Skip to main content

Current liberal education requirements

The requirements listed on this page are for students who began at the University in fall 2010 or later terms.

Requirements for students

You must fulfill the following requirements. Some liberal education (LE) courses fulfill a core, a theme, and a writing intensive requirement at the same time.

Diversified Core

The diversified core guides students through the "why" and "how" of different academic disciplines. These classes equip students with a broad range of tools that can be used to approach problems in everyday life and work, and ultimately to make a positive difference within communities, society, state, and the world. Students are required to satisfy all seven core requirements.

All diversified core courses must:

  • employ teaching and learning strategies that engage students with doing the work of the field, not just reading about it;
  • include small group experiences (such as discussion sections or labs) and use writing as appropriate to the discipline to help students learn and reflect on their learning;
  • not (except in rare and clearly justified cases) have prerequisites beyond the University's entrance requirements.

In addition, each diversified core requirement must meet core-specific criteria:

Requirements for students admitted after fall 2010 Required credits Sample Courses
Arts/Humanities 3 credits Arts/Humanities courses
Biological Science 4 credits; must include lab or field experience Biological Science courses
Historical Perspective 3 credits Historical Perspective courses
Literature 3 credits Literature courses
Mathematical Thinking 3 credits Mathematical Thinking courses
Physical Science 4 credits; must include lab or field experience
Physical Science courses
Social Sciences 3 credits Social Sciences courses


Designated Themes

The designated themes are topics central to an understanding of contemporary life. Investigating these themes helps prepare students to become knowledgeable, ethical, and engaged public citizens. Students are required to satsify four of the five themes.

All theme courses have the common goal of cultivating in students a number of habits of mind:

  • thinking ethically about important challenges facing our society and world;
  • reflecting on the shared sense of responsibility required to build and maintain community;
  • connecting knowledge and practice;
  • fostering a stronger sense of our roles as historical agents.

In addition, each theme requirement must meet theme-specific criteria:

Requirements for students admitted after fall 2010 Required credits Course lists
Civic Life and Ethics 3 credits Civic Life and Ethics courses
Diversity and Social Justice in the United States 3 credits Diversity and Social Justice courses
The Environment 3 credits Environment courses
Global Perspectives 3 credits Global Perspectives courses
Technology & Society 3 credits
Technology and Society courses

The Writing Intensive requirement

The third facet of liberal education at the University of Minnesota is the writing requirement, which has two components: First-Year Writing and Writing Intensive courses.

First-Year Writing: All students are expected to complete the first-year writing requirement (WRIT 1301, 1401, or equivalent) within their first two semesters of registration. First-year writing gives incoming students the fundamental writing skills demanded in university study. Students write essays, summaries, and research papers while learning the conventions and styles that make those forms convincing. In workshop settings, students practice and study the processes of critical thinking, reading, and research, which lead to strong writing.

Writing Intensive: In addition to the first-year writing requirement, students must complete four Writing Intensive (WI) courses. These courses help students understand what it means to write in various disciplines. Two of the four courses must be completed at the upper-division (3xxx or higher) level, and one of the two upper-division courses must be within a student's major field of study. WI courses must meet all of the following criteria:

  • Writing is comprehensively integrated into the course.
  • Writing is a significant part of the coursework.
  • Writing is a significant part of the course grade.
  • Writing is learned through revision.
  • Writing within the discipline is expanded and practiced in the course.
  • Instructors should understand the practice of writing instruction.

In order to submit a course to meet the WI requirement, departments must submit course materials and responses to a set of guided questions about proposed writing and writing instruction to the Campus Writing Board (CWB). The CWB reviews WI course proposals based on the criteria listed above. If approved, the course will be given a W at the end of the course number and added to the course catalog. Courses which have not been reviewed and approved by the Campus Writing Board do not count toward the WI requirement.

Students can identify whether a course has been approved to meet the WI requirement by looking for a W at the end of a course number. If a course number does not a W (or a V, for Honors courses), it is not a WI course.

Choosing your liberal education courses

The University's LE requirements can be fulfilled by a broad range of courses; some courses fulfill more than one requirement. This means that you can create your own liberal education experience that complements your major courses, challenges you to develop new knowledge and skills, and satisfies your desire to explore topics that are important to you.

To get the most out of your undergraduate experience, we recommend that you:

  • be adventurous. Challenge yourself by taking some courses that are outside of your comfort zone. Often these courses are most rewarding.
  • create a four-year journey. Many students have indicated that they wish they had taken a few of their LE courses in their third and fourth years, because they discovered new questions and interests that they wanted to pursue. Consider taking one or two LE courses in your junior or senior year.
  • work with your adviser to learn about and choose the best courses for you, and to make sure you're fulfilling these requirements on an appropriate timeline for your major.
  • explore learning abroad opportunities that will also meet liberal education requirements. Go to the Learning Abroad Center's website to search for study abroad courses that are approved to fulfill liberal education requirements. And remember: Any learning abroad experience that is at least three credits and three weeks or longer will fulfill the Global Perspectives requirement.

Partial credit waivers

Occasionally, a transfer course that could satisfy a LE requirement will transfer at less than the required number of credits for that LE requirement. Partial credit waivers allow the transfer course to fulfill the LE requirement.

Unlimited partial credit waivers can be granted for:

  • Courses from domestic, quarter-based institutions transferring at 2.67 or more credits.

Up to three total LE requirements per student can be granted for:

  • Courses from domestic or international institutions transferring at one-half or more of the LE credit requirement.

Partial credit waivers are not granted for:

  • Courses of less than one-half the credit requirement (for example: a 1.3 credit course cannot fulfill a 3 credit LE requirement).

LE requirements cannot be fulfilled by applying multiple partial credit courses to one particular requirement. There is one exception to this rule: biological and physical science LE requirements can be fulfilled by multiple courses when they include separate lecture and lab courses.

Special exam credit

Sometimes students are awarded special exam credit for a course that is LE certified, most often for Mathematical Thinking, Biological Sciences, or Physical Sciences. Course credit awarded for a Mathematical Thinking LE course may fulfill the Mathematical Thinking LE requirement. Special exam credit is not sufficient to fulfill the Biological Sciences nor Physical Sciences LE requirements due to the required lab component. A petition to the Office of Undergraduate Education would be required for all other credit awarded via special exam to be considered to fulfill an LE requirement.