The Committee on Qualifications considers applications from the perspective of Phi Beta Kappa’s objectives. Because the Society is, above all, interested in the development of liberally educated students, it seeks evidence that the educational programs and academic environment of an applicant institution effectively quicken the mind and spirit. Phi Beta Kappa requires that its member institutions give emphasis to curricula liberal in character and purpose and that courses distinguished by these qualities constitute the principal requirements for the bachelor's degree for those eligible for election to Phi Beta Kappa.
In examining the qualifications of colleges and universities seeking a chapter, the Committee on Qualifications will give close attention to the procedures by which an applicant institution addresses the following:
- Recruits and retains good students and prepares some for graduate study
- Makes appropriate academic demands on those enrolled in its classes, including opportunities for honors studies for those who are especially capable
- Develops and maintains a faculty whose preparation and scholarly activity give evidence that they are able to establish and assess those demands
- Maintains sufficient financial resources to support the institution's academic programs
- Takes due precautions to prevent issues of governance, athletics, religion or politics from subverting the integrity of the institution's dedication to liberal education.
- Addresses issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the curriculum as well as in personnel and the student body
The great differences among colleges and universities — size of faculty and student body, governmental organization, library holdings, careers of graduates — preclude the formulation by Phi Beta Kappa of uniform, abstract standards for institutional membership. The Committee on Qualifications attempts to assess each applicant college or university with regard to its distinctiveness.
Those seeking a chapter will be expected to produce both qualitative and quantitative evidence demonstrating that their institution has standards that encourage excellence, a system of governance that promotes academic freedom and vigor, a scholarly faculty, a promising student body, a library and other educational facilities serving and complementing the course offerings, mechanisms for ensuring the success of all students, and an adequate and dependable income sufficient to maintain academic excellence.
The Committee on Qualifications will also closely examine the curriculum for the baccalaureate degree to assess whether students are engaged in study that illuminates the human condition by exploring aspects of taste and feeling, of the reasoning process, of the physical and moral worlds, of individual and group responsibility, and of the meaning of life as a whole. The study of literature, languages, philosophy, religion, the fine arts, history, the social sciences, mathematics and the natural sciences is held to be central to the objectives of Phi Beta Kappa.
In 2011, Phi Beta Kappa adopted Stipulations Concerning Eligibility for Membership in Course. Applicant faculty groups should keep these stipulations in mind when completing the application.