Bard College Student Handbook

The Curriculum

Choice, flexibility, and rigor are the hallmarks of the Bard education. Students are not expected to passively accept a rigid structure or prescribed plan of study, but rather are required by the way in which the curriculum is structured to create their education by making a series of active choices. Each student shapes the subject matter of his or her education by the exercise of imagination and intellectual engagement.

In designing, adjusting, and reforming the curriculum, the faculty considers all of its elements—academic organization (programs and divisions), course offerings, course content, and students’ progress through the four years—in light of how these elements interact with one another. The goal is to create a flexible system comprising courses that work together and a planned series of intellectual steps that give coherence, breadth, and depth to the four years of study.

The pillars of the Bard education are the structure of the first year, including the First-Year Seminar; the program-based approach to concentration; Moderation; the concept of distribution by modes of thought; and the Senior Project. Students move from the Lower College (the first and second years), which focuses on general education and introduces them to the content and methodology of the academic and artistic areas in which they may specialize, to the Upper College (the third and fourth years), which involves more advanced study of particular subjects and more independent work, all the while maintaining equilibrium between breadth and depth. By the end of the four years, the student has become knowledgeable across academic boundaries and is able to think coherently within a disciplined mode of thought.