Registrar 101: Definition of a Cross-Listed Course

Cross Listed Course
Cross Listed Course

Sometimes we registrars can use some pretty obscure and technical language. I will never forget the first time I became a Registrar in an institution that had just completely deconstructed its registrar’s office. There were precious few people left (ok, there was one administrative assistant) who knew what was going on. I had never worked a day in academic administration, and I needed to learn a whole new vocabulary, but who was going to teach me?

To this day I try my hardest not to assume people know what I’m talking about when I use jargon like cumulative GPA or credits.

Therefore, I thought it would be helpful to create a category of blog posts called “Definitions” under which I would define some of the commonly used terminology of our profession. These might seem really basic to some of you, and I hope that’s the case. Other people might be in a similar situation as I was and have few places to turn to without looking stupid. Perhaps this series of posts will help. I can tell you right now, they will be in no particular order. They will be in whatever order they come to my mind and probably reflect something I’m working on at that moment.

First definition: what is a cross-listed course?

A cross-listed course is one that is offered by more than one discipline, department or faculty, but has the same content and in which students should expect to have the same or similar experience.

Example: ANTH 302/COMM 302 Cross-cultural Communication.

These courses have the same name, they’re offered at the same 300 level (in this case they share the same number), and they have an identical course description. Students can enroll in either the Anthropology or the Communications number depending on which one will best help them meet their program requirements or which one they would prefer on their transcript. The courses are offered as one class, not two classes, and the students from both disciplines learn together.

What are the rules around setting up cross listed courses? They are very few, although you will probably hear different requirements from different institutions. Most of the rules are set in place to help registrars manage these courses and will depend upon technology and educational philosophy and economics (yes, filthy lucre has an influence here) of the institution.

There are only two hard-and-fast rules for cross-listed courses. The first is that students must have the same learning experience for a course to be a true cross-list. The second is to ensure that students cannot get credit for the same course twice (i.e., under a different name). [Thanks to Lauren Charlton, Registrar at UVic, for this one.]

However, here are a few other suggestions to consider when setting up cross-listed courses:

  • It is nice if the course has the same name and number. That way, students who are looking for the course in whatever discipline they need can more easily recognize it and register for it. But this is not necessary. Our university has approximately 50% of its cross-listed courses with the same name and number.
  • It is nice if the courses are offered at the same level (100 level, 200 level, etc.). See first suggestion for a rationale. This does not mean you can offer the course as both an upper and lower level course, however. At my institution, we have a strong difference between courses offered at the 100/200 level and those offered at the 300/400 level. Students at our university must have a different learning experience in a lower level course than an upper level course. Consequently, we do not offer cross-listed courses that cross that boundary. You will not see a course such as ANTH 200/COMM300 at Trinity Western University. Ain’t gonna happen.
  • One final consideration: will you allow students who are enrolled in two majors to use the cross-listed course to meet the requirements of both majors? We allow students to do this at our university, but this is up to your institution to decide – there is no right or wrong answer, although you probably shouldn’t allow the student to count the credit hours twice.

Have I missed anything? If so, please comment and add to our wisdom and knowledge.


6 thoughts on “Registrar 101: Definition of a Cross-Listed Course

  1. Awesome! I was just trying to untangle the definitions of a cross-listed course and an equivalent course. I’ve used these terms for years, but really not sure I’ve been using them correctly!


  2. Grant,
    A definition blog is a great idea and cross-listed courses is as good a place to begin as any. I would observe that every institution where this is tolerated should have an official academic policy on the books to ensure consistency and prevent curriculum slippage (e.g. prevent one department from changing their description without consulting the partner). These courses should also be listed as such in your institutional Calendar. In the “have you missed anything” category you avoid addressing directly the sister situation of concurrently taught courses. This is where courses of similar content (may or may not be the same level) are taught together for a variety of reasons such as; (academic) convenience, declining resources or to take advantage of a visiting professor. I think many schools, for better or worse, are seeing increasing requests from the academic community on this. The distinguishing features of these are that while the experience for students should be similar the assessment of the different groups must be different reflecting the unique course descriptions. Like cross-listed courses, an institution should have an academic policy on this.


  3. Hi Grant,

    I’ll offer a few thoughts from a transfer perspective. If you are offering a crosslisted course that is articulated with another institution, it is critical that the articulating institutions are aware that the course is crosslisted with another subject or number. I have seen numerous examples of crosslisted courses where only one course number is articulated and the other is not, or even worse, where one course receives credit and the other course number receives different credit. This happens when institutions submit courses for articulation without any indication that the course is crosslisted.

    To avoid this situation, BCCAT recommends the following when it comes to articulating Crosslisted courses:

    1. Submit the course and the course outline under each prefix and number that the course is offered when submitting the course for articulation;

    2. Clearly indicate on all articulation requests and the course outline that the course is cross-listed with another;

    3. Clearly indicate on all articulation requests, using the ‘comments’ box, under which discipline the course should be evaluated; and

    4. Clearly indicate that students will receive credit for only one course when evaluating a cross-listed course. For example, if the student has taken both ANTH 100 and SOCI 100 and these courses are cross-listed, they will only receive credit for one of these courses, not both.

    We have an article on the BCCAT site about crosslisted courses at


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