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University of Virginia UVA Arts & Sciences Default


The faculty has established the Disciplines requirement to ensure that all students have the background and breadth for further learning in a variety of disciplines. In this component of study, students will explore a wide range of objects of knowledge from a range of perspectives grounded in disciplinary thinking and particular scholarly practices.

Undergraduate students* must earn 3 credits in each of the seven Discipline categories listed below.

  1. Artistic, Interpretive, & Philosophical Inquiry
  2. The Chemical, Mathematica & Physical Universe (NOTE: Previously the Chemical & Physical Universe, change approve at 10/13 A&S Faculty Meeting)
  3. Culture & Societies of the World
  4. Historical Perspectives
  5. Living Systems
  6. Science & Society
  7. Social & Economic Systems

In order to ensure that students are exposed to the broad range of disciplinary thinking throughout the College, students must fulfill this requirement by taking courses from at least six different departments. While courses may be cross-listed among two categories, courses may only count towards fulfilling one category for each student. Courses that comprise the Disciplines component are taught by departments and other existing programs.                                             

The Disciplines Categories

Artistic, Interpretive & Philosophical Understanding

A liberal education should develop in students an ability to interpret, evaluate and participate in artistic expression and abstract argument. Cultivating these sensibilities fosters a more profound understanding of and connection to one’s own subjective experience of a mutually perceivable world.  Courses in this category will develop a student’s capacity to conceptualize shared meaning from words, objects and performance, which is fundamental to the activities of all other disciplines.

The Chemical, Mathematical & Physical Universe

A liberal education should develop in students a knowledge of past and present attempts to identify the material composition and mathematical structure of the physical world and universe and the forces that govern their interaction. Such knowledge is crucial to understanding the environment in which we live and inspiring the technologies we have developed to navigate and function in that environment. Courses in this category should introduce students to the concepts, facts, and theoretical principles of the mathematical and physical sciences and help students relate them to their lives as citizens and apply them to contemporary problems.

Cultures & Societies of the World

A liberal education should introduce students to the wide variety of social systems, institutions, and cultures around the world.  Courses in this category will expose students to the legal, political, religious and cultural systems of a broad range of societies and help students understand how beliefs, ideas, and practices are socially organized. Such courses should also help students understand connections between and among different societies.

Historical Perspectives

A liberal education should provide students with a broad perspective on changing human experience. Sympathetic yet incisive study of the past gives us ways of seeing our own world anew. It helps us to understand why people made the choices that they made and lived the way they did; to appreciate the consequences of those choices and ways of living; and to see how our own circumstances came to be. Knowledge of the past is produced through a range of methods and concepts that allow us to interpret words and other artifacts. Courses in this category introduce students to students to these methods and help them to understand particular aspects of past lives here and around the globe. 

Living Systems

A liberal education should develop a knowledge of principals of how living systems work and interact with the environment. Human health, environmental impacts on ecosystems, emerging viruses, and human behavior are examples of topics that impact all students and require an understanding of living systems in order to make educated personal and societal assessments and decisions. Courses in this category introduce students to basic concepts in the natural and social sciences and help them relate this knowledge to their lives as citizens and contemporary problems.

Science & Society

A liberal education should provide students with a basic understanding of the relationship of scientific knowledge, technology, and society. Courses in this category are concerned with two broad sets of questions: first, with the methods, practices, and commitments of the sciences and technology (for example, what is a scientific fact? what is the scientific method?); and second, with the impact and relationship of science and technology to society and social concerns. Such courses may be found but not limited to scholarship in sociology and science, law and science, anthropology and technology, environmental science and political theory, or technology and philosophy, bioethics, environmental humanities, and history of science

Social & Economic Systems

A liberally educated student should be able to identify and reflect on social patterns and structures around the world.  Courses in social and economic systems help students understand the complex relationships among individuals, institutions, ideas, markets, and historical events.  These courses are concerned with the nature of social interactions and the analytical and interpretive methods of making sense of it.  Students in these courses will consider these relationships in social, cultural, economic, and political spheres.

Coding the Disciplines


Faculty are invited to identify the category (or categories) they believe best define the scholarly tradition embodied in their courses. Individual faculty members will first make a determination whether his/her course aligns with one or two of the categorical definitions listed below. The faculty member makes this recommendation to the leadership of the respective department, who then forward their recommendation to CEPC and the full faculty for final approval.

A bulk process for initially tagging all existing courses for the Fall of 2017 will be implemented in the Fall of 2016. After this process is concluded, faculty will either tag their new courses or petition to modify existing course tags using the CCI or CCT form.  

*Bachelor of Science Discipline Requirements

The following modifications to the Disciplines requirements are granted to those students enrolled in a Bachelor of Science program:

  1. Students enrolled in a Bachelor of Science degree may elect to take 9 credits in one or two of the three following categories (rather than 3 credits in each): The Chemical and Physical Universe, Living Systems, and Science & Society.
  2. Students enrolled in a Bachelor of Science degree may double-count one course (3 credits) towards fulfilling two of the following three categories: Cultures and Societies of the World, Historical Perspectives, Social and Economic Systems. The course in question must be listed in both categories for which it will count. Though the course may be listed in more than two categories, it may only count as fulfilling two categories.
  3. Bachelor of Science students must fulfill the Disciplines component by taking courses in five different departments.