In the United States, a unit of credit for college preparatory coursework. Each unit represents a year's course in a recognized subject, normally a minimum of about 130 hours of instruction.
The unit was established in 1907 under the aegis of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching¹, implementing recommendations of committees of the National Education Association. To persuade colleges to require 14 of these units from every candidate for admission, the Foundation let it be known that colleges that did not require the units would not be eligible to participate in a pension program the Foundation was then setting up for college faculty.
In the 1990’s the Carnegie unit came under severe criticism as a “babysitting unit,” since it is largely based on time spent, rather than mastery of any defined course content.²
1. Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
Annual Report, 1907.
2. See, for example:
Breaking Ranks: Changing an American Institution.
Reston, VA: National Association of Secondary School Principals, 1996.
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Last revised: 8 March 2008.