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

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 General Academic Studies Electives

The general academic studies requirements of the BFA degree include four core courses in the humanities and social sciences (12 credits), two required courses in art history (four credits), five electives in art history (10 credits), and science (three credits). The additional general academic studies electives must total 12 credits. Students will average a minimum of two courses per semester from the list above.

During Foundation year, BFA candidates take two core courses in the humanities and social sciences and two required courses in art history.

During sophomore year, BFA candidates take two further core courses in the humanities and social sciences and either two art history electives or one art history elective and a science course.

Throughout the last two years, students complete their remaining general academic studies requirements and general academic studies electives.

Foreign language coursework at the intermediate or advanced level, taught by language instructors with appropriate academic credentials, may be presented to the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences for possible general academic studies elective credit. A maximum of four credits of language study may be approved in this category. Intermediate or advanced foreign language studies beyond four credits may be presented to the dean of the School of Art for possible free elective credit.

Free Electives

Any Cooper Union course not being counted toward another requirement may be counted toward the free elective requirement. Students frequently take TE (techniques) courses toward the free elective requirement. It should be noted that students may take only one TE course per semester, unless granted an exception through the Office of Academic Advising & Off-Campus Programs.

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.

Normal progress in the Foundation year is defined as completing all courses in the Foundation curriculum.

Normal progress in any semester after the Foundation year, and for transfer students, is defined as completing an appropriate balance of fine arts, general academic studies requirements, general academic studies electives, and free elective courses such that the student can finish all degree requirements in the number of semesters allotted.

Students should use online resources and consult with the Office of Academic Advising & Off-Campus Programs in order to assess their progress towards the degree.

Exchange Program

The School of Art offers a number of exchange programs with schools abroad. They currently include opportunities for a junior-year semester of study in the Czech Republic, England, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, or Switzerland. Students should consult the Office of Academic Advising & Off-Campus Programs as early as possible for information about these exchange opportunities.

Eligibility Requirements for the Exchange Program

Students who have completed at least 64 credits toward the BFA degree, have a cumulative GPA of 3.0, and have no outstanding first- and second-year requirements, may apply for one semester of exchange. 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 exchange 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 have a cumulative GPA of 3.0.

Students applying for exchange 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. A maximum of 6 credits may be awarded by any one faculty member for work done while on exchange. Typically, students do not take courses toward their requirements in the humanities, social sciences, or sciences while on exchange. Students must therefore complete additional coursework in these areas in the semesters before and after exchange.

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 exchange only once during their stay at The Cooper Union.

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

  • 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.