Departmental Substitutions

Departmental Substitutions
New General Education requirements will take effect in Fall 2018. As described in Advice for Students, students graduating under both the current and the new requirements can begin to benefit now from the flexibility of the new requirements.  Many departmental courses not approved for Gen Ed credit can now count 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 FAS departments, concentrations and other undergraduate degree programs operate within the context of 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 the Faculty of Arts & Sciences:

  • 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 taken for a letter grade 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 contact us with the course syllabus to request confirmation.
  • By Fall 2018, course descriptions will include information about which distribution requirement courses satisfy, if any.  Until then, courses automatically count for the academic division in which their home department resides.  It is not necessary to contact Gen Ed to confirm this. 
    • The home department is listed in the course description, where it appears at the bottom center. Click on the image to view in more detail
      .Home department on my.harvard
    • A list of the departments in each academic division is available in  See Searching Courses by Academic Division below to learn more.
  • For some departments and interdisciplinary programs which have courses that sit across disciplinary boundaries, courses might count for both the division of their home department and another division.  If you think a course in one of the departments listed below should count toward a division different from the one in which the home department resides, please contact us with the course syllabus to request confirmation.  
    • Courses in the departments of East Asian Languages & Civilizations, Linguistics, Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, and South Asian Studies will count as Arts & Humanities courses.  Some courses might also count toward as Social Sciences courses.   
    • Courses in the departments of African & African American Studies, and Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies will count as Social Sciences courses.  Some courses in these departments might also count as Arts & Humanities courses.
    • Courses in Psychology, Mind Brain Behavior, and Environmental Science & Public Policy will count as Social Sciences courses.  Some courses in these departments/programs might also count as Sciences courses.
  • In certain paired Gen Ed categories (AI/CB, SLS/SPU, SW/USW), in order to receive credit for a departmental course that has not previously been approved for Gen Ed credit, students must first take a Gen Ed course or departmental course currently approved for Gen Ed credit. Credit can then be given retroactively for a departmental course for the other paired requirement, as appropriate. 
    • For example: A student who took CB 34 in Fall 2015 and English 141 in Spring 2016 will receive AI credit for English 141 since it is a departmental course in the Arts & Humanities division.  A student who took English 141 in Spring 2016 and plans to take CB 34 in Fall 2017 will not receive AI credit for English 141 until CB 34 is complete.  
  • 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.

Searching Courses by Academic Division
You can find the departments grouped by academic division in by clicking on “Faculty of Arts & Sciences” under Browse Courses and selecting the appropriate division, as illustrated below. Click on the appropriate department for a list of its course offerings.  

Please note that the information provided on is an heuristic and is not a definitive guide to the divisional status of a course.  You should contact us with the course syllabus to check if a course counts for a particular division.