Principles of the Core Curriculum of the University of Navarra
This document explains the principles which define the Core Curriculum of the University of Navarra: purpose, content, and methodology.
The document refers to the current status of the Core Curriculum and its future development, but also discusses the University’s extensive experience in teaching courses oriented towards the integral formation of students.
The Core Curriculum plays a role in the formation of the students of the University of Navarra.
Purpose of the Core Curriculum
Since its beginnings, and in accordance with its mission, the University of Navarra promotes the development of its students’ personalities in all aspects, it contributes to scientific, human and Christian formation; it promotes solidarity and fraternity in students, which is reflected in acts of service to society, primarily through the exercise of one’s own profession; it develops in students a critical capacity and a knowledge of problems, which permits them to freely form their own convictions in a legitimate pluralism; it aspires to be a place of community, study and friendship, for people of diverse political and ideological tendencies.
Every student, regardless of their degree program, will be a citizen whose decisions will affect the lives of others. All of them will be involved in processes of cultural, religious, political, demographical, technological, and even global changes. They will have to interpret cultural expressions and face ethical dilemmas in their personal and professional lives
In order to achieve this, the University of Navarra includes in its end goals – following the best university traditions – not only research and professional preparation, but also the integral formation of its students, which aims to give them the support they need in order to develop their personalities in all aspects (cfr. Ideario, n. 2) and to face real world challenges in an informed and reflective manner.
What’s more, the Christian identity of the University encourages students to reflect on the fundamental questions about the human being in the world and to search for the progress of sciences illuminated by faith and reason.
In this way, the course work in each degree includes diverse types of subjects which can be divided in two groups:
- Subjects unique to each degree, which include specific subjects (v. gr.: Econometrics, Civil Law, Ontology, Anatomy, etc.) and some which deal directly with the implications of the discipline (v. gr.: “History of Medicine”, “Professional Ontology” , “Philosophy of Economy” , “Bioethics” , etc.)
- The Core Curriculum is common to all degrees and includes a series of mandatory subjects of general formation. Through these courses, the University of Navarra offers the teachings that it considers all of its students should acquire, regardless of their degree. It is composed of 18 ECTS of the following subjects: Anthropology (6 ECTS), Ethics (6 ECTS) and a module of 6 ECTS called “Cultural Keys” which is composed of various elective subjects offered by each school – after its approval as subjects of Core Curriculum. Students select two of these possible courses (of 3 ECTS). One of the elective classes which is always offered is “Introduction to Christianity”.
The objective of Core Curriculum is to help students:
- Reach intellectual maturity through study and reflection on questions of human existence.
- Acquire a global interpretation of reality on their own, that gives meaning to their lives and serves as a space of integration for the rest of the subjects they take in their degree (cfr. Ideario, n. 5).
- Develop their capacity to judge as well as their intellectual liberty.
- Cultivate their moral and esthetic sensitivity, through art, literature, and intellectual dialogue.
- Discover the truth, good, and beauty both in the world and in the human person, who, by having been made in the image of God has been giving infinite dignity. (cfr. Ideario n. 4).
Although in the University of Navarra all teaching activity promotes intellectual formation of students from a Christian perspective, the subjects of the Core Curriculum are specifically and directly oriented to this purpose. Because of this, they constitute the mark of the global formative project of each degree as it connects University study and society, helping students use what they have learned in order to be better professionals and to serve the lives they will lead after University.
The specificity of the subjects of the Core Curriculum refer to its contents as well as its methodology.
The courses within the Core Curriculum develops in students the openness to other disciplines, by exposing them to other branches of knowledge (“Social and Jurisdical Sciences”, “Humanities”, “Science and Technology”), different from those of the degree which the students study. This also guarantees exposure to courses that provide a general formation, apart from each degree’s specific coursework. This openness facilitates the acquisition of an integrated vision of knowledge, which captures the unity of truth, compatible with the methodological diversity of each science. Although the interdisciplinary focus is new to our university tradition, it has the clear benefit of facilitating intellectual dialogue and contributes to the avoidance of reductionist or dogmatic ideas.
The Core Curriculum of the University of Navarra is focused on the western intellectual Christian tradition, considered within its Hebrew roots, Greek and Latin origins, and its development from then to our days. In this way, it helps students to comprehend and judge both the tradition itself as well as others. This focus enables Intellectual liberty in the students, favoring the development of a historical conscience that makes them capable of perceiving and judging the cultural presuppositions of their way of thinking.
The content of these subjects can be:
- Great works of literature and thought.
- Artistic expressions of key questions of human life and access to beauty, truth and good in the world.
- Scientific achievements, which introduce the student to the scientific vision of the world and the challenges the sciences pose.
- Theological, anthropological, or ethical courses which reveal the Christian vision of the world, such as subjects which specifically deal with the relationship between Christianity and a particular science.
1. Although for reasons of time and for the character of its content, the Core Curriculum courses are an introduction to the studied materials, they should avoid being superficial. They should present to the students the complexity and grandeur of the questions asked, avoiding simplifications.
2. Students are meant to develop intellectual habits (principally critical reading, reflection and argumentation), more than knowledge of specific materials or applied skills (which can be acquired by means of instrumental subjects).
3. The courses will make students develop the capacity to think and argue with rigor and maturity. This, it is important that the courses promote the participation and involvement of students. Reading seminars and discussion of texts are an excellent way of achieving this objective.
It is advisable that students be asked to write short essays, make oral presentations or fulfill guided assignments either individually or in groups, in which they demonstrate their capacity to comprehend a text, reason logically and analytically, and present their ideas in an organized manner.
4. A particularly effective method – and one with a long standing tradition in numerous universities – is the courses on “Great Books” (reading and discussion in small groups about great works of literature and thought, where students must write and present argumentative essays). However, the Core Curriculum program of the University of Navarra does not propose any one method of teaching.
5. One of the principal challenges requires knowing how to balance the academic rigor of the university, with the existential focus characteristic of the courses, in a way which students feel personally challenged by the contents and the development of classes.
6. Consequently, the teaching of the Core Curriculum requires a specific preparation of the faculty in charge of such teaching. The experience is that the real formation that these courses contribute depends in good measure on the people who teach them. To connect intellectually with students in the Core Curriculum classes requires that the professor possess not only knowledge, but also some specific qualities. The professor must be capable of making himself understood, keeping in mind the students’ background and experience, which in many cases come from intellectual coordinates different from theirs. The successful course will create in the classroom an atmosphere of freedom which gives rise to healthy discussions, “thinking together” and “guiding” the reasoning in the shared search of answers to the problems presented.
September 10, 2014