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Bulletin Archive

This archived information is dated to the 2009-10 academic year only and may no longer be current.

For currently applicable policies and information, see the current Stanford Bulletin.

General Education Requirements


The General Education Requirements are an integral part of undergraduate education at Stanford. Their purpose is: 1) to introduce students to a broad range of fields and areas of study within the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, applied sciences, and technology; and 2) to help students prepare to become responsible members of society. Whereas the concentration of courses in the major is expected to provide depth, the General Education Requirements have the complementary purpose of providing breadth to a student's undergraduate program. The requirements are also intended to introduce students to the major social, historical, cultural, and intellectual forces that shape the contemporary world.

Fulfillment of the General Education Requirements in itself does not provide a student with an adequately broad education any more than acquiring the necessary number of units in the major qualifies the student as a specialist in the field. The major and the General Education Requirements are meant to serve as the nucleus around which the student is expected to build a coherent course of study by drawing on the options available among the required and elective courses.

Information regarding courses that have been certified to fulfill the General Education Requirements, and regarding a student's status in meeting these requirements, is available at the Student Services Center. Course planning and advising questions related to the General Education Requirements should be directed to Undergraduate Advising and Research.

It is the responsibility of each student to ensure that he or she has fulfilled the requirements by checking in Axess. This should be done at least two quarters before graduation.

Students should be very careful to note which set of General Education Requirements apply to them. The date of matriculation at Stanford determines which requirements apply to an individual student.

During Autumn Quarter 2004-05, the Academic Senate approved modifications to undergraduate General Education Requirements that became effective Autumn Quarter 2005-06 for all matriculated undergraduates who entered Stanford in Autumn Quarter 2004-05 or later.

The purpose of these modifications was 1) to give students a fuller and more articulate understanding of the purposes of the requirements and of a liberal arts education that these requirements embody; 2) to make a place in the curriculum for ethical reasoning to help make students aware of how pervasive ethical reasoning and value judgments are throughout the curriculum, and 3) to provide some greater freedom of choice by reducing the GERs by one course.


The following structure for General Education Requirements became effective with the 2005-06 entering freshman and transfer class:

Introduction to the Humanities—one quarter introductory courses followed by two quarter thematic sequences.

Introduction to the Humanities builds an intellectual foundation in the study of human thought, values, beliefs, creativity, and culture. Courses introduce students to methods of inquiry in the humanities: interdisciplinary methods in Autumn Quarter and discipline-based methods in Winter and Spring quarters.

Disciplinary Breadth—requirement satisfied by completing five courses of which one course must be taken in each subject area.

Disciplinary Breadth gives students educational breadth by providing experience in the areas of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Humanities, Mathematics, Natural Sciences, and the Social Sciences.

Education for Citizenship—requirement satisfied by completing two courses in different subject areas; or completing two Disciplinary Breadth courses which also satisfy different Education for Citizenship subject areas.

Education for Citizenship provides students with some of the skills and knowledge that are necessary for citizenship in contemporary national cultures and participation in the global cultures of the 21st century. Education for Citizenship is divided into four subject areas: Ethical Reasoning, the Global Community, American Cultures, and Gender Studies.

Ethical Reasoning—Courses introduce students to the pervasiveness, complexity, and diversity of normative concepts and judgments in human lives, discuss skeptical concerns that arise about normative practices, review ways in which people have engaged in ethical reflection, and consider ethical problems in light of diverse ethical perspectives.

The Global Community—Courses address the problems of the emerging global situation. They may compare several societies in time and space or deal in depth with a single society, either contemporary or historical, outside the U.S. Challenges of note: economic globalization and technology transfer; migration and immigration; economic development, health; environmental exploitation and preservation; ethnic and cultural identity; and international forms of justice and mediation.

American Cultures—Courses address topics pertaining to the history, significance, and consequences of racial, ethnic, or religious diversity in the culture and society of the U.S. Challenges of note: equity in education; employment and health; parity in legal and social forms of justice; preserving identity and freedom within and across communities.

Gender Studies—Courses address gender conceptions, roles, and relations, and sexual identity in a contemporary or historical context; they critically examine interpretations of gender differences and relations between men and women. Challenge of note: changing sexual and physiological realities in contemporary and historical perspective.

Courses certified as meeting the General Education Requirements must be taken for a letter grade and a minimum of 3 units of credit. A single course may be certified as fulfilling only one subject area within the General Education Requirements; the one exception is that a course may be certified to fulfill an Education for Citizenship subject area in addition to a Disciplinary Breadth subject area.

Courses that have been certified as meeting the requirements are identified throughout this bulletin with the notational symbols listed below. A comprehensive list of certified courses also appears in the Time Schedule of Classes for that quarter.

Introduction to the Humanities

IHUM-1 (formerly GER:1a): first-quarter course

IHUM-2 (formerly GER:1b): second-quarter course

IHUM-3 (formerly GER:1c): third-quarter course

Disciplinary Breadth

DB-EngrAppSci (formerly GER:2b): Engineering and Applied Sciences

DB-Hum (formerly GER:3a): Humanities

DB-Math (formerly GER:2c): Mathematics

DB-NatSci (formerly GER:2a): Natural Sciences

DB-SocSci (formerly GER:3b): Social Sciences

Education for Citizenship

EC-AmerCul (formerly GER:4b): American Cultures

EC-GlobalCom (formerly GER:4a): Global Community

EC-Gender (formerly GER:4c):Gender Studies

EC-EthicReas (GER:4d): Ethical Reasoning

Students who matriculated Autumn Quarter 2004-05 or later are subject to the revised General Education Requirements effective Autumn Quarter 2005-06. Students who matriculated Autumn Quarter 2003-04 or earlier remain on the old General Education Requirements, but may elect to change to the new system. Students interested in electing the revised GER system should contact the Student Services Center. No further changes are allowed once a student has elected to move to the new system.


Students may propose that work taken at another college or university be accepted in fulfillment of a General Education Requirement. In such cases, the Office of the University Registrar's Degree Progress section determines, after appropriate faculty consultation, whether the work is comparable to any of the specifically certified courses or course sequences.

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