Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.

College Curriculum Council approves new CS concentration requirements

New requirements strengthen foundations for 1000-level courses, provide flexibility

<p>The new requirements aim to provide more flexibility in the degree program and common foundations for upper level courses, as well as respond to growing trends in artificial intelligence.</p>

The new requirements aim to provide more flexibility in the degree program and common foundations for upper level courses, as well as respond to growing trends in artificial intelligence.

The College Curriculum Council approved new Computer Science concentration requirements in a meeting on Feb. 27 that will take effect in fall 2024. The new requirements aim to provide students with more flexibility in the degree program and common foundations for upper-level courses, as well as respond to growing trends in artificial intelligence, according to administrators. 

While current students can choose to pursue either the previous or new requirements, students who choose to concentrate in CS beginning fall 2024 will be required to follow the new curriculum. 

According to a summary of the requirements sent to all CS students on March 5, the revisions will require both A.B. and Sc.B. candidates to satisfy an introductory math foundations course and one intermediate foundations course in each of three new areas: Algorithms & Theory, AI and Systems. 

With the new requirements, the department aims to provide students with a stronger common foundation and reduce repeated content between the 1000-level courses, according to Kathi Fisler, research professor of CS and the co-director of the CS undergraduate program. 


Because different students take different intermediate courses after CSCI 0200: “Program Design with Data Structures and Algorithms,” every 1000-level course instructor had to teach any intermediate-level content that wasn’t included in CSCI 0200, Fisler explained. This resulted in the same basic concepts being taught across multiple courses, especially in AI and machine learning, she added.

The new intermediate courses also alleviate pressure on CSCI 0200 instructors to quickly cover all necessary content for 1000-level courses, Fisler said. “We want everybody to go into the (1000-level courses) with a really solid foundation of content, so that the (1000-level courses) can be the best they can be,” she said.

Over the next few years, students will be able to satisfy the intermediate foundation requirements with a variety of existing and new courses, Fisler said. Eventually, the course offerings will be narrowed down to a few standardized courses. 

CSCI 0500: “Data Structures, Algorithms and Intractability: An Introduction” — a course that will satisfy the new algorithms foundation requirement — is being taught for the first time this semester by Professor of Computer Science Philip Klein. 

Klein wrote in an email to The Herald that he believes the additional foundational material is a “beneficial change” that will allow CSCI 0500, which he designed, to delve “deeper into how and why the algorithms work the way they do.” 

“The notion of an algorithms course at this level is not novel,” Klein added. “Many of our peer institutions require their CS majors to take such a course.” 

According to the summary, pathways for all concentrators will no longer be required. Currently, Sc.B. candidates must complete two pathways — two pairs of “thematically related 1000-level courses.” A.B. candidates must complete one pair. 

“We want to make the requirements more flexible and easier for everybody to navigate,” Fisler said. Caps on course enrollment and changes in course offerings due to professor sabbaticals had posed challenges for students to complete their intended pathways, Fisler explained. 

Under the previous requirements, A.B. and Sc.B. students could only count two and four CS-related arts, humanities or policy courses to their degree, respectively. This course count will be reduced by one for both degree types to maintain the curricula’s technical rigor, according to Fisler. 

Recent demand for AI skills in the job market further propelled the new changes. “The idea that everybody should (take) an introductory course in AI as part of being an educated computer scientist (is) blindingly obvious now,” Fisler said.


Klein highlighted the evolving landscape in the field of computer science, including the potential for large language models to replace humans in writing basic code.

“The CS Department aims to produce not coders but full-fledged computer scientists — people with the training and the insight to address challenging and complicated problems using computation,” Klein added. 

The revisions process for new course requirements started about two years ago, according to Fisler. The department gathered information about peer institutions’ degree requirements, surveyed faculty about prerequisites and analyzed registrar data on course enrollments, she said. 

A small committee of five CS professors analyzed those findings to draft different proposals that were then presented at department-wide meetings for feedback, Fisler added. The first version of the proposed requirements was announced last October and underwent further revisions through negotiations with the College Curriculum Council until its approval last month.  

Get The Herald delivered to your inbox daily.

Under the new requirements, all concentrators — including A.B. candidates, who were previously exempt — will be required to complete a capstone course, according to the summary. For A.B. candidates, the changes result in an increase in the number of requirements from nine to 10 courses. For Sc.B. candidates, the course count remains at 15. 

Ilana Nguyen ’26, a Sc.B. candidate in computer science, welcomed the addition of the foundations classes, noting that they will provide a “better bridge” to the 1000-level classes and make future course decisions in the AI field less “overwhelming.” 

Nguyen also appreciated the increased flexibility granted by the removal of pathways in the concentration. She intends to take advantage of the new requirements, but they won’t significantly alter her course plans, she said. 

Saketh Dhulipalla ’26, who is a joint CS-Economics concentrator, thought the “slightly bigger focus on AI (made) logical sense” considering the technology’s growth in the market. 

Dhulipalla, who is currently planning to pursue the old requirements, said he felt “neutral” about the changes. He appreciated the flexibility for current students to continue pursuing the old requirements.

“The challenge for a Brown CS student is not getting through our courses; it is absorbing the material from our courses deeply enough that they can fluidly think across the courses,” Klein wrote in a message to the Herald.

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Brown Daily Herald, Inc.