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General Education Electives FAQ

General Education courses are a requirement of the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities (MTCU) that all Colleges of Arts and Technology (CAAT) in Ontario must meet.

The purpose of general education is to ensure graduates of college programs are citizens who can work and adapt to Canada’s changing and diverse society. General Education courses are intended to encourage you to explore a broad range of personal and societal topics and to develop self-understanding as well as critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills.

General Education courses are organized into themes:  Arts in Society, Civic Life, Social and Cultural Understanding, Personal Understanding as well as Science and Technology.

Yes and no.  It is true that a General Education course will not give you vocational skills. In order to qualify as a General Education course, a course must be “clearly distinct” or separate from the vocational learning outcomes for your program.

However, General Education courses will help you in your future vocation in that they are intended to help you meet the changing demands of working and living in Canada’s ever-changing and diverse society. Depending on the course, a General Education course may promote self-understanding and may help develop critical thinking, problem solving and/or communication skills.

The number of courses varies.  One year certificate programs do not require students to take General Education courses. However, a program may have a general education requirement in order to help students create pathways to other diploma programs.

All two- and three-year diploma and advanced diploma programs at Cambrian require students to take three General Education elective courses.

Mandated General Education courses are courses selected by a student’s program or school and all students within the program must take it as one of their General Education course requirements.

Electives are courses from an approved pool of General Education courses and students are free to choose whichever course they find of interest.

For university students in Canada, General Education is equivalent to electives taken as part of obtaining a three- or four-year degree.  If you successfully completed a university degree in Canada or, worked toward a degree, in all likelihood you completed a course (or perhaps courses) that meets the criteria for General Education.

Similarly, all Ontario Colleges of Arts and Technology (CAAT) programs must meet the Ministry’s General Education requirement. If you worked toward, or completed, a diploma you likely took at least one General Education course.

Yes, it is possible that as part of your education you took courses that meet the General Education requirement. Where English is not the primary language of instruction, complete the General Education Transfer Credit/Exemption form and ensure that you have provided the college with an official transcript translated into English, as well as, a Canadian equivalency evaluation.

If you think you have taken courses that meet the criteria for exemption, then you are encouraged to complete a General Education Exemption form. To complete the application process, please contact the Pathways Office at

For courses taken at Cambrian, the minimum grade requirement is “D” or 50%. For courses taken at another college or university a minimum of “C” or 60% grade is required.

Most courses in Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences, as well as, some broad science courses (e.g., Ethics in Science, Astronomy, and The Earth and How it Works) are considered General Education courses.

Courses are evaluated in terms of the following criteria:

  1. Is it a 3-credit course (i.e., 45 hours)?
  2. Does the course cover material outside the student’s vocational field of study?
  3. Does the course meet the purpose of a General Education course?
  4. Does the course meet one of the five General Education course themes?

Students who are enrolled in a full-time program are encouraged to take their General Education courses as part of the regular program delivery. However, if you are interested in taking electives through Continuing Education, you are welcome to do so at your own expense.

To ensure that a student takes a course that meets the General Education requirement, we suggest taking one of the courses identified on the Continuing Education General Education Electives list (link to list).

General Education courses are required courses, just like core program courses. Students who do not successfully meet their program’s General Education requirements will not graduate. It is a student’s responsibility to ensure that the General Education components of his/her program are completed.

If you failed a General Education course you can either take a course through Continuing Education (at your own expense) or speak to your program coordinator about the possibility of fitting a General Education course into your timetable. In the event that you decide to take a Cambrian College course, your program coordinator will likely suggest you speak to the General Education coordinator to see which course offerings fit into your schedule.

Please see Derek Newman, Gen Ed Coordinator for General Education inquiries. He can be reached at

Students who attended an accredited university or another college and have successfully completed courses that are considered General Education are eligible to apply for exemption. OAC and Upgrading courses are not eligible for General Education credit.

Step 1:  Ensure You Have the Necessary Documents
  1. To consider your application for exemption, students must provide the college with an official transcript from the institution where the course credit was obtained. In some cases, Cambrian may have an electronic copy of your transcript on file; if not, you will be required to request that an official transcript be sent to the Cambrian College Enrolment Centre. Transcripts in other languages must be officially translated into English, and require a Canadian equivalency evaluation.
  2. If the college is not familiar with the course under review, you are required to provide us with the course description provided from the institution that you attended. The course description must be from the year the course was taken.
Step 2:  Select the Course(s)

Select the course(s) in which you will be applying for general education exemption. You may only use courses from recognized, accredited post-secondary institutions.

Step 3:  Make sure you meet the Grade Requirement

For courses taken at Cambrian, the minimum grade requirement is “D” or 50%. For courses taken at another college or university a minimum of “C” or 60% grade is required.

Step 4:  Complete the Exemption Form

A copy of the General Education Exemption form can be found on Mycambrian. Fill out the portions of the form relating to your personal information (name, student number and program). Bring the completed form along with a copy of your transcript to the Gen Ed Coordinator for evaluation.

Students who feel that that they have met the criteria for their Gen Ed based on their life or work experiences and not necessarily because of previous academic work, may be eligible for a PLAR (Prior Learning Assessment). Student should contact the Pathways office to explore this option: