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Students & Parents | General Education

Shakespeare is not to be at most colleges

USA TODAY   |  April 19, 2007 by Mary Beth Marklein

They’re calling it “the unkindest cut of all.” As Shakespeare fans prepare to celebrate the Bard’s 443rd birthday Monday, researchers for a non-profit group say fewer colleges appear to require students to study the influential author.

Just 15 of 70 institutions studied require English majors to take a course on Shakespeare, says a report by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a Washington-based group that promotes academic quality. At least six of those schools dropped or weakened requirements since 1996, when the group did a similar study.

The report examines requirements of English majors at U.S. News & World Report’s top 25-ranked national universities and liberal arts colleges, schools in the Big 10 college athletic conference, and a selection of California and New York colleges, along with schools in Washington, D.C., where the Bard is being honored with public events. The study credited an institution with having a Shakespeare requirement if a majority of English majors have to take either a course on Shakespeare or two out of three single-author courses on Chaucer, Shakespeare or Milton.

Among findings:

  • The Bard is required by only one Ivy League school, Harvard.
  • Among top liberal arts colleges, only Middlebury, Smith and Wellesley have such a requirement.
  • Three Big 10 schools—public flagships in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin—require Shakespeare.
  • In the nation’s capital, only Catholic University and the University of the District of Columbia require Shakespeare.

Earning a bachelor’s degree in English without the study of Shakespeare “is tantamount to fraud,” says Anne Neal, president of the group.

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