Examples in Action

Our List of Open Curriculum Colleges & Universities

In higher education, an·open curriculum is a curriculum that does not place restrictions — such as "general education" requirements, distribution requirements, or core courses — on the courses that a student may take as part of a degree program. Open curricula often offer the option of student-designed majors or concentrations, and are sometimes coupled with grade reform measures (e.g., a pass/fail grading option or a written evaluation alternative) designed to encourage academic exploration.

This list includes colleges and universities whose main liberal arts program includes no core courses, no general education or distribution requirements, and a maximum of four competency or seminar requirements (such as a writing requirement or first-year seminar). Colleges with distribution "suggestions" required for graduation with honors have been excluded. 

Amherst College

Amherst’s curriculum requires completion of a major and a first-year seminar; otherwise, course choice is completely free. Amherst permits limited pass/fail grading, but otherwise uses a traditional grading system. Interdisciplinary majors and an alternative Independent Scholar Program are permitted.

Brown University

Brown University adopted an open curriculum in 1969 after the student-led reform effort that resulted in the publication of The Magaziner-Maxwell Report. Today, the only requirement (other than satisfaction of a concentration) is completion of one writing-intensive course. Brown has also adopted progressive grade reform measures, including A/B/C grading with no pluses or minuses, no reported failing grades, an unlimited pass/fail option, and a narrative evaluation option. Independent concentrations are permitted.

Evergreen State College

Evergreen provides a completely open curriculum, with no course requirements and no required major or concentration. Courses, known as programs, are intensive and are generally taken one at a time. Evergreen has implemented progressive grade reform, eliminating grades entirely and replacing them with narrative evaluations.

Hamilton College

Hamilton requires completion of a concentration, three writing-intensive courses, and a course involving quantitative reasoning; otherwise, course selection is free. Hamilton permits limited pass/fail grading, but otherwise uses a traditional grading system. Independent concentrations are permitted.

Smith College

Aside from completion of a major and a single writing-intensive freshman course, course selection at Smith is free. Smith permits limited pass/fail grading, but otherwise uses a traditional grading system. Independent majors are permitted.