Program of Study (CAS Bulletin)

College Core Curriculum (2016 - 2018)



The College Core Curriculum has five components:

  1. The First-Year Seminar
  2. Study of a foreign language
  3. The Expository Writing Program
  4. Foundations of Contemporary Culture (FCC)
  5. Foundations of Scientific Inquiry (FSI)

Though structured and integrated, the Core Curriculum affords students flexibility in a number of ways. It permits the choice of different tracks in each component, the satisfaction of some courses by examination or Advanced Placement (or equivalent international) credit (foreign language, FSI), and the substitution of departmental courses (FSI, Societies and the Social Sciences in FCC).

Given this flexibility, students work individually with advisers to plan course schedules that take into account their past preparation, current interests, and longer-term goals. While there is no prescribed schedule of courses that will be appropriate for every student, the following broad guidelines should be kept in mind:

  • Incoming freshmen should complete their Core courses by the end of sophomore year. This will leave them free in their junior and senior years to focus on their major and elective courses. Some science majors, engineering students, prehealth students, and students placed in the International Writing Workshop sequence may need to delay starting, and thus finishing, a component of the Core Curriculum for a semester or more. Students who study away may also need to delay completing their Core courses beyond the sophomore year.
  • Students must complete Writing the Essay (EXPOS-UA 1) during their first year. Those placed into the Liberal Studies Writing or International Writing Workshop sequences must begin in their first semester and must register for their remaining writing course(s) in the semester(s) immediately following.
  • In designing the College Core Curriculum, the faculty sought to ensure that all students would receive a broad exposure to the liberal arts early in their college careers. With this wide academic horizon, the Core Curriculum encourages students to discover new intellectual interests outside their intended areas of specialization and to pursue those interests with elective courses outside their majors in their later undergraduate years.


The First-Year Seminars (FYS), required of all entering CAS freshmen (and open only to them), aim to put students into contact with leading thinkers (both distinguished faculty members and eminent visitors), to introduce them to important subjects, to challenge them intellectually through rigorous standards of analysis and oral and written argumentation, and to prepare them to conduct their own research. To that end, the first-year seminars stress demanding readings and writing assignments that introduce students to an essential research skill—such as a literature review, quantitative reasoning, critical use of primary sources, the identification of a research problem, critical analysis of texts, or confrontations with works of art. In addition to participating actively in class discussions, students are often expected to give oral presentations in class. A final paper will typically, though not always, have gone through one or more revisions, perhaps revised with the benefit of in-class comments. In other first-year seminars, the focus may be on individual or group projects.


The study of foreign languages is an integral part of a liberal arts education. It nurtures an awareness of the diversity of human culture and serves the practical need for language skills in fields such as government, business, and research. New York University is a particularly exciting setting for language study because of its location in a great cosmopolitan city, its international student body, its many renowned language programs and centers, and its numerous opportunities for study away.

In addition to the foreign language courses offered for academic credit, the College offers opportunities for students of modern languages to practice their skills in real-world situations outside the classroom. NYU Speaking Freely is a free, noncredit program that allows students to practice their speaking and aural comprehension skills and to explore the linguistically diverse cultures of New York City. For more information about this popular program, con- tact the Office of the Associate Dean for Students, Silver Center, 100 Washington Square East, Room 909; 212-998-8140;

Increasingly, college graduates must be prepared to function in a global society. Apart from the inherent interest of learning about other cultures, many NYU students take the opportunity to study or travel abroad as preparation for their future careers. For more information about study away programs, visit the Office of Global Programs, 110 East 14th Street, New York, NY 10003-4170; 212-998-4433;; and consult the study away section of this Bulletin.


To fulfill the foreign language component of the College Core Curriculum, students must demon- strate or attain proficiency in a foreign language through the intermediate level. Ordinarily, this is accomplished by the successful completion of two years of language study in the College, through the second semester of a regular intermediate-level language sequence. Some languages are also taught as intensive courses, allowing students to complete the equivalent of two years of study in a single year. After two years of college language study or the equivalent demonstrated proficiency, students should have gained a broad competence in a language, but true fluency of written or oral expression will not usually have been developed at this point. For this reason, all students are encouraged to continue their language study beyond the intermediate level. In particular, students studying modern languages will find it most beneficial to immerse themselves in the living culture of a language by studying, traveling, or working abroad. Likewise, students of all languages, whether ancient or modern, are encouraged to continue their studies with elective courses in literature at the advanced level.


Students may fulfill the foreign language component of the College Core Curriculum by presenting outstanding scores on the SAT Subject Test or Advanced Placement Test (or equivalent international examination) in certain foreign languages, or by passing a CAS or departmental proficiency examination. For further information on language placement and exemption, see “placement examinations” in the academic policies section of this Bulletin. For Advanced Placement Test and international examination equivalencies, consult the chart in the admission section, also in this Bulletin. Students whose secondary schooling was in a language other than English and other than a language offered in the College, or who complete the International Writing Workshop I, II sequence (EXPOS-UA 4, 9), are exempt from the foreign language requirement. Also exempt are students in the dual-degree engineering program.


Listed below are courses covering the second semester of the intermediate level of language study. Intensive courses, which allow students to complete the equivalent of two years of study in a single year, are also listed where available. Completion of any of the following courses will fulfill the foreign language requirement. Please consult the individual departmental listings for information on prerequisite courses.

Arabic, Intermediate II (MEIS-UA 104)
Cantonese, Intermediate II (SCA-UA 334/ EAST-UA 413)
Chinese, Intermediate II (EAST-UA 204)
Chinese, Intermediate for Advanced Beginners (EAST-UA 232)
Filipino (Tagalog), Intermediate II (SCA-UA 324)
French, Intermediate II (FREN-UA 12) 
French, Intensive Intermediate (FREN-UA 20)
German, Intermediate II (GERM-UA 4)
German, Intensive Intermediate (GERM-UA 20)
Greek, Ancient, Intermediate II: Homer (CLASS-UA 10)
Greek, Modern, Intermediate II (HEL-UA 106)
Hebrew, Intermediate II (HBRJD-UA 4)
Hindi, Intermediate II (MEIS-UA 408)
Irish, Modern, Intermediate II (IRISH-UA 103)
Italian, Intermediate II (ITAL-UA 12)
Italian, Intensive Intermediate (ITAL-UA 20)
Japanese, Intermediate II (EAST-UA 250)
Japanese, for Reading Proficiency (EAST-UA 268)
Korean, Intermediate II (EAST-UA 257)
Korean, Intermediate for Advanced Learners (EAST-UA 282)
Kreyol, Haitian, Intermediate II (LATC-UA TBD)
Latin: Vergil (CLASS-UA 6)
Persian, Intermediate II (MEIS-UA 404)
Portuguese, Intermediate II (PORT-UA 4)
Portuguese, Intensive Intermediate for Spanish Speakers (PORT-UA 21)
Quechua, Intermediate II (SPAN-UA 84)
Russian, Intermediate II (RUSSN-UA 4)
Russian, Grammar and Composition II (RUSSN-UA 6)
Spanish, Intermediate II (SPAN-UA 4)
Spanish for Spanish Speakers (SPAN-UA 11)
Spanish, Intensive Intermediate (SPAN-UA 20)
Swahili, Intermediate II (SCA-UA 124)
Turkish, Intermediate II (MEIS-UA 504)
Urdu, Intermediate II (MEIS-UA 304)

Each department offering language instruction in the College has designated a member of its faculty to coordinate its courses and policies. For more information on specific language classes, placement, or exemption, please contact the language coordinator, director of language programs, or director of undergraduate studies named in the individual departmental sections in this Bulletin.

Thanks to an exchange arrangement with Columbia University, students may also enroll in the following languages, offered through the intermediate level and given at Columbia: Armenian, Bengali, Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian, Catalan, Czech (Elementary I and II are offered in the College; intermediate-level courses are offered at Columbia), Dutch, Finnish, Hungarian, Indonesian, Ottoman Turkish, Polish,, Punjabi, Romanian, Sanskrit, Swahili, Swedish, Tamil, Modern Tibetan, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Wolof, Yoruba (Elementary I and II are offered in the College; intermediate-level courses are offered at Columbia), and Zulu. For information about these courses, visit the Office of Academic Affairs, Silver Center, 100 Washington Square East, Room 908; 212-998-8110. Not every language is offered at Columbia every semester.


The practice of including writing in the Core Curriculum reflects NYU’s longstanding commitment to the centrality of written inquiry to undergraduate education. Expository writing courses at NYU teach students to move from answering teachers’ question to identifying and responding to questions and problems that they themselves identify. To this end, students learn to use writing as a flexible tool for exploring ideas, taking intellectual and creative risks, analyzing data (sources, text, visual material, and empirical data), making and rethinking observations, and investigating questions and curiosities. Students also learn to think of writing as a process of consciously crafting a text that purposefully communicates an idea, finding, result, insight, or interpretation to a specific imagined audience.

Most students fulfill the expository writing component of the Core through completion of Writing the Essay (EXPOS-UA 1). Subject to proficiency recommendations, some international students may be placed in the two-semester sequence International Writing Workshop I and II (EXPOS-UA 4 and 9). A number of advanced elective courses are also available. For a complete description of the program and its course offerings, see the Expository Writing Program section of this Bulletin.


The Foundations of Contemporary Culture (FCC) sequence of the College Core Curriculum is a  series of four coordinated courses in the humanities and social sciences. Within each of the four offerings, students are free to pursue their particular interests through their choice of individual classes. Overall, the structure of the FCC ensures that every student in the College gains a common core of skills and experiences in the liberal arts. In addition to the information on the FCC sequence provided in this Bulletin, detailed descriptions of each year’s course offerings may be found on the Core Curriculum website.

Texts and Ideas

Texts and Ideas introduces students to the ideals of liberal education and the central role of humanistic study in the liberal arts and fosters appreciation of the importance of humanistic learning for society at large. Students become acquainted with some of the literary and philosophical works that have been most influential in shaping the contemporary world and with significant instances in which the ideas in these works have been debated, developed, appropriated, or rejected. Texts and Ideas is not a survey but, rather, an examination of how texts influence subsequent thinking, create traditions, and reflect societal ideals. Texts and Ideas thus aims to provide a richer understanding of how cultures are constructed, modified, and represented.

Cultures and Contexts

Cultures and Contexts prepares students for life in a globalized world by introducing them to the ways in which humans come to understand themselves as members of social, religious, national, and regional collectives and by fostering their appreciation of the dynamics of cultural interaction and influence. Individual sections focus on specific social or cultural groups different from the dominant traditions of contemporary North America. They share a common concern to examine the ways cultures have interacted, for example, through trade, colonization, immigration, religious dispersion, and media representation; how such groups define themselves against internal and external difference; and how the dominant perspective of Western modernity affects comprehension of the ways in which people outside that position understand, experience, and imagine their lives.

Offerings include emergent traditions, diaspora formations, and societies understood as nationally, geographically, or culturally distinct from the dominant traditions of contemporary North America. Courses focusing on ancient civilizations are also included, as are courses that address contemporary challenges to traditional European conceptions of national identity.

Societies and the Social Sciences

Over the past several centuries, enormous social transformations have taken place around the world. To understand the complexity of these phenomena, new methods have been developed to study societal structures and human behavior. Each of the courses under Societies and the Social Sciences begins from a particular disciplinary approach, social concern, or topic, in order to orient students to the characteristic methods of these social sciences. Students learn how issues are objectified for study, how data are collected and analyzed, and how new understanding is thereby achieved. Whether through an interdisciplinary approach, consideration of their historical development, or reflection on critical and positivistic debates, the courses help students both to appreciate the unique insights afforded by these methods and to recognize the limits of such inquiry. In this way, students move beyond the particular focus of the class to a broader understanding of methods and problems in the social sciences generally.

Expressive Culture

In Expressive Culture, students explore the complexities of artistic expression in various media: sounds, images, words, performance, or film. Each course introduces requisite historical, formal, and critical vocabularies; examines fundamental issues associated with interpretation of the arts making use of these media; and investigates the complex relations between artistic activity and other facets of social organization. The courses also make use, whenever possible, of the rich cultural resources of New York City.


The Foundations of Scientific Inquiry (FSI) component of the College Core Curriculum is a series of three coordinated courses in quantitative reasoning and the natural sciences. Together, these courses ensure that every student in the College gains a fundamental understanding of how mathematics and laboratory experimentation advance scientific investigation. While some students acquire this background through course work offered in the science majors and the prehealth track, FSI courses are especially designed to meet the needs of nonscience students. Within each of the three offerings, students are free to pursue their particular interests through their choice of individual classes.In addition to the information on the FSI provided in this Bulletin, detailed descriptions of each year’s course offerings may be found on the Core Curriculum website.

Quantitative Reasoning

Students in Quantitative Reasoning engage mathematical concepts in a variety of contexts in the natural or social sciences. All courses include a substantial amount of problem solving that requires both conceptual and computational work.

Physical Science

(Formerly Natural Science I.) Scientific knowledge has its basis in our natural curiosity about the world around us and our place in it. These courses approach the physical sciences with the intent of asking and trying to answer interesting questions, dealing with topics ranging from the origin of our universe and planet to how human activity affects our environment. Students consider the important roles played by laws of physics and chemistry in biology, earth and environmental sciences, astrophysics, and cosmology; they also develop an understanding of how the physical sciences inform the natural sciences generally. Mathematics is introduced in each course with frequent applications to the subject matter. Predictions that can be made only with the use of mathematics are clearly delineated, showing the powerful role it plays in our understanding of the universe. Wherever possible, the courses relate science to societal problems and develop a historical perspective.

Life Science

(Formerly Natural Science II.) The complexity of the biological realm continues to fascinate and challenge modern scientists, who are currently engaged in such diverse pursuits as exploring the organization and function of the brain, reconstructing the origin of the human species, linking the multiplicity of interactions in ecosystems, and deciphering the influence of heredity on complex traits. The courses in Life Science take a nontraditional approach to the life sciences, with an emphasis on approaching science as a dynamic process of investigation and discovery. Each course selects a broad theme that is at the forefront of contemporary research, then uses specific questions and examples to introduce students to the methodology of scientific inquiry, the critical evaluation of results, and the mathematical tools used to quantify scientific information