Complementary Studies Electives

Electrical and Computer Engineering students must pre-enrol in all elective courses. Courses without sufficient numbers after pre-enrolment will be canceled.

To complement (from complete) the significant focus on technical knowledge in an engineering program, you are required to satisfy six Complementary Studies Requirements. Acceptable courses are placed into one of four categories:

  • List A Impact courses
  • List B Engineering economics
  • List C Humanities and social sciences courses
  • List D Other permissible complementary studies electives (CSEs)

You must check the calendar under which you started, so most students today require two List C CSEs plus one more CSE from either List A, C or D. (DO NOT take a List B CSE, it will not count towards your graduation requirements.) Students who started in 2017 calendar or before are required to take four CSEs, so please speak to your advisor. The specific courses are listed in the Undergraduate Calendar under Complementary Studies Requirements for engineering students.


  1. You may use at most one nontechnical, technique-development course as a List-D CSE. Examples include language courses, music studio courses, dramatic-performance courses, and the public-speaking course SPCOM 223.  SPCOM 223 requires that the student print, complete, and submit the Course Override Form to Ceylan Turkeri in Speech Communication and request that the form is forwarded to the appropriate Program Undergraduate Advisor/Co-ordinator (Computer or Electrical) (Department: ECE, Building: EIT).
  2. A course taken to satisfy the English Language Proficiency Requirement (ELPE) may count as a CSE; however, if it is not explicitly listed as a List-C CSE, it will fall under the category of a List-D technique course, and you are only allowed to take one technique course.
  3. The status of a Fine-Arts (FINE) course (as a List C, List D, or List-D technique course) is at the discretion of the ECE Department. Please contact your Program Undergraduate Advisor/Co-ordinator at least two weeks before your registration period begins. Note that some FINE courses are restricted to students in the Fine Arts Program and thus, you may not use these as CSEs without further permission from the instructor. Again, contact the instructor as soon as possible.
  4. For many departments, e.g., Anthropology (ANTH) or History (HIST), we state that all courses are acceptable List-C. The hosting Department, however, may place further restrictions on the enrollments in certain courses. Be sure to read the Undergraduate Calendar description to catch any such restrictions. You may have to get permission from the instructor to take such a course.
  5. Not all courses may be offered all Terms, and some courses may be offered during the Fall Term one year and the Spring Term during the next year. Because these courses are not offered by the ECE Department, you should not assume that they will be scheduled when you want or need to take them.

CSEs taken through Distance Education during an academic term do count towards the required number of courses in that academic term.

Fine-Arts Courses

The Undergraduate Calendar directs students to talk to the Associate Chair of Undergraduate Studies with respect to the suitability of courses offered by the Department of Fine Arts as CSEs. In general, many of Fine-Arts courses are acceptable as List-D CSEs, while some are also permissible as List-C CSEs. For example, FINE.110 Introduction to Art History would be acceptable as a List-C CSE while FINE.120 Fundamentals of Visual Art 1 or FINE.392 Technology Art Studio would be a List-D technique-development courses. Note however, there are further restrictions to enrollment in FINE.120, and therefore, you must contact the Fine-Arts Department a significant period of time before your registration period. For example, positions in the studio may be limited or you may be required to supply a portfolio of previous work to show that you have the necessary background for this course.

Acceptable courses for List-D CSE include FINE.392 Art and Technology (this would be considered as the one allowable technique-development course) and FINE.250 History of Film 1 and FINE.251 History of Film 2.

Use your judgment and ask your Academic Advisor as to whether a particular choice is an appropriate CSE. For example, FINE 328D Advanced Electronic Imaging would not be an acceptable CSE as it has too much overlap with the ECE Program.

CSEs Taken During A Work Term

A number of students elect to take, either by Distance Education or by taking courses at another university, some of their CSEs during their Co-op Work Terms. This creates space for extra courses during an Academic Term which may be required for an option, a minor, or for interest's sake.

In order to enrol in a course during your Co-op Work Term you must e-mail, fax, or submit in-person a Course Override Form to the Undergraduate Advisor/Co-ordinator. Quest will not let you sign into a course or drop a course while on a Co-op Work Term. If you intend to take the course at another university, you must, additionally, get a Letter of Permission which will be sent to the host university.

Note that all students may voluntarily reduce their course load by one elective in any term that has at least one required elective; therefore any CSE taken during a Co-op Work Term can be used to reduce your course load by at most one course. If you take additional electives, you must never-the-less ensure do not reduce your load by more than one course.

Clearing Failed CSEs

If you take a course as a CSE and you fail it, you must either retake the same course or take a different course which also satisfies one of your CSE requirements.

CSEs Taken On Exchange

If you are taking a course to satisfy a CSE requirement while on an exchange to another university, you have one of two options: you have to have the appropriate department at this university approve the course as being equivalent to one of the approved CSE courses taught here at the University of Waterloo, or you can have the course identified as one of GENE 22A, GENE 22B, GENE 22C, or GENE 22D, depending on which list, A through D, respectively, the course has been approved for. The Exchange Coordinator will assist with this decision.

Using Alternate Courses as CSEs

If you would like to take a course and have it count as a CSE but it does not appear under the appropriate list in the Undergraduate Calendar, you may request to have the course approved. Please fill in an Elective Approval Form and submit it to your Academic Advisor before you take the course. This must be approved by the Associate Chair of Undergraduate Studies. Any such request should usually be done well in advance of the term in which the course is intended to be taken. The suggested alternate course should satisfy the same requirements of the list itself:

  • List A courses deal with the impact of engineering and technology on society. Such a course must specifically focus on how engineering and technology impacts society and does not include courses which covers subject matter that is impacted by engineering and technology. That is, the focus of the course must be on the understanding of that impact. Only one such alternate course has ever been approved and that was a special topics course designed by a faculty member from another department specifically for one student.
  • List C courses must focus on the central issues, methodologies, and thought processes of the humanities and social sciences.
  • List D courses are additional courses that are acceptable. Such courses must, however, provide an understanding of our heritage and social environment.

In the case of any technique-development course (learning a language, an instrument, public speaking, or any other skill) falls under the List-D category; however, a student may take only one such technique-development course.

The following is a list of courses which have been previously approved as being acceptable CSEs together with which list they qualify for. You must still submit submit a Elective Approval Form, however, the authorization is mostly a formality.

  • MUSIC 246 Soundtracks: Music in Film (List D)
  • REC 280 Introduction to Tourism (List D)
  • BUS 111W Introduction to Business Organization (List D)

Some courses which may not be used as any CSE (A, B, C, or D) include:

  • BUS 121W
  • GEOG 102
  • SCI 206