The assignment of courses to upper and lower-division is a difficult task. AZTransfer Steering Committee provides these guidelines to ATFs and college/university curriculum committees for their review of course level.

Lower-division courses generally focus on foundational theories, concepts, perspectives, principles, methods, and procedures of critical thinking in order to provide a broad basis for more advanced courses. The primary intent of lower-division coursework is to equip students with the general education needed for advanced study, to expose students to the breadth of different fields of study, and to provide a foundation for specialized upper-division coursework in professional fields. Such courses have one or more of the following four purposes:

  1. To acquaint students with the breadth of (inter) disciplinary fields in the arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, and to the historical and contemporary assumptions and practices of professional fields.
  2. To introduce essential skills of literacy (e.g., information gathering, reading, and writing), language, (e.g., oral communication and language and culture other than English), numeracy, and sciences to prepare for continuing work in any field of higher education.
  3. To develop specific occupational skills designed to lead directly to employment based on a two-year program of study.
  4. To lay the foundation for upper-division coursework and to begin development of analytical thinking and theoretical application.

Upper-division courses are specialized, in-depth, and advanced, and emphasize problem-solving, analytical thinking skills, and theoretical applications. These courses often build on the foundation provided by the skills and knowledge of lower-division education. Upper-division courses may require the student to synthesize topics from a variety of sources. Upper-division courses may also require greater responsibility, or independence on the part of the student. Upper-division courses require instructors with specialized knowledge and preparation. Thus, many intermediate and all advanced baccalaureate courses in a field of study are properly located in the upper-division. In addition, disciplines that depend heavily on prerequisites or the body of knowledge of lower-division education may properly be comprised primarily of upper-division courses. Such courses have one or more of the following three purposes:

  1. The in-depth study or application of theories and methods and the understanding of their scope and limitations.
  2. The refinement of essential skills associated with the baccalaureate.
  3. The development of specific intellectual and professional skills designed to lead to post-baccalaureate employment, graduate study, or professional school.

Supporting Information: Ad Hoc Committee on Upper/Lower-Division Course Criteria Approved by APASC, January 1998


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