Core Curriculum

Intrinsic to the idea of a Catholic University is a particular approach to education at times called “Liberal Arts” or “Liberal” education. It is a model of education that can be traced back through history to Ancient Greece for its earliest impetus and which was developed further during the time of the Roman Empire. The classic formulation of this approach to education, in a specifically Catholic sense, is found in John Henry Newman’s The Idea of a University. In this text, composed of a series of discourses, Newman defines the University as a place of teaching ‘universal knowledge’. Within this framework of universal knowledge Newman goes on to define the purpose of university education as fostering the “exercise and growth of certain habits, moral and intellectual...” and educating human persons and promoting their capacity to live well. A university as a community is unified by a common pursuit of universal\unifying truths about the reality in which we live. In a Catholic university it is philosophy and theology that unify all disciplines in their respective pursuits of truth.[1]

The Core Curriculum at Notre Dame has essentially two purposes: to provide a liberal education for all students undertaking degrees, and to present students with the values and principles of faith and reason that underlie the Catholic commitment to higher education. A liberal arts education enables students to acquire generic skills within a broader holistic education. The University of Notre Dame seeks to present the best of the cultural values of the Catholic intellectual tradition. The Catholic intellectual tradition involves a set of generic skills including the capacity to think critically, evaluate arguments, participate in informed debate, write clearly and creatively, identify and solve problems efficiently, and distinguish truth from falsehood, fact from opinion. The aim of such an education is the formation of the whole person and not just the acquisition of information and skills. Holistic education aims at fully developing a person as both a learner and a professional. The School of Philosophy and Theology advocates that education is most effective when a liberal core of units (represented by the Core Curriculum) integrates with a student’s professional training. A student receives the depth of training necessary to be a practising professional while at the same time receiving the breadth of learning that characterises the truly educated person as a lifelong learner. The Core Curriculum assumes that vocational and professional training needs to be supplemented by an educationally rigorous investigation of the spiritual, ethical and philosophical dimensions of professional life. The Core Curriculum presumes no previous study in the disciplines and is open to people of all faiths or of no faith.

[1] Angus Brook, “Using standards rubrics to assure graduate capabilities within the context of undergraduate liberal arts programmes: Curriculum design and assessment,” Journal of Teaching and Learning for Graduate Employability 4/1 (2013): 24.