Departmental Substitutions

Departmental Substitutions
New General Education requirements will take effect in Fall 2019. As described in Advice for Students, students graduating under both the current and the new requirements can benefit from the flexibility of the new requirements. Many departmental courses that previously could not be used to fulfill Gen Ed requirements can now be used for these current Gen Ed requirements:

How departmental courses not approved for Gen Ed credit can now count for Gen Ed credit ordinarily depends on the academic division in which they reside. See below to learn more.

What is a Division?
All Faculty of Arts & Sciences (FAS) departments, concentrations and other undergraduate degree programs operate within academic divisions. Most departments, concentrations and programs offer courses that are primarily in a single division, although some offer courses across more than one division (see below).

There are three main divisions of FAS:

  • Arts & Humanities;
  • Social Sciences; and,
  • Natural Sciences, plus the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS).

For the purposes of the new distribution requirement, the Natural Sciences and SEAS are grouped into one Sciences division.

Important Notes

  • Only four-unit FAS courses can count for current Gen Ed requirements.
  • Not all courses offered by FAS departments can be used to satisfy current Gen Ed requirements.
    • Courses in Expository Writing, language below the advanced level, and Freshmen Seminars will not count.
    • Not all advanced language courses count: they must engage primarily in critical inquiry to count. If you wish to determine if a particular advanced language course can count, please see the Divisional Distribution information in the course’s description in
  • Most course descriptions now include information about which distribution requirement courses satisfy, if any. Click the image to view in more detail.

  • For any course not listed in the current catalog or for which a Divisional Distribution is blank (note that “None” indicates that it cannot count for distribution credit), please contact us to request confirmation of the division.
  • In certain paired Gen Ed categories (AI/CB, SLS/SPU, SW/USW), students can use a departmental course from the relevant division of FAS (Arts & Humanities for AI/CB, Science & Engineering for SLS/SPU, Social Sciences for SW/USW) provided they also complete a course currently approved for Gen Ed credit in that pair of requirements.  For example, a student who takes CULTBLF 34 and ENGLISH 141 will fulfill the AI/CB pairing through a combination of a Gen Ed course and a departmental Arts & Humanities course.
  • Certain on-campus, seven-week Harvard Summer School courses and certain Harvard Summer School Study Abroad courses can count toward current Gen Ed requirements. Learn more.