Basic Program of Liberal Education

At a Glance

Certificates Confers Alumni Status
12 quarters
$500 Per course
Basic Program instructor Katia Mitova in the classroom.

The Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults is a rigorous, noncredit liberal arts program that draws on the strong Socratic tradition at the University of Chicago in discussion classes about great texts from the Western tradition in philosophy, literature, and political and social thought.

The Certificate Program

The cornerstone for the Basic Program is the Four-Year Core Curriculum. Each year is made up of three ten-week quarters. New students begin in Year 1 Autumn. They choose from morning, afternoon, or evening sections held online and earn a certificate upon completion of the entire curriculum.

View the Core Curriculum

Who is in the Basic Program?

The Basic Program is a community of adults who seek a rigorous liberal arts education and a staff of committed instructors who are both scholars and experienced discussion leaders. Students come to the program from a variety of backgrounds as well as different academic and life experiences, lending richness to their classroom discussion. Students progress with their cohort from quarter to quarter and year to year. They build on their conversations with each other as well as with the texts, deepening discussions further. There are no prerequisites; everyone is welcome.

As I reflect back fifty-five years later, the students I have taught, the instructors with whom I have engaged, the curriculum to which I have been exposed—all have provided me with an extraordinarily rich set of life challenges and experiences.

Elliot Krick

Elliot Krick, Basic Program Instructor

Basic Program Class Structure

Each course consists of a ninety-minute seminar about three or four texts and a ninety-minute tutorial, an in-depth analysis of one or two texts. Both the seminar and tutorial focus on close critical reading and discussion of primary texts. 

Join your weekly class a few minutes early for time to visit with fellow students.

Books and Assignments

Students read a weekly assignment before each class. There are no tests, papers, or grades.

Students can purchase books online through the Gleacher Center Bookstore's textbook order form, or by using the ISBN number to order the correct edition elsewhere.

How to Read Classic Texts is a Basic Program methods course recommended for new students and offered each September. One of the foundational premises of the Basic Program is that reading is a skill one can improve through theoretically-informed practice. In this short course, we examine the theoretical perspective on good reading contained in Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book.

Course Types

Core Curriculum

The Core Curriculum Courses, starting with Year 1, comprise the four-year certificate.

Alumni Offerings

For students who have completed at least two years of the Basic Program Core Curriculum, we offer Alumni Sequences and Courses:

Alumni Sequences are two-year, curated courses of study to deepen the conversation and provide the same cohort experience as in the Core Curriculum.

Alumni Courses are designed by instructors to further your studies beyond the Core Curriculum. Individual courses are offered on a quarterly basis.

Open-to-All Courses

Our open-to-all provide students with an opportunity to study texts using the Basic Program methodology on a course-by-course basis. Open-to-All courses include:

How to Read Classic Texts

How to Read Classic Texts is a Basic Program methods course recommended for new students. Examining the theoretical perspective on good reading contained in Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book.

September Mini Courses

Choose from a selection of bite-sized three-week courses.

Summer Courses

Offered on a variety of topics and lasting from 4-8 weeks, these courses fit conveniently in your summer schedule.

Ten-Week Open-to-All Courses

Basic Program instructors offer Open-to-All courses throughout the academic year on topics ranging from literature to philosophy.

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