About the Program

The Core Curriculum of the College of Arts and Science provides a foundational academic experience of general education in the liberal art for undergraduates at NYU. Courses in the Core Curriculum are designed to give students in the College the skills and breadth of intellectual perspective to flourish in their major programs of study and in their later careers. For students in the other participating schools and programs, the curriculum has been adapted to provide the liberal arts core of their professional preparation.

What’s distinctive about the College Core Curriculum?


Many schools today have general education or “core” requirements. The Core Curriculum of NYU’s College of Arts and Science is distinctive because it balances the faculty’s vision of what it means to be a liberally educated person with students’ personal interests and preferences. Every component of the Core furnishes students with a choice of subject matter and instructor. The College Core Curriculum also stands out from other institutions’ programs because all lectures and writing workshop are led by full-time members of the Faculty of Arts and Science.

What’s the purpose of the Core Curriculum?

The College Core Curriculum represents the essence of the American tradition of liberal arts education—the humanities, arts, social sciences, mathematics, and the natural sciences—areas of inquiry that are pursued for the sake of expanding human knowledge, rather than as training for a particular profession. Education in the liberal arts does not involve a fixed canon of knowledge; instead, it builds your critical, analytic, and communications skills, hones the imagination, and promotes creative thinking. Our faculty bring a sense of purposeful engagement and personal commitment to their teaching, and we believe that the breadth of the curriculum cultivates a generous perspective, the ability to think outside the box, to see questions from many angles, to build solid arguments and to draw defensible lines between fact and opinion—all qualities sought “on the outside” in your lives after college.

Even more than this, education in the liberal arts is preparation for life as a responsible, actively engaged citizen, equipping you with the curiosity, open-mindedness, and soundness of judgment necessary to reason, act, and lead. This University—and the whole enterprise of higher education in the United States—was founded on the belief that college graduates have a special opportunity and responsibility to contribute to the common good.

Does all this mean that you will take a few courses outside your main interests and comfort zone? That’s our intention: stretching the mind and rethinking old assumptions and beliefs are crucial steps in personal and intellectual growth. The Core Curriculum represents our commitment as a faculty to assuring you an undergraduate education that will equip you for success in your later careers and prepare you for a life of thinking critically and creatively about who you are, who you want to be, and how to better the world we live in.

The five parts of the Core

In different ways, every Core course seeks to ensure that you will expand your capacity to communicate effectively.  Writing clearly and persuasively is key to good communication, so you must complete Writing the Essay or its equivalent as early as possible during your studies at NYU.  Fluency in a foreign language is another important skill for becoming a member of the global community: this is why the College and some other undergraduate divisions require you to gain proficiency in another language, and maintains extensive opportunities for language study both in New York and at the global sites, as well as the non-credit Speaking Freely program.

In the Foundations of Scientific Inquiry, the faculty wanted to provide you with opportunities to build your quantitative skills and to study the natural sciences. These studies give you the knowledge you need to be an independent-minded citizen in a world increasingly shaped by science and technology, where urgent questions of policy require prudent, well-informed judgments. We aim, too, to foster your appreciation of mathematics and the sciences as liberal pursuits, valuable and beautiful in their own right.

We likewise believe that students should gain knowledge of the social sciences, which study how humans communicate, organize their communities, establish customs and laws, worship, and engage in trade and diplomacy. Because the fine arts and the performing arts connect us in unexpected ways, give pleasure, and reveal new perspectives on the world, the Core also includes courses in Expressive Culture.

It is our hope that you come to think of yourselves as citizens of a larger world by gaining the ability to comprehend how people different from you understand, experience, and imagine their lives. This is the purpose of the Cultures and Contexts course. You should also have the opportunity to come to know yourselves better, to develop intellectual curiosity and broad perspective, and to acquire the habit of questioning your assumptions by engaging critically with challenging works of philosophy and literature—the purpose of Texts & Ideas. These courses comprise the Foundations of Contemporary Culture.