Classroom of students in the basic program sitting at tables

Basic Program of Liberal Education

The Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults centers on a four-year Certificate program with a rigorous, liberal arts curriculum that draws on the strong Socratic tradition at the University of Chicago.

Basic Program 75 anniversary graphic

The Basic Program of Liberal Education for Adults is a rigorous, noncredit liberal arts program that draws on the strong Socratic tradition at the University of Chicago in discussion classes about great texts from the Western tradition in philosophy, literature, and political and social thought.

Join a passionate and thriving intellectual community that is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year.


Kendall Sharp, Cyril O. Houle Chair of the Basic Program, invites you to learn more about our rigorous, noncredit liberal arts program.

The Certificate Program

The cornerstone for the Basic Program is the Four-Year Core Curriculum. Each year is made up of three 10-week Quarters. New students begin in Year 1 Autumn. They choose from morning, afternoon, or evening sections held online and earn a certificate upon completion of the entire curriculum.

view the Core Curriculum

Who is in the Basic Program?

The Basic Program is a community of adults who seek a rigorous liberal arts education, and a staff of committed instructors who are both scholars and experienced discussion leaders. Students come to the program from a variety of backgrounds as well as different academic and life experiences, lending richness to class discussions. Students progress with their cohort from quarter to quarter and year to year. They build on their conversations with each other as well as with the texts, deepening the discussion. There are no prerequisites, everyone is welcome.

Basic Program Class Structure

Each course consists of a 90-minute Seminar, covering three or four texts, and a 90-minute Tutorial, which involves in-depth analysis of one or two texts. Both the Seminar and Tutorial focus on close critical reading and discussion of primary texts. View upcoming classes 

Join your weekly class a few minutes early for time to visit with fellow students.

The Readings

Students read the assignment of the week before each class to prepare for the discussion. There are no tests, papers, or grades.

Students can purchase books at the Gleacher Center Bookstore online using the Textbook order form , or by using the ISBN number to order the correct edition elsewhere.

How to Read Classic Texts is a Basic Program methods course recommended for new students and offered each September. One of the foundational premises of the Basic Program is that reading is a skill, at which one can improve through theoretically-informed practice. In this short course, we examine the theoretical perspective on good reading contained in Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book.