Shared Competencies FAQs

The Shared Competencies are institutional, integrative learning outcomes (knowledge, skills, and attitudes) common to all undergraduates that support, reinforce, or complement program-specific outcomes.

Competency framing language is text that communicates the content of that competency to educators and learners. It is not a definition. Rather it offers a range of knowledge, skills, and attributes that each competency entails.

Syracuse University is implementing shared competencies for six main reasons:

    1. Allow students to communicate the value of their degree to prospective employers and graduate schools.
    2. Provide pathways for students to connect their major field of study, liberal art requirements, and co-curricular or other experiences.
    3. Enable academic programs to integrate the institutional learning goals into the curriculum.
    4. Assess equity in the student learning experience and address learning gaps.
    5. Meet Syracuse University’s regional accreditation requirements (Middles States Commission on Higher Education).

The Shared Competencies are a separate endeavor from the first year experience. However, the first year experience will enhance student development of Ethics, Integrity, and Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion through the course's learning objectives and activities.

The competencies are not a graduation requirement. They help faculty and students communicate the overall value of a Syracuse University education.  Faculty and staff will assess student competency development to enhance the strength of our programs, not to evaluate individual students.

Syracuse University wants all of its undergraduate students to develop the six competencies upon graduation, to ensure preparation for a global, changing world and career and personal success.

At present, almost all programs at the University have learning outcomes that align with the six shared competencies, through required courses within the major or outside the major. For those programs that do not align fully with the competencies or where assessment of student outcomes indicates a problem in competency development, faculty in charge of individual programs will discuss the issues and adjust their programs accordingly to benefit future students. Faculty, not students, are responsible for developing and assessing student development of the competencies, for purposes of program improvement.

The goal is that students will develop the six competencies in fulfilling the program requirements for their major. The University Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Shared Competencies will oversee the assessment of student development to ensure that this is the case. For those programs that do not align fully with the competencies or where assessment of student outcomes indicates a problem in competency development, faculty in charge of individual programs will discuss the issues and make adjustments that will address the needs of future students.

Competencies will be acquired mainly through academic courses. The University has developed framing language for each competency to describe the kinds of skills, knowledge, and attitudes that students can expect to develop in that area. For example, students can accomplish learning in the “Communication Skills” competency through courses that have been tagged to encompass “effective individual, interpersonal, and collaborative presentation and development of ideas through oral, written, and other forms of expression to inform, persuade, or inspire.”

Yes! Courses are tagged with up to three competencies to let students know what competencies they can expect to learn from taking a course. You can watch a video on how to search for tagged courses when scheduling classes or use the course tag search tool.

We are all responsible. This is a Syracuse University initiative in which all faculty, staff, and students share the opportunity to shape student learning and development. The Provost’s Office oversees and evaluates the shared competencies in collaboration with the University Senate and the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment.

Current students will see no changes to their academic program requirements. Faculty may incorporate competency language into existing course requirements or learning outcomes, but it is not required. Also, optional co-curricular activities may be described by using competency framing language.

Future students could see changes to academic program requirements as faculty improve and update programs (this is the same as the current situation). What is new is that future modifications may now be guided by and described using competency framing language.

Yes! The Shared Competencies offer powerful summaries of the skills and knowledge acquired at Syracuse University. They describe the coursework and co-curricular activities in ways that employers and graduate schools understand and value.

Provost Gretchen Ritter and Associate Provost Lois Agnew lead the shared competencies initiative at the University level. They work in partnership with the University Senate Ad Hoc Committee on Shared Competencies and the Office of Institutional Effectiveness, led by Senior Assistant Provost Jerry Edmonds.

Questions, inquiries, and ideas can be directed to

Yes. In 2015, 85% of American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) member institutions reported using a common set of learning outcomes for all students. All of the six competencies proposed by the Ad Hoc Committee are reflected in the top learning outcomes identified by these AAC&U institutions.

In addition, we consulted the websites of sixteen peer institutions, including eleven Middle States-accredited universities, of similar size and research emphasis. We found that nine of the sixteen schools examined (56%) used a competencies approach for general education. Some of these schools used competencies to complement conventional general education requirements and others used a competencies approach only.