Liberal Studies

Liberal Studies is a flexible academic plan available to students in the Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree program, allowing students to take a wide variety of courses, full-time or part-time, at a pace that suits them. 

Advantages of a Liberal Studies degree

Create a unique course plan

Are you interested in several majors but can’t decide? Are you not feeling connected to any one major? If you would prefer to explore a variety of subjects, then a Liberal Studies major may be exactly right for you.

The Liberal Studies major at Waterloo allows students to plan a course of study that is flexible; that can be full-time, part-time, on campus and/or online and is, therefore, a good fit for students whose interests fall outside a discipline-specific major, transfer students, and returning students. 

Go Abroad

Students in all Arts majors including Liberal Studies have opportunities to go abroad in a number of different ways including academic exchangesco-op jobs and service learning.  

In Fall 2022 term, Liberal Studies majors travelled outbound on exchange to destinations such as the University of Navarra (Spain), Tohoku University (Japan) and Malmo University (Sweden.)

Co-op and other Experiential Education opportunities

Not enrolled in co-op? No problem. Many Liberal Studies majors looking for career support and professional development enrol in the EDGE Certificate – this is a no cost, flexible series of professional development modules completed alongside your studies and part-time work and earns a Certificate credential upon graduation.

Volunteering overseas? Students with an international experience also have the opportunity to complete the UWaterloo Global Experience Certificate (GEC).

The Honours Liberal Studies plan can be completed with co-op, and Honours Liberal Studies co-op can also taken in combination with the Honours Arts and Business co-op academic plan. Note that co-op is not available for students pursuing fully online degrees. Learn more about Arts co-op eligibility and speak with an academic advisor to discuss your eligibility. 

Enjoy flexibility

Students registered in the Liberal Studies academic plan include:

  • Students transitioning between Arts majors
  • Students who internally transfer into the Faculty of Arts from another UW Faculty
  • Students who externally transfer into the Faculty of Arts after beginning their studies at another University or College
  • Students completing a Bachelor of Arts degree completely online

For students transitioning between majors or seeking to regain standing in a prior major, the Liberal Studies plan provides support for your continuing education with respect to these expectations. For more information see the Arts Declare your Major webpage.

For UW internal faculty transfer students, the Liberal Studies plan enables you to get a start in the Faculty of Arts and establish yourself in an Arts major. For more information see the Transfer to Arts webpage.

For many external transfer students (who arrive with up to 10.0 units of transfer credit from other post-secondary institutions), the Liberal Studies plan offers the opportunity to complete your undergraduate education without having to spend more than an additional two years acquiring credit towards a major plan. For more information see the Arts Transfer students course selection webpage.

Study online

Students taking online courses are an important part of the University of Waterloo's community and each term there are more than 100 Arts courses offered online to help students complete their studies no matter where they are. Online learners are also welcome to utilise most of the resources and support services provided on campus. For more information see Centre for Extended Learning.

Pathways from Liberal Studies to other Majors

Have you decided to change major? No problem! Many students choose the Liberal Studies major and explore different subjects and then decide later on to move into another Arts major or enrol in the Honours Arts and Business program as an Honours Liberal Studies student. For more information see the Arts Declare your Major website.

Liberal Studies academic plan requirements

The Faculty of Arts offers an Honours Bachelor of Arts (Liberal Studies) degree as well as 3-Year and 4-Year General Bachelor of Arts (Liberal Studies) degrees. Students pursuing the Honours Liberal Studies academic plan can also combine this with the Arts and Business academic plan.

Students should consult the undergraduate academic calendar for further information about their Liberal Studies requirements. Students pursuing a BA with Liberal Studies must meet common degree requirements, minimum program-level (BA degree) requirements, and plan-level (Liberal Studies) requirements, as well as maintain minimum cumulative averages to be in satisfactory standing. More information about these requirements can also be found in the Liberal Studies section of the BA Degree Requirements page, and students are encouraged to consult with their Liberal Studies academic advisor to plan their studies effectively. 

Academic Advice

Liberal Studies students have access to an academic advisor on main campus, and also at Renison University College and St Jerome’s University College for students co-registered at those institutions.

Your academic advisor can help you understand your degree requirements, choose courses, navigate Quest and LEARN, discuss further education, campus resources and more.

Preparing to study

For students who are resuming their studies after time away from the University, here are some key resources to help you prepare.

Meet our liberal studies students

Spencer C. – Honours Arts and Business – Honours Liberal Studies Co-op

Hey all my name is Spencer! I originally wanted to major in Economics but switched to Liberal Studies because of the flexibility that is offered to students. I believe it has elevated my university experience because I enjoy learning about what interests me. For my first co-op, I've completed the WE accelerate program, where I've worked in the human-centered design stream, which was offered by Deloitte and the University of Waterloo.

Edwin H. – Honours Philosophy – Honours Mathematics

My name is Edwin and I'm a mature, third-year transfer student. I wasn't sure what major I wanted to study when I first came to UW. Being in Liberal Arts gave me the freedom to take several courses that interested me in Psychology, Math, and Philosophy. After a year I was able to home in on a Philosophy major with a Joint Math option. I found it very helpful to be able to explore different options and interests while still taking courses that contributed to my degree.

Becky S. –  Honours Psychology

I transferred to Uwaterloo from Québec to Liberal Studies because of its flexibility and the extended choices of courses Waterloo has to offer. With the freedom of choosing different courses from different programs it really opened my knowledge and love for Psychology. The transition was very smooth and I was able to feel comfortable through the process.

Liz J. – Honours Liberal Studies

After graduating with a BA in 1986, I returned to Waterloo in 2021 to complete a Liberal Studies major. All courses were completely relevant to my planned post-graduate studies and perfect preparation for my academic goals. 


Jennifer completed a Bachelor of Arts (General) in Liberal Studies, graduating on the Dean’s Honours List and winning the J.D. Leslie Prize, awarded to a graduating student who has achieved a first-class standing and earned at least half of their credits through online courses.

Frequently asked questions about Liberal Studies

Can I complete a minor with a liberal studies plan?

Yes, Liberal Studies may be taken in combination with any minor plan open to Arts students.

Can I be a co-op student with a liberal studies plan?

The Honours Liberal Studies plan can be completed with co-op, and Honours Liberal Studies co-op can also taken in combination with the Honours Arts and Business co-op academic plan. Students are encouraged to contact their academic advisor to discuss whether they are eligible for this academic program.

Can I complete an arts major studying online?

Yes, there are currently three Arts majors currently available through online learning. Not every course taught on campus at Waterloo is offered online, so the majority of Arts academic plans (majors, minors, certificates) can only be completed with a combination of online and on campus courses.

Can I do a double major with honours liberal studies?

No, Honours Liberal Studies may not be taken in combination with other Arts Major plans.

Can I complete the BA breadth requirements studying online?

Yes, Arts Breadth Requirements can be completed fully online. Course offerings vary by term. 

Is there career and further education advising available for liberal studies students?

Absolutely. One of the joys of being a university student is having time for reflection to think about the larger issues in the world and within your own life. Spending some time thinking about what your values are, and how you could express them within a particular profession, is one of the most valuable things you can do for yourself while a university student.

Waterloo's Centre for Career Development (CCD) can help guide you through this process. Students have access to Career Advising and Further Education advising for information on postgraduate programs such as Law and Teaching.