Degree Requirements

Candidates for the bachelor of fine arts degree are expected to complete 130 credits within eight semesters of study and within the following disciplinary credit distribution.

Courses Credits

Required Foundation Courses  
Basic Drawing (Analytical and Descriptive) 61
2-Dimensional Design 61
3-Dimensional Design 61
4-Dimensional Design 31
Color 21  
Introduction to Techniques 11
Foundation Project 11
   
Required Art History Courses  
Modern to Contemporary: An Introduction to Art History 41
   
Art History Electives 10*
   
Required General Academic Studies  
Freshman Seminar 31
Texts and Contexts: Old Worlds and New 31
The Making of Modern Society 32
The Modern Context: Figures and Topics 32
Science 3
   
General Academic Studies Electives  
To be elected from Art History3, Foreign Language4, History of Architecture, Humanities, Social Sciences, and Sciences 12
   
Prerequisite and Advanced Studio Courses  
To be elected from any studio discipline 54
Required Senior Presentation 0
Free Electives  
To be elected from courses in any discipline at Cooper Union or at other institutions approved by the dean of the School of Art 10

Total Credit Requirements for the B.F.A. Degree 130

* Including 2 credits in prehistory through 17th century art and 2 credits in global perspectives on art

1 First-year requirement for all students
2 Second-year requirement for all students
3 Maximum of three credits
4 With permission of the dean of the School of Art

Studio Courses The student’s choice of studio courses is based on individual interest in various disciplines, on prerequisite courses for advanced areas of study and on the student’s interest in working with particular instructors.

There are limitations on the number of credits a student may take each semester in any one area of study, depending upon the student’s progress in the program (number of credits completed toward the degree). The number of credits allowed is determined as listed below:

Credits Completed Maximum Credits per Semester per Area of Study*
32 (Sophomore) 6
64 (Junior) 9
96 (Senior) no limit

* Includes related techniques courses

General Academic Studies Requirements and Electives During the first two years, B.F.A. candidates must take four core courses in the humanities and social sciences (12 credits), as well as one course each semester in art history (two required courses and two elective courses, eight credits total). At any time after the firstyear they must take a three-credit science course.

Throughout the last two years, they must complete a minimum of 18 elective credits, six of which are required to be in art history; the remaining 12 may be taken in humanities, foreign languages (with permission of the dean of the School of Art), social sciences, art history (maximum three credits), history of architecture and the sciences.

Foreign language credit for intermediate and advanced courses, taught by language instructors with appropriate academic credentials, will be granted two general studies credits per semester with a limit of four credits accepted in the category of general academic studies electives with permission of the dean of the School of Art. Intermediate or advanced foreign language studies beyond four credits counted toward general academic studies will be acceptable for free elective credit, limited to two credits in language studies per semester.

Free Electives During the last three years, students have a choice of electives in the School of Art in addition to the required curriculum. Courses designated with the prefix TE or SE receive free elective credit, as do studio courses taken beyond the 54 credit requirement. Only one TE course per semester may be taken. Students may also enroll in engineering or architecture courses at The Cooper Union or courses at other accredited institutions with the permission of the dean of the School of Art (or the academic adviser). Free elective credits are approved and granted by the dean of the School of Art (or the academic adviser).

Outside Electives These electives may be used only to meet free elective and/or general academic studies credit requirements; they cannot substitute for prerequisite or advanced studio electives. Students may take up to three credits per semester at a college other than The Cooper Union. For credit to be counted toward the B.F.A. degree, permission of the dean of the School of Art (or the academic adviser) is required before registration at another institution for the semester concerned. No such credit will be awarded retroactively.

Senior Presentation Requirement A public presentation of each senior student’s work, normally in the student’s final semester, is a requirement for graduation. Each student may satisfy this requirement with an exhibition or, where appropriate, a screening, performance or publication. No student will be permitted to receive a degree unless this requirement is completed to the satisfaction of the faculty and the dean of the School of Art at a mutually agreed upon time and venue. Completion of the requirement will be reflected on the student’s transcript. The 41 Cooper Gallery will be reserved for senior student exhibitions during much of the spring semester; other appropriate exhibition spaces will also be made available.

Progress Toward the Degree Students are expected to maintain normal progress toward their degrees, i.e., passing enough credits each semester to complete degree requirements within four years of study.

The normal work load is 17 credits per semester during the Foundation year and 16 credits per semester thereafter (= 130 credits = B.F.A. degree requirement).

Students should consult with the Office of Academic Advisement in order to assess their progress towards the degree.

Requirements for Nonresident Study Eligibility for non-resident study, i.e., the exchange and mobility programs, is as follows: Students who have completed at least 64 credits toward the bachelor of fine arts degree, have a cumulative G.P.A. of 3.0 overall, and have no outstanding first- and second-year requirements, may apply for one semester of non-resident study. The student must maintain good academic standing in the semester prior to departure, otherwise permission to participate may be revoked.

Transfer students must have completed at least 32 credits in residence at The Cooper Union before applying for non-resident study and must have an additional 32 credits to complete in residence upon their return. Transfer students must also have met all first- and second-year requirements and be in good academic standing, defined as having a cumulative G.P.A. of 3.0 overall.

Students applying for non-resident study must be in residence during the semester when they are completing the application process.

Students may earn a maximum of 12 credits in studio courses for one semester of study on exchange or mobility. A maximum of six credits may be awarded by any one faculty member for work done while on exchange or mobility.

Since foreign schools may have academic calendars at variance with that of The Cooper Union, students studying on exchange who cannot return in time for the start of the next semester at the School of Art must request a discretionary leave of absence for that semester.

Students may participate in non-resident study only once during their stay at The Cooper Union.

Students should consult the Office of Off-Campus Programs for information about these exchange and mobility opportunities.

Students from other institutions who are enrolled at the School of Art as exchange or mobility students may not apply to transfer to The Cooper Union School of Art while in residence at The Cooper Union.

Exchange Programs The School of Art offers a number of exchange programs with schools abroad. They currently include opportunities to study in the Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

Mobility Program The Cooper Union School of Art is a member of the Association of Independent Colleges of Art and Design (A.I.C.A.D.). A list of schools participating in the mobility program in the U.S. and Canada is available in the Office of Academic Advisement and Off-Campus Programs. Schools in the metropolitan New York City area are not available for a semester exchange.

  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.