Cardinal Core Program

Cardinal Core Program

Program Purpose

Through the Cardinal Core program you will explore multiple areas of knowledge in new ways and develop core skills that will enable you to succeed in any degree program and prepare you to live and work in a dynamic, global society.

Program Overview

The Cardinal Core program at the University of Louisville prepares students to do the advanced work needed for their baccalaureate degrees and prepares them to contribute to society throughout their lives through their professional work and civic engagement. The program emphasizes the development of key intellectual skills relevant to any career path: critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, effective communication, and the understanding of historical, social, and cultural diversity. Students will develop skills and acquire knowledge in the following content areas of Arts and Humanities, Historical Perspectives, Oral Communication, Quantitative Reasoning, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Natural Sciences, Written Communication, and the competency area of Diversity in the United States and Globally. Upon completion of the program, students will be prepared to analyze complex problems and evaluate possible courses of action in an environment characterized by diversity and the need for sustainable solutions.

Cardinal Core Requirements (Effective Summer 2018)

Students should demonstrate proficiency (through course work or external credit) in the three skills areas (Written Communication, Oral Communication, and Quantitative Reasoning) before completing the first 30 degree-applicable credit hours earned at UofL. Within 60 hours, the student should have completed 21 hours of Cardinal Core courses.

The Cardinal Core program requires a minimum of 31 credit hours from approved course categories as outlined in the table below. Students must complete a minimum of 12 hours in the Skills courses, a minimum of 19 hours in the Disciplinary Perspectives courses, and within the 31 hours students must accumulate 6 hours in Diversity credit. Academic advisors can guide students in the selection of courses.

Minimum Number of Credit Hours


Written Communication (WC)


Oral Communication (OC)


Quantitative Reasoning (QR)


Disciplinary Perspectives

Arts & Humanities (AH)

6 (at least 2 courses from different disciplines)

Social & Behavioral Sciences (SB) and Historical Perspective (SBH)

6 (at least 2 courses from different disciplines and 3 hrs. must be in Historical Perspective)

Natural Sciences (S, SL, B)

7 (lecture and lab in a single discipline; an additional 3 hours in a second discipline)


US. Diversity (D1)


Global Diversity (D2)






The Diversity requirements will be met by taking courses in other Cardinal Core categories that also carry the D1 or D2 designation. This requirement, therefore, does not add hours to the total Cardinal Core program.

Philosophy and Guiding Principles

Regardless of where we live, our sexual identity, race, ethnicity, gender, religion, language, nationality, social class or any other differences, we share a common humanity. We also face local and global challenges that in one way or another impact all of us. Education has the power to teach us about ourselves and show us our connections to each other. It prepares us to put our knowledge to work on the real problems that face us through promoting ethical intelligence, self-awareness, and the acceptance of diversity.

The General Education Program, known as the Cardinal Core program, promotes the values of the university and provides the knowledge, skills, and collegiate experiences that students will require in their roles as key decision-makers in a democratic society. Through Cardinal Core, students will have a strong foundation of core competencies that they will need to succeed in their degree program. The Cardinal Core program provides multiple viewpoints, as well as the technologies and approaches that are important to solving real-world problems and to breaking down barriers of the past.

Critical thinking skills are the foundation for successful navigation through higher education and beyond. The Humanities, Social Sciences, and Natural Sciences all have unique methodologies of critical thought yet they all share a common base: self-reflection. Without maintaining awareness of our personal and cultural biases, a student is less likely to seek out new experiences, people, and ideas, unable to practice qualitative research with academic rigor, or honestly participate in the scientific method. Therefore, self-reflection practices such as: “thinking about one’s own learning” and “interrogating one’s own assumptions and prior knowledge” are vital to the Cardinal Core program.

The Cardinal Core program is designed to engage students in their own learning. Through intentional pedagogies and teaching practices, assignments, and activities, students and instructors will aim to foster foundational competencies.

Cardinal Core Student Learning Outcomes (PDF)

New Cardinal Core Course Listing 2024-25 (PDF)

Cardinal Core Course Listing 2023-24 (PDF)


Navigating Cardinal Core (General Education) Requirements

Student Resources

To learn more about navigating your Cardinal Core program, including course requirements, transfer courses, and diversity requirements, visit Student Resources.

* Beginning in summer 2018, all students will be required to meet the requirements of the Cardinal Core program. Students who matriculated to the university before summer 2018 should consult with their advisors about the transition from the previous general education program to Cardinal Core. Visit the Student Resources page for a crosswalk of old General Education Program requirements to the new Cardinal Core requirements.

Faculty Resources

To learn more about Cardinal Core Learning Outcomes, Syllabus Guidelines, Course Proposal Process, Faculty Workshops, Assessment of the Cardinal Core Program, and other supporting resources for faculty, visit Cardinal Core for Faculty

Cardinal Core Curriculum Committee (CCCC)

The Cardinal Core Curriculum Committee (CCCC) oversees the implementation and ongoing development of the university-wide Cardinal Core program. The function and structure of the committee, meeting minutes, and supporting documentation are available on the CCCC site.

Assessment of the Cardinal Core Program

In alignment with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Kentucky Council for Postsecondary Education (CPE), the university has a comprehensive assessment system to measure the impact of the Cardinal Core program on student learning in the areas of critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, effective communication, and understanding of historical, social, and cultural diversity­­­­. For more information on the assessment system and past assessment results please visit the Cardinal Core Assessment page.