General Education at UNC-Chapel Hill

Editor’s note: Officials at UNC-Chapel Hill point out that 2,953 courses fulfill at least one general education requirement. Our report used the number 4,700, which included cross-listed courses; students can choose from some of the same courses for different categories. We regret giving the wrong impression.

The report, by Jay Schalin and Jenna Ashley Robinson, calls the general education program at Chapel Hill “incoherent.” The plan “follows an all-too-typical ‘smorgasbord’ approach,” the authors say. The authors explain what general education should be, compares that to what students study now at UNC-Chapel Hill, and recommends changes.

Currently at Chapel Hill, students must take a minimum of 41 credit hours (it takes about 15 courses to meet those requirements), choosing from roughly 4,700 courses.

Among the courses that students can choose from for their “core curriculum” are:

“The Gardens, Shrines, and Temples of Japan,” “Introduction to Sexuality Studies,” “Russian Fairy Tale,”  “Recreation and Leisure in Society,” “The Folk Revival: The Singing Left in Mid-20th Century America,” “Bollywood Cinema,” “Cowboys, Samurai, and Rebels in Film and Fiction,” “Bioethics in Afro-American Studies,” and “Sexuality and Marriage in Jewish Tradition and History.” The report lists many others.

In its section on “A Better Program for UNC-Chapel Hill,” the authors propose 1) eliminating courses that require prerequisites; 2) eliminating courses based on limited time periods and geographical regions; 3) ending the “game” by which students take courses that satisfy more than one requirement; 4) reducing the foreign language requirement; and 5) adding an additional quantitative reasoning requirement.

Hard copies are available from the Pope Center at no charge. To request a copy, send request to: