General Education has "deep roots" at York University and, indeed, was central to the founding vision of the university and consciously connected to what would make York distinct from other post-secondary institutions. York's founding president, Murray Ross, clearly articulated a model of both general and liberal education that would train and produce graduates not only for professional careers but also for local and global engaged citizenship. General education was envisioned as fundamental to this latter goal, with the aim of general education to provide a breadth of study that would give students knowledge of the major disciplines.
In 1996, the Faculty of Arts General Education requirements were re-organized with the introduction of 9.0 credit Foundations courses. Arts students were required to take two of these Foundations courses, one in Humanities and one in Social Science. A Natural Science course also remained part of the general education requirements. In part, this re-organization was instituted to ensure that students were exposed early in their academic careers to the breadth of the liberal arts. In part, Foundations courses-which feature a two-hour lecture and two-hour tutorial- were designed to assist in the acculturation process of transitioning from high school to university.