Definition of Honors Education


The National Collegiate Honors Council recognizes the diversity of honors experiences across many institutions of higher learning. These institutions feature an array of missions, which honors programs and honors colleges strive to enact at a high level. While recognizing the inevitable differences that arise from these local contexts, NCHC has identified similar features within honors that occur regularly among these various programs, regardless of the variation within institutions.

Honors education is characterized by in-class and extracurricular activities that are measurably broader, deeper, or more complex than comparable learning experiences typically found at institutions of higher education. Honors experiences include a distinctive learner-directed environment and philosophy, provide opportunities that are appropriately tailored to fit the institution's culture and mission, and frequently occur within a close community of students and faculty.

The document attached to this page elaborates this summary, including commonly sought and measurable honors outcomes, and describes "modes" of honors learning that are characteristically employed to foster these outcomes. Neither the outcomes nor the modes are presented as hierarchical.

This definition is considered by the NCHC Board of Directors to be a living document, which will be reviewed periodically as educational practices evolve.


NCHC Shared Principles and Practices

In 2020, an ad hoc committee was appointed to examine the Basic Characteristics of a Fully Developed Honors Program and Honors College, which were originally approved by the NCHC Executive Committee in 1994. That committee engaged in year-long generative conversations to update these central principles of honors education so they reflect current theories and practices of the academy. This work evolved into the NCHC Shared Principles and Practices, available below in PDF form with an online interactive format under construction.

NCHC Shared Principles and Practices of Honors Education



Diversity and Inclusion Statement

The National Collegiate Honors Council (NCHC) supports and values inclusive excellence by promoting educational equity and non-discriminatory practices. As an organization of institutions, honors educators, students, and staff, it is our responsibility to promote the inclusion and success of academically motivated and high-potential learners from all communities, understanding that each of us holds varied, intersectional identities. We make inclusive excellence possible by understanding that differences between and among us are strengths. In response to historical, cultural, and institutional restrictions that have limited student access to honors education and the hiring of diverse faculty and staff, the NCHC is committed to modeling best practices in inclusion, and to using inclusive leadership strategies, research, and partnerships with other organizations to help honors colleges and programs pursue honors practices and programs that serve and empower all communities.