In calling for The University of Texas at Austin to develop a new undergraduate core curriculum, the Commission of 125 posited that a first-class undergraduate degree plan should not only include a broad education exposing student to a range of subject areas, but should also teach students to think critically, to write cogently, to engage in inquiry and discovery, to examine ethical questions, and to learn about other cultures. When the Task Force on Curricular Reform took up this challenge of reshaping the core curriculum, it recommended the Skills & Experience Flags as a means of ensuring that all students would take courses with a substantial focus in each of these areas. The Faculty Council passed an amended motion from the Educational Policy Committee enacting curricular reform in December 2006.
Unlike the core requirements, the Flags are taught across the curriculum so that students learn about writing or ethical decision-making, for example, in the context of their own discipline. Whereas the 42-hour core requires students to take courses outside of their major requirements, students may satisfy Flag requirements with courses that also count toward their major, core curriculum, or elective requirements. The faculty governing each degree program will determine how their students should satisfy the Flag requirements.
Most students have already been taking courses that would qualify for several of the Flags, even without having a Flag requirement in place. Our goal with implementing Flag requirements is twofold. First, in cases where students are already getting exposure to the Flag areas, we want to recognize the fact that our graduates had this experience. By identifying these Skills & Experience Flags as university-wide requirements, we signal to students, parents, and employers their importance as part of the UT Austin undergraduate education. Second, and perhaps more importantly, our goal is to transform the curriculum in cases where students are not already taking courses in these areas. If students are graduating without having the opportunity to learn about diverse cultures, or without the opportunity to integrate what they have learned through their major coursework in an independent inquiry experience, then the flags should serve as a call to include these experiences in the curriculum.