BU Equivalence Evaluations for Introductory Astronomy Courses

Since many colleges and universities offer introductory astronomy courses, we often find that students wish to obtain BU course equivalency certification for introductory astronomy courses that were taken at institutions other than BU.  As it turns out, very few institutions offer introductory astronomy courses that are truly equivalent to the courses we offer at BU.  Because of this, very few BU course equivalencies are approved by the Astronomy Department.   The best advice we can give to any student who is considering taking an introductory astronomy course at another institution is to have the course pre-approved by the BU Astronomy Department prior to taking the course.  If an external course has not been pre-approved, there is no guarantee that, once taken, the course will be granted BU course equivalency by the Astronomy Department.


The information below is meant to be a guideline for whether or not an introductory astronomy course offered at another institution is likely to be granted BU course equivalency.  Please note that external courses taken prior to the senior year of high school will not be granted BU course equivalency.

The Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Astronomy Department evaluates external courses for BU course equivalency.  Evaluations are done according to the following three criteria, and if a course taken at other institution fulfills at least two of these criteria it will generally be granted BU course equivalency.  External courses that meet fewer than two of the criteria will not be granted BU course equivalency.

  1. There must be at least an 80% overlap in the content, depth, and order of one of the existing courses taught by the BU Astronomy Department. Note that the BU Astronomy Department does not offer a 1-semester “all of astronomy” introductory course.  Such all-inclusive courses are commonly taught at other institutions, but they are not equivalent to any course that is currently taught by the BU Astronomy Department, and they will not be granted BU course equivalency.
  1. The class must have a total of at least 40 lecture (i.e., classroom) hours.  Hours spent in labs do not count towards the total number of lecture hours. Some summer courses and some quarter/trimester-based courses do not meet the requirement for the necessary number of lecture hours.
  1. The instructor must hold a PhD in astronomy (or a related field) and be trained in research in astronomy.  Prior to considering any external course for BU course equivalency, we will assess the instructor’s education, research training, and research activity.  Instructors with no formal astronomy education and no history of publishing original research in astronomy in peer-reviewed journals do not meet the quality of instructor that we feel is necessary for BU course equivalency.

For students who are seeking BU course equivalency for a Natural Sciences divisional studies course with a laboratory component (e.g., AS101 or AS102), evidence of a separate laboratory component to the class must be presented.  This should include both in-lab and rooftop (or telescopic) instruction and exercises, with at least 15 hours of contact time between the instructor and the students for the laboratory component.  “Optional” or “occasional” night viewing experiences for a lecture course do not meet the standard for laboratory certification.

In order to have an introductory astronomy course from another institution evaluated for BU course equivalency, you will need to bring a copy of the course syllabus and a completed Transfer Credit Approval form to the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Astronomy Department (currently Professor Andrew West, aawest at bu dot edu).  The syllabus must include the name of the instructor who taught the course (or who will be teaching the course, in the case of pre-approvals), the name of the text book, and sufficient details about the course (e.g., lecture outlines) in order to determine how well the course matches any existing course that is taught by BU Astronomy.