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 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 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), 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 2016 and English 141 in Spring 2017 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 Spring 2018 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.