion item in October, 1988. After having reviewed Senate responses and numerous written responses to EP.89.09 from various quarters of the campus, the Educational Policy Committee has extensively revised that earlier proposal. It is the view of the Educational Policy Committee that this revised proposal, if implemented, would constitute a substantial improvement over the current campus General Education requirements, approved by the Senate in 1962. (Additional background information, including a brief excerpt from the Senate proposal of 1962, is available in Appendix A.)

II. Recommendations

The Educational Policy Committee of the UIUC Senate proposes that the Senate approve each of the following recommendations:

  1. Baccalaureate degree programs at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign should be characterized by a common, campus-wide commitment to General Education. This commitment should be guided by the following statement, to be included in published descriptions of campus undergraduate programs:
    Undergraduate education at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign includes General Education as an essential complement to major fields of study. General Education uses the theories, concepts, and methods of the disciplines to broaden students’ understanding and appreciation of human thought and achievement – and to provide a richer context within which to understand their own specialized fields. The campus General Education component is intended to help students understand and appreciate diverse areas of scholarship, to develop and enhance a wide range of intellectual abilities, and to strengthen students’ abilities to develop and communicate ideas effectively and responsibly. 
  2. Courses satisfying the General Education requirements should engage students in modes of inquiry and analysis appropriate to the respective disciplines, should be intellectually challenging, and should have been approved by a faculty- student committee charged with overseeing the quality of the General Education component of undergraduate programs (see C). While some degree programs may require additional General Education coursework, all undergraduates will be required to fulfill the minimum set of eight requirements spelled out in the following section. Normally, these General Education requirements will be satisfied through completion of actual coursework. However, those departmental or special proficiency examinations (which are offered in some University courses open to freshmen and sophomores) may also be used for the requirements, unless it is explicitly stated below that proficiency credit is unacceptable for a particular General Education requirement.
    • English Composition
      Each student will fulfill a two-part requirement, which may be identified simply as Composition I and II. The Composition I course requirement may be met by satisfactory completion of an approved course, taken at an appropriate skill level, in Rhetoric, Speech Communication, or English as an International Language. The Composition I requirement is identical to the current campus-wide composition requirement. A student with a sufficiently high score on either the ACT English Subtest or the SAT Verbal Test and high performance on a written essay examination will satisfy the English Composition I requirement for graduation. The Composition II requirement may be met by satisfactory completion of a course taken in any component of the undergraduate program, so long as the course requires sufficient writing to be approved and designated as satisfying the demands of the Composition II requirement (procedures for such approval are described in C below). Such a course may, but need not, fulfill a curriculum requirement in the major or in another General Education category. The Composition II requirement cannot be met by passing a proficiency examination. In addition to these specific requirements, students should recognize that the complex skills of expressing ideas clearly and effectively are to be further developed throughout the undergraduate curriculum. Whenever appropriate, General Education courses will include opportunities to think critically about the elements of a subject, if possible by reading several sources on it; to discuss relevant dimensions of the topic; and to write in response to particular assignments.
    • Quantitative Reasoning
      Each student will fulfill a two-part Quantitative Reasoning requirement, designated Quantitative Reasoning I and II. To fulfill the first part of this requirement, each student must receive credit for at least one approved college-level quantitative reasoning course in mathematics, computer science, statistics, or formal logic. The second part of the Quantitative Reasoning requirement may be fulfilled by satisfactory completion of any course that requires sufficient quantitative reasoning to be approved and designated as satisfying the Quantitative Reasoning II requirement (procedures for approval described in C below). Such a course may, but need not, fulfill a curriculum requirement in the major or in another General Education category.
    • Foreign Language
      To ensure that every UIUC graduate will have a working knowledge of a foreign language each student will obtain credit at the third college semester level or satisfactorily complete the third secondary school year of one foreign language. Students may also satisfy this requirement by demonstrating proficiency through the third college semester level.
    • Natural Sciences and Technology
      Each student will satisfactorily complete at least nine credit hours of approved coursework in the Natural Sciences and Technology. It is recommended that at least one course be taken in each of the following areas: 1) the Physical Sciences and 2) the Life Sciences. At least one of those courses will involve substantial experience in laboratory methods. Lab courses will be clearly designated as having been approved for meeting General Education Requirements.
    • Humanities and the Arts
      Each student will satisfactorily complete at least nine credit hours of approved coursework in humanities and the arts. At least one course must be from an approved list of courses in literature and the arts and at least one must be from an approved list of courses in historical and philosophical perspectives.
    • Social and Behavioral Sciences
      Each student will satisfactorily complete at least nine credit hours of approved coursework in the social and behavioral sciences. At least one course must be from an approved list of courses in social sciences and at least one must be from an approved list of courses in the behavioral sciences.
    • Cultural Studies
      Each student will obtain credit for two courses approved for satisfaction of the Cultural Studies requirement. One of these must be approved and designated as concentrating on Western culture, and one on either non- Western culture or American sub-cultures and minority groups. These courses may fulfill other curricular requirements (e.g., in the major, or in one of the other General Education categories), but may not both be taken from the same General Education category. (Note: While such terms as “Western culture” and “minority groups” are imprecise and can be misleading, it is assumed for the purposes of this proposal that these terms will communicate the intent of the requirement sufficiently for course approval guidelines to be clearly developed. (See C below for course approval procedures.)
    • Perspectives on Women and Gender
      All students should become familiar, through their UIUC coursework in general education and in the balance of their programs, with scholarship in the various fields of inquiry on the significance of women and gender. As one means of achieving this goal, the General Education Board will assure that material drawn from this scholarship becomes an integral part of a substantial number of General Education courses.
  3. To ensure, as much as possible, that General Education courses will be valuable intellectual experiences, a campus-wide General Education Board is hereby established by the Senate. The recommendations of this Board will be reported to the Senate through the Senate Educational Policy Committee and the Senate Budget Committee as appropriate. This Board, roughly analogous to the Graduate College Executive Committee, appointed through the Senate Council, would consist of faculty members designated by the deans of the colleges with the membership of the Board apportioned as follows:
    1. 8 members will represent each of the following colleges; Agriculture, Applied Life Studies, Commerce and Business Administration, Communications, Education, Engineering, Fine and Applied Arts, Liberal Arts and Sciences.
    2. 11 members will be apportioned among the colleges which provide a significant percentage of General Education courses. The allocation of this group will depend on the number of departments in the colleges who offer substantial amounts of instruction to non-majors. (A suitable criterion might, for example, be departments offering at least 20,000 Instructional Units and where at least 60% of these units are offered to non-majors.) The inaugural composition of the Board will be allocated so that CBA has 2 additional representatives. Engineering will have 2 additional representatives while LAS is allocated the remaining 7 additional representatives.
    3. The proper distribution of seats on the General Education Board will be subject to revision by the Senate as enrollment trends change and additional colleges assume responsibility for General Education courses.
    4. The Deans of the colleges will decide, with the advice and consent of the College Executive Committees, on the mode by which the college representatives will be selected so as to assure proper representation of disciplines contributing heavily to General Education. Colleges may choose to elect their representatives or to have them designated by the Dean. Should a college choose to designate, rather than elect, its representatives, the designation should be reviewed by the College Executive Committee.
    5. The Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs may appoint an additional faculty member to the Board. The VCAA will also choose which of the faculty members will serve as Chair.
    6. Terms of service on the Board will be three years in duration, except that one third of the members of the inaugural Board will be replaced after one year, and another third will be replaced after two years. Three undergraduate student representatives will be selected by the Vice- Chancellor for Academic Affairs from a slate provided by the Committee on Committees. Students will be from three different colleges. Students will serve for two years. The net effect will be a Board of 19 (20 if the Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs exercises the option of appointing a member) faculty and three student members.

    The responsibilities of the General Education Board should include the following, and these responsibilities should be met prior to implementation of the new General Education requirements:

    1. The Board should define the categories of the General Education requirements listed above so that courses may be clearly identified as falling into one or another category. The categories should be so defined that, in principle: a) any academic department on campus should be able to offer coursework in at least one category; b) an academic department may offer coursework in multi-categories; c) no single academic department is the exclusive provider of coursework in any category.
    2. The Board should develop minimal aims and criteria for approval of courses in each category. Such criteria can assist departments in selecting, designing, and redesigning courses to meet General Education requirements and will help ensure that the aims of General Education are met. The category definitions and course criteria must be approved by the UIUC Senate and the Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs.
    3. After providing approved category descriptions and course criteria, the Board should solicit from all academic departments brief descriptions of courses proposed as General Education offerings. Proposals for course sequences should be encouraged. Further, a department may seek approval for course offerings in more than one category: e.g., the Psychology department may seek approval of courses in Social and Behavioral Science as well as in Natural Science.
    4. The Board should review course proposals, approve those that meet published criteria, and solicit revisions and even new course development where the need exists.
    5. The Academic Senate recognizes that this program of General Education cannot be implemented without either a substantial reallocation of resources within the campus or an appropriation of substantial new resources. Hence, the Board should, together with the Deans, the Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs and the Chancellor estimate the overall costs of the General Education Program approved here. The Board will examine the availability of the new resources required for the program’s implementation. Only when the Chancellor and the Vice-Chancellor for Academic Affairs, in consultation with the Deans and Senate Budget Committee, are satisfied that adequate resources can be made available will an implementation schedule for this program be announced. During this interim period, the General Education Board will regularly report to the Senate on its progress toward implementation of the new requirements.
    6. Because efforts to increase educational standards affect students from different educational backgrounds differently, the Board should take specific steps to help identify and address the needs of various groups of students who are at risk of being adversely affected by the new General Education requirements. Students from small rural schools with limited curricula, Education Opportunity Program students, and communications-impaired students are among those who might require special assistance, not to exempt them from new requirements, but to help them meet these requirements effectively. The Board should regularly consult representatives of such student populations for guidance in these matters.
    7. Because courses tend to change in content and procedure after a few years, one responsibility of the Board should be periodic review of approved General Education courses and sequences. Upon review, courses which seem inadequately to implement the intent of the General Education requirement should be revised in accord with the General Education guidelines or should be removed from “approved” General Education status.
    8. These General Education requirements will be considered binding upon all baccalaureate programs, unless it is demonstrated to the Senate Educational Policy Committee and to the Senate that students in a specific degree program cannot meet these requirements. An alternative set of requirements for that program would then be proposed to the Senate.