The University of Wisconsin-Madison sets minimum standards that must be met by all students pursuing an undergraduate degree. These standards are the foundation of the undergraduate curriculum on which academic programs are built. These standards yield learning outcomes that contribute to and reinforce the quality of a bachelor’s degree awarded by the university.
A credit hour is an amount of work represented in intended learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement that is an institutionally established equivalency that reasonably approximates not less than:
(1)One hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out of class student work each week for approximately fifteen weeks for one semester, or the equivalent amount of work over a different amount of time; or
(2)At least an equivalent amount of work as required in paragraph (1) of this definition for other academic activities as established by the institution including laboratory work, internships, practica, studio work, and other academic work leading to the award of credit hours.
Alternatively, a credit hour is defined as the learning that takes place in at least 45 hours of learning activities, which include time in lectures or class meetings, in-person or online, laboratories, examinations, presentations, tutorials, preparation, reading, studying, hands-on experiences, and other learning activities; or a demonstration by the student of learning equivalent to that established as the expected product of such a period of study.
In all cases, learning in for-credit courses is guided by a qualified instructor and includes regular and substantive student-instructor interaction.
All degree-seeking undergraduates enrolled at UW-Madison.
All undergraduate students at UW–Madison must complete the university-wide General Education Requirements, which are designed to convey the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. These requirements provide for breadth across the humanities and arts, social studies, and natural sciences; competence in communication, critical thinking, and analytical skills necessary for success in college and beyond; and investigation of the issues raised by living in a culturally diverse society. This core is intended to provide students with intellectual and practical skills, basic knowledge of human cultures and the physical world, strategies for understanding these topics, and tools intended to contribute to their sense of personal and social responsibility. General Education complements the work students do in their majors and degrees. Together, these requirements help students learn what they need to know not just for making a living, but also for making a life.
Completing the General Education Requirements is an important part of achieving these competencies, and to do so, students choose from many courses in communication, ethnic studies, quantitative reasoning, and breadth of study across disciplines in the natural sciences, humanities, literature, and arts, and social and behavioral sciences.
Each school and college may choose to allow General Education courses to count toward other degree and/or major requirements. Students should always check with their advisors to discuss any additional degree requirements and determine if students are required to take specific General Education courses or to complete the requirements in a particular order. Students should review their Degree Audit (DARS) report to see how they are progressing toward fulfilling the General Education requirements. Please refer to the General Education Requirements website for more information about the requirements.
The university-wide General Education requirements are:
All students must complete 13–15 credits of coursework intended to provide a breadth of experience across the major modes of academic inquiry. This requirement encourages students to adopt a broad intellectual perspective, to examine the world through investigative, critical, and creative strategies practiced in the natural (computational, biological, and physical) sciences, social and behavioral sciences, as well as in the arts and humanities.
Students acquire critical and creative thinking skills as well as enhance their problem-solving skills through a breadth of study across the humanities and arts, social studies, computational, biological sciences, and physical sciences.
In courses satisfying the Breadth requirement, students will:
To achieve these outcomes, students are required to complete courses in the following areas:
This requirement challenges students to understand that there are many ways to research, understand, communicate about, and interpret creatively the world around us. These "ways of knowing" intersect and overlap, and the ideas presented in one area will often inform and transform what students know and how they think about the others. Students develop skills that help them make informed decisions in a wide range of political, economic, and social contexts, think critically about the world; better understand their own and others' experiences; and behave in socially responsible ways. (For more information about how this exposure to a breadth of inquiry and expression enriches students’ undergraduate experience and complements intensive study in the major, see the General Education Requirements website.)
The Communication requirement helps to ensure that all graduates of UW–Madison acquire essential communication and research-gathering skills necessary for success in university coursework and beyond. Communication–A (Comm–A) and Communication–B (Comm–B) courses train students to gather and assess information from a variety of sources and to present different kinds of information, insight, and analysis to diverse audiences. These courses are essential for students' career success and their preparation for public life in a rapidly changing world. While Comm–A courses focus exclusively on essential communication skills, Comm–B courses provide content instruction in a specific discipline and teach research, writing, and speaking skills in conjunction with the course content. Comm–B courses are offered by departments across campus and vary widely in topic, content, and format.
Students develop skills that enable them to be effective speakers and writers in and out of the classroom. In courses satisfying the Communication requirement, students will:
To achieve these outcomes, students must complete the following Communication requirements:
Please note: Because English is the language of instruction at UW–Madison, Communication A and B courses are taught in English, and student work in them is also completed in English.
The Ethnic Studies requirement is intended to increase understanding of the culture and contributions of persistently marginalized racial or ethnic groups in the U.S, and to equip students to respond constructively to issues connected with our pluralistic society and global community. Because this increased understanding is expected to have a positive effect on campus climate, students are expected to complete this requirement within the first 60 credits of undergraduate study.
Students draw connections between historical and present-day circumstances and consider perceptions and cultural assumptions when examining questions and making decisions.
In courses satisfying the Ethnic Studies requirement, students will:
The skills listed above apply to students' lives inside and outside the classroom, and by pursuing these objectives, students will further enhance their ability to participate in a multicultural society more effectively, respectfully, and meaningfully. Students complete this requirement by taking one course of at least 3 credits that is designated as an Ethnic Studies course.
Quantitative Reasoning is the process of forming conclusions, judgments, or inferences from quantitative information. The Quantitative Reasoning requirement at UW–Madison has two parts: Part A and B. Quantitative Reasoning A courses provide students with skills in mathematics, computer science, statistics, or formal logic that are needed for dealing with quantitative information. The acquired skills are broad-based in order to have a positive impact on the readiness of students to take a Quantitative Reasoning B course in a variety of disciplines. Quantitative Reasoning B courses allow students to enhance their Quantitative Reasoning Proficiency in a more advanced setting, where they make significant use of quantitative tools in the context of other course material. To ensure timely completion of the undergraduate degree, students must demonstrate minimum math proficiency before they can enroll in a Quantitative Reasoning Part A course. They should complete Part A of the Quantitative Reasoning requirement by the end of their first year, and must complete Part A before they enroll in Part B.
Quantitative Reasoning Part A:
An introductory course in college-level mathematics, computer science, statistics, or formal logic that is intended to prepare students for more advanced work in a disciplinary context.
Quantitative Reasoning Part A Requirement
Can be satisfied by approved college work while in high school, AP test scores, placement testing, or taking a 3-credit course at UW–Madison with a Quantitative Reasoning A designation.
Quantitative Reasoning Part B:
In the disciplinary or interdisciplinary context of a course designed to build on the tools of college-level mathematics, computer science, statistics, or formal logic.
Quantitative Reasoning Part B Requirement
Can be satisfied by taking a designated QR-B course of at least 3 credits in a variety of fields of study which enhances students’ proficiency in this domain. Students are encouraged to select a course in keeping with their interests or to satisfy other requirements for their major or degree program.
The university offers hundreds of courses that meet the requirements described above. Students should consider their own interests and check with their advisor when deciding which courses to complete. Many undergraduate programs of study have breadth requirements that go beyond these basic university-wide requirements.
The following language is used in the UW–Madison course listings to indicate how courses count toward satisfying the communication, quantitative reasoning, and ethnic studies portions of the General Education Requirements. Courses that satisfy these requirements are also tagged with a mortarboard symbol.
Note: Some Communication Part B courses carry Communication B credit only at the lecture or section level and/or only in certain semesters; these courses will be indicated in the Schedule of Classes.
Course descriptions also include information about whether courses meet General Education Humanities, Natural Science, or Social Studies Breadth Requirements. (Click on course numbers in the Guide to see this information.) Students should also be aware that each school and college may, at its own discretion, designate additional courses that satisfy these requirements. For this reason, students should consult their advisors to obtain information about how these requirements are implemented in the school or college in which they are enrolled.
Only undergraduate-level college courses may satisfy General Education Requirements.
Directed or individualized study may not be used to satisfy General Education Requirements.
Because these requirements assume that students are engaged in focused study within the designated area of general education, requirements cannot be met with portions of courses.
Exemption from General Education: All students are required to meet the fundamental degree requirements of the university, which include general education.
Disability-Based Waivers: The university has determined that waivers to the communication and quantitative reasoning portions of the general education component would fundamentally alter the nature of the UW–Madison degree. Students should not expect to obtain disability-based waivers to the communication and quantitative reasoning portions of the General Education Requirements.
Pass/Fail:Effective fall 2012, all courses taken to meet the university General Education Requirements must be taken on a graded basis. These grades are included in students' grade-point average (GPA) calculations according to school/college GPA rules.
10-07-1996, 12-16-2021, 02-27-2023