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General Education

Like most universities, the University of Hawai'i at Mānoa (UHM) builds its curriculum in part around knowledge and skills that are of value to all students. That combination of knowledge and skills is the basis for the University's General Education requirements.

The UHM General Education requirements involve four categories:

  1. Foundations
  2. Diversification
  3. Focus
  4. Hawaiian or Second Language

How to Meet UHM's General Education Requirements

Freshman Year      Sophomore Year      Junior Year      Senior Year


Freshman Year

During your freshman year (0-29 credits), you should concentrate on completing the Foundations requirements. Foundations courses are designed to help you develop skills and perspectives that are basic to more advanced learning.

As a freshmen, you should also start taking Diversification courses. The Diversification requirement ensures that you have experience with different ways of acquiring knowledge (for example, using the methods of biological science, literature study, social science).

Finally, you should find out if Hawaiian or a Second Language is required by the School or College that you plan to graduate from. Ask a college adviser about your language requirements.

If you need to develop second language skills from scratch, you should probably start a language-course sequence while you are a freshman. If, on the other hand, you have already had experience in a language other than English, you should take a language placement exam or ask for a language waiver.


  • Written Communication (FW): 3 credits
  • Symbolic Reasoning (FS): 3 credits
  • Global & Multicultural Perspectives (FG): 6 credits, 2 courses



  • Arts, Humanities, and Literatures (DA, DH, and DL): 6 credits from two different areas
  • Social Sciences (DS): 6 credits from two different departments
  • Biological Science (DB): 3 credits
  • Physical Science (DP): 3 credits
  • Science Laboratory (DY): 1 credit

Effective March 2007: You may take Diversification and Foundations courses from the same department. Please note that the printed 2007-2008 Catalog is incorrect.



  • Competency at the 202-level (Note: the HSL requirement has been waived or modified by certain UHM Schools/Colleges)



  • You can choose from a variety of Foundations courses. Some majors and colleges recommend particular courses. Check with your college adviser (and major adviser if you already have one) to find out which courses are recommended or required.

You can also read the Catalog and the "Program Sheet" for a particular college's set of recommended core courses.

  • Placement exams are required for some Symbolic Reasoning (FS) courses. Refer to the UHM Catalog - UH Manoa Core Requirements section to see if an exam is required for the FS course you want/need to take.

  • Effective March 2007: Diversification courses can be from the same department of Foundations Global & Multicultural Perspectives courses. Example: a student who takes ANTH 151 and HIST 152 may take ANTH or HIST courses to meet the Diversification requirement. Please note that the printed 2007-2008 Catalog is incorrect.

  • Transfer students. Many transfer students can transfer courses that will satisfy UHM's Foundations, Diversifications, and Hawaiian or Second Language requirements. Carefully review transcript evaluations and meet with a college adviser to determine what GenEd requirements are already satisfied.

  • UH transfer students: students entering UHM with an AA degree from a UH campus have already satisfied all of the Foundations and Diversification requirements.

  • Focus Exemption: if you have had extraordinary extracurricular experiences, consider applying for an exemption from a particular Focus requirement.

  • A typical freshman class schedule includes Foundations courses, Diversification courses, a language course, and courses that will satisfy a School/College requirement. You can check with your School/College to find out its requirements.

Sophomore Year

You should have completed your Foundations requirements during your freshman year (or before you complete 29 credits). During your sophomore year, you should continue taking Diversification courses. You are classified as a sophomore when you have earned 30-59 credits.

Check with your college adviser to determine what College/School requirements must be satisfied. If a major has already been selected, your should also meet with a major adviser.

Most students start taking Focus classes during their sophomore year.


  • Contemporary Ethical Issues (E): 1 class
  • Hawaiian, Asian, & Pacific Issues (H): 1 class
  • Oral Communication (O): 1 class
  • Written Communication (W): 5 classes, at least 2 must be numbered 300- or 400-level



  • Focus classes change every semester. When you register on the web, make sure the Focus designation for a section is clearly indicated. If no Focus designation is listed, you will not receive Focus credit for that section.

  • Some classes have more than one Focus designation. By successfully completing the class, you earn all of the Focus credits indicated.

  • Some classes have both Focus and Diversification designations. By successfully completing the class, you will earn Focus credit and the Diversification credits.

  • Some Hawaiian/Second Language (HSL) classes may also have a Focus designation. By completing the class, you will earn both HSL and Focus credits.

  • Because the Focus requirement is a "class requirement" instead of a "credit requirement," successfully completing even a 1-credit Focus class will earn you Focus credit.

  • The Contemporary Ethical Issues (E) and the Oral Communication (O) Focus classes are offered only at the upper-division level (courses numbered 300-499). You are encouraged to select E and O Focus classes in your major to get the most out of the requirement.

  • Transfer students: Students entering UHM with 37 or more credits have reduced Focus requirements. The Catalog explains the "pro-rate" schedule in the UH Manoa General Education Core Requirements section.

Junior Year

When you reach junior status, you should have completed all of the Foundations requirements and most, if not all, of the Diversification requirements. You will concentrate on taking Focus classes and courses required by your College/School and your Major. You are classified a junior when you have earned 60-89 credits.


  • At least 2 of the Writing-intensive (W) Focus classes must be at the 300- or 400-level. Find a W class in your Major to get the most out of the requirement.

  • Contemporary Ethical Issues (E) and Oral Communication (O) classes are only offered at the 300- and 400-level. Take E and O classes in the Major to get the most out of the requirement.

  • Transfer students: Students who enter UH with 37 or more transfer credits have to take fewer Focus classes.  The Catalog explains the "pro-rate" schedule in the UH Manoa General Education Core Requirements section. Transfer students should confirm their Focus requirements with a College adviser.

Senior Year

During the senior year, you should finish taking your Focus classes and other courses required by your School/College and your Major. Seniors have students who have earned 90 or more credits. You need a minimum of 120 credits to graduate from UHM.

See "tips" under "Junior Year" in the previous section.


Scroll up and visit the links under "QUICK LINKS" for additional information.


updated February 5, 2018; report errors to gened@hawaii.edu