This website is designed to acquaint you with the HKU Common Core and to assist you in making an informed selection of the courses you wish to study. In order to maximize the benefits of your university education, it is important that you choose your courses carefully. Map out a useful and exciting pathway for yourself for all four years—which will, of course, shift as you go—and think about how the courses connect with each other, with your majors, and with your life beyond the university. [Keep in mind the option for Transdisciplinary Clusters and Minors outlined below, since you must decide on those pathways quickly.]

The website provides you with detailed information of all the Common Core courses on offer in 2021-22. This information includes the course description, the learning outcomes, the study load, the assessment requirements, the required reading and viewing, and the course teacher(s). Additional relevant information might also be available on the course websites.


What is the Common Core?

The Common Core is the series of six self-selected courses across four Areas of Inquiry that is required of all HKU undergraduates.


What is the rationale for the Common Core?

The Common Core will help you, in brief, to create a relationship with your own future.

Upon successful completion of the Common Core, you will be able to:

  1. Articulate a broader perspective and a deeper critical understanding of the complex connections between issues of profound importance.
  2. Better navigate the similarities and differences between your own and other cultures.
  3. More fully participate as individuals, members of social groups, and citizens in global, regional, and local communities.
  4. Demonstrate the creative, critical, collaborative, and communication skills that will contribute to the quality of your own and others’ lives.

How will you learn and be assessed?

Learning is most engaging and lasting when it is interactive, so the Core makes use of a wide variety of in-class activities and assessments, in both F2F and online formats. Within each course, you may be asked to create projects, address social issues, discuss different perspectives, create an innovative solution to a problem or a new company to address those problems, or decide what questions most activate your own curiosity. You will engage in different activities such as role-plays, devising drama, participating in debates, close readings, reflective writings, video production, art installations, fieldwork, group projects, laboratory inquiries, museum explorations, quizzes or exams, interviews, and other forms of assessment and undergraduate research.

Engaging with Undergraduate Research from the Start

From the first moment that you step onto campus, keep in mind that you are an active research collaborator with your professors, tutors, classmates, and external partners. There will be many opportunities to engage with, and refine, your own most valued forms of inquiry—within and across disciplines and between the University and community or global partners, so take advantage of as many of them as possible.

There will be opportunities for undergraduate research in many classes, in the Common Core Transdisciplinary Clusters and Minors, and in Common Core Research Seminars and Common Core Global Experiences. In addition, you are encouraged to participate in Critical Zones: Gender, Cities, and Well-Being; in The Passion Project; the More-Than-Human-City Transdisciplinary Exchange with Utrecht University; Case Competitions around the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); the Transdiscplinary Undergraduate Research Initiatives built around your interests, and many other Common Core and University-wide projects.

Your work will be shown at the Common Core Student Learning Festival, may be submitted to Unforeseen Circumstances—our online journal and exhibit space— and, if you choose, enter into international competitions.

Make your learning your own!

How is the Common Core structured?

In order to ensure a balanced exploration across fields of learning, the Common Core is divided into four Areas of Inquiry (AoIs): Science, Technology and Big Data, Arts and Humanities, Global Issues and China: Culture, State and Society.

<div style="font-size:18px;text-align:center;">Scientific and Technological Literacy</div>
<div style="font-size:20px;text-align:center;">Arts and Humanities</div>
<div style="font-size:20px;text-align:center;">Global Issues</div>
<div style="font-size:18px;text-align:center;">China: Culture, State and Society</div>

Workload requirements for a 6-credit course amount to 120-180 hours and Common Core courses normally consist of 36 contact hours, with a 2-hour lecture and a 1-hour tutorial per week. Common Core courses are usually taught on Wednesday afternoons/evenings, with a handful taught on Saturday mornings.  

There are regular courses capped at 120, mega-courses capped at 288, experiential learning courses capped at 80, and flipped classrooms in which you prepare by watching videos before class so that time can be freed up for activities. There are also Common Core Research Seminars (CCRSs) focused on a small seminar experience of collaborative research, project-based learning, public sharing of the students’ discoveries, and clear goals for impact. More details about CCRSs on offer in 2021-22 will be announced in due course.

Common Core classes are offered during the summer as well, some of which are offered in collaboration with the HKU Summer Institute and partner universities abroad as well as in Mainland China. You may consider taking CC courses in the summer if you wish to get some relief from your heavy workload during the regular semesters, have a compressed format, and are interested in meeting new friends from different parts of the world.


Why are tutorials so important?

Tutorials, which are normally conducted weekly in a small group setting, are an essential and compulsory element of study in the Common Core. The purpose of tutorials is to provide a small seminar context for you to deepen your understanding through dialogue with others in an interactive setting. Additionally, tutorials offer an environment for you to improve your communication skills and develop your confidence. Each member of the tutorial group has the responsibility for creating an effective learning experience for all concerned, and it is therefore important that you prepare adequately by reviewing lectures, formulating questions for discussion, and completing any preset tasks such as reading, writing or research requirements.

What are the Common Core requirements?

You are normally required to take 6 six-credit courses, one from each AoI and not more than 2 from any AoI.  However, the number of courses required and the year and semester in which they are taken vary from programme to programme. (Please refer to Table 1 to find out the requirements for your programme.) You are advised to check the accuracy of the information in the table with your home Faculty before choosing courses. Please note that whatever the requirements for your programme, you are not allowed to take more than four courses within an academic year (except for students who are required to make up for failed credits as well as those who take courses offered in the summer semester which is optional). In addition, Common Core courses cannot be taken as free electives.

How do you select your courses?

As you choose your courses, you will have a great deal of information available to you through the Student Information System (SIS), through the Common Core website, through your Academic Advisors, through informal student websites, and through senior students. It is very important that you weigh all of this information carefully and create the pathway through the Common Core that will be most useful and exciting for you.

Common Core courses are selected online through the Student Information System (SIS) and places are allotted through a First-Come-First-Served enrollment method during the course selection period in August (Get to your computers early!) and an auto-ballot method during the add/drop period.  It is important to note, however, that selecting a course online does not guarantee a place on the course, as Common Core courses have fixed quotas.

Course Selection Period (Course approval method: First-Come-First-Served)

During the course selection period in August, your selections of Common Core courses are time-stamped. Pending approval of course enrollment, you are able to check your position in the queue as well as the number of vacancies available in the course. With the exception of the course enrollment priority for students who have declared a Common Core Transdisciplinary Minor (CCTM) during the designed “priority period” (see below), the system will approve your course selection on a first-come-first-served basis. Any enrollments not approved as a result of oversubscription will be placed on a ranked waiting list. The system will perform the enrollment approval process several times a day and you can check and make changes to your course selection online during the course selection period.

After the course selection period closes, all the waiting lists generated during the course selection period will be purged. You will then not be allowed to make any changes to your course selection until the add/drop period.

* IMPORTANT: Courses with enrollments below 20 by the end of the course selection period will be cancelled. This mechanism for discontinuing under-enrolled courses at an early stage is to minimize disruption to your studies after you have started the new academic year. Students enrolled on a discontinued course will be notified of the discontinuation through their HKU email soon after the course selection ends and assistance will be provided to help them enroll on another course of their choice as far as possible before the start of the add/drop period. Be sure to check your email!

Course Enrollment Priority for Common Core Transdisciplinary Minor (CCTM) students: On the first day of the course selection period in August, there will be designated “priority periods” when students of the 2017-18 intake and thereafter who have declared a CCTM will be given priority over others of the same cohort to enroll on the remaining courses that belong to the same thematic cluster. During the period, the first-come-first-served course approval method will still apply to courses that do not belong to the thematic clusters.

Add/Drop Period (Course approval method: Auto-Ballot)

When the course selection system re-opens during the add/drop period, all the waiting lists generated during the course selection period will be purged. During the add/drop period, you may select Common Core courses with available places and the system, in order to be fair to students from all years, will approve your new enrollments by auto-ballot. The first auto-balloting job is executed during the suspension period. The system will perform subsequent auto-balloting jobs 6 times a day at 8 am, 11 am, 2 pm, 5 pm, 8 pm and 11 pm respectively after the suspension period. You can check your course selection status and auto-ballot result online anytime and make changes to your course selection before the add/drop period ends.

* IMPORTANT: You should ensure that your Common Core course selection does not violate any requirement of the Common Core or of your programme. Otherwise, your enrollment will be disapproved by the system automatically.

Exchange/Visiting students
Subject to availability, exchange/visiting students may take up to two Common Core courses from a selective menu, each from a different AoI. You should enroll to special sub-classes created for exchange/visiting students only. The selection process is the same as mentioned above.

You are strongly advised to refer to the Course Selection Schedule, Student’s Guide to Common Core Course Selection in SIS as well as the Quick Guide on Course Selection and Enrollment available on the HKU Portal before performing your course selection.


Common Core Clusters and Transdisciplinary Minors

(Optional and available to students of the 2017-18 intake and thereafter)

If you are a student of the 2017-18 intake and after, you may pursue an organized course of interdisciplinary study tailor-made to your interests. The Common Core has launched four thematic options as follows:

  1. Sustaining Cities, Cultures, and the Earth (SCCE) (applicable to cohorts admitted in or after 2017-18)
  2. The Quest for a Meaningful Life (UQM) (applicable to cohorts admitted in or after 2020-21) / The Universe and the Question of Meaning (UQM) (applicable to cohorts admitted in 2017-18, 2018-19, and 2019-20)
  3. Creative Arts (CA) (applicable to cohorts admitted in or after 2021-22)
  4. The Human Life Span (HL) (applicable to cohorts admitted in or after 2021-22)
  5. Gender, Sexuality, and Diversity (GSD) (applicable to cohorts admitted in or after 2021-22)

The clusters will offer you a self-chosen pathway for you to personalize your Common Core experience that will be acknowledged on the Academic Attainment Profile.

What are Common Core Clusters and Transdisciplinary Minors?

A cluster consists of four Common Core courses, and a Transdisciplinary Minor consists of six courses, all drawn from the same thematic cluster. The courses under each cluster are listed at Table 3. In all cases, there are many courses to choose from.

How do You Declare a Common Core Cluster or Transdisciplinary Minor?

There is no prerequisite requirement for completing a Common Core Cluster. If you have completed four courses from the same thematic cluster before graduation, the Common Core Cluster will be recorded on the Academic Attainment Profile.

In cases where the four Common Core courses you have completed can fulfill more than one Cluster, you will be asked to indicate before graduation the intended Common Core Cluster you wish to be recorded on the Academic Attainment Profile.

You will be eligible to declare a Transdisciplinary Minor after completing four courses from the same thematic cluster. In other words, completing four courses from the same thematic cluster is the prerequisite requirement for declaring the Transdisciplinary Minor of that thematic cluster. After declaring the Transdisciplinary Minor, you will be given priority to enroll on the final two courses belonging to the same cluster you need to complete for the Minor.

Please visit for detailed procedures on Common Core Cluster indication / Transdisciplinary Minor declaration.

* IMPORTANT: Common Core Cluster indication and Transdisciplinary Minor declaration are available during the pre-enrollment period and add/drop periods. You will NOT be allowed to indicate or make changes to your Cluster intention or Minor declaration during the course selection period in August.

If you have completed a Common Core Cluster or a declared Transdisciplinary Minor, it will be recorded as an accomplishment on the Academic Attainment Profile, for which all full-time final year students can apply.

Keep in mind that while the Common Core requirements are mandatory for all undergraduate students to fulfill before graduation, both the Clusters and Minors are optional. If you embark on a cluster or minor, you will still need to fulfill the requirement of successfully completing six Common Core courses, one from each AoI and not more than two from any AoI, and the non-permissible combinations of courses will still apply.


Special Common Core Proviso in the Determination of the Graduation Grade Point Average

(Applicable to students of the 2017-18 intake and thereafter)


Frequently Asked Questions