Beginning this fall, UTSA and all other public institutes of higher education in Texas will be implementing new core curriculum catalogs.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) approved changes to the core curriculum for the first time since 1998.

These changes, approved in October 2011, will not only limit the number of hours necessary to complete the core, they will also change the amount of study the board believes is adequate for a thorough understanding of the class.

Previously, a degree plan could require between 42 and 45 core credit hours. Under the new requirements, all degree plans may only call for a maximum of 42 credit hours from the core curriculum. These credit hours must come from courses covering the fundamental fields of study determined by THECB.

Under the new core, these fields are communication, mathematics, the life and physical sciences, language, philosophy and culture, the creative arts, government and political science, social and behavioral sciences and a component area option. Notably, the board has emphasized throughout the development of the new curriculum that the six core objectives of the curriculum—critical thinking skills, communication skills, empirical and quantitative skills, teamwork, social responsibility and personal responsibility—do not necessarily need to be tested in the context of each field for students to meet each objective.

For example, the social responsibility objective of the communication or math core will not be required but optional depending on a student’s degree plan. The only core objectives that will be required of all nine components are the critical thinking and communication skills.

With this change, the communication core will be reduced from nine to six hours, the math core will be reduced from six to three hours, the sciences core will be reduced from eight to six hours and the area option will be increased from three to six hours.

Current students have the option to either continue under the previous core, or adopt the revised core. Incoming freshman do not have this option, and must abide by the new core curriculum standards.

This change has been in the making since 2008, when the Undergraduate Education Advisory Committee (UEAC) suggested to the THECB in a January 2009 report that the general education core curriculum be reviewed and reconsidered. After further analysis and reports were made, revisions to the existing rules were proposed in August 2011. After suggestions and comments were received from the public, the amended rules were approved in October 2011.

The timeline for implementing the new core curriculum began in November 2011, when institutions were instructed to have their faculty select courses for the 2014 catalog. For the next two years, institutions were able to change and develop a new catalog. By the end of November 2013, the revised core curriculums were due to the THECB pending their approval.

For its part, UTSA implemented the Freshman Experience Task Force. In 2011, the task force was charged with determining which classes were important to every student, regardless of major.

The task force found that freshman composition, mathematics and Quantitative Literacy Assessment Test (QLAT) courses were the most important. From their findings, the Academic Inquiry and Scholarship course was created and will be mandatory for all incoming freshmen this fall.

The Acadmic Inquiry and Scholarship was first introduced last year. The objective of the course is to grant new students an understanding of how questions are developed and investigated within collegiate academia. This is accomplished through the examination of the academic micro-cultures found within the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences.

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