Why Study Liberal Arts in USA and Limitations of Studying Liberal Arts in India, Canada & Europe
In the last few years, the trend of pursuing liberal arts after 12th has been gaining good traction among Indian students and parents. In this post, firstly, we will have a brief overview of liberal arts education, careers and job prospects of liberal arts degrees, and top liberal arts colleges in India, Canada, Europe & USA. Then we will discuss why studying liberal arts in the US is a better idea than India, Canada, Europe, and other countries.
Liberal Arts Education after 12th
Curriculum, Career Prospects, Top Countries & Colleges
Co-authored by Parinita Gupta
Brief History of Liberal Arts Education
The liberal arts, also known as the ‘seven liberal arts’, are those subjects or skills that in classical antiquity were considered essential for a free person (liberalis, “worthy of a free person”) to know in order to take an active part in civic life, something that included participating in public debate, defending oneself in court, serving on juries, and most importantly, military service. Grammar, logic, and rhetoric were the core liberal arts (the trivium), while arithmetic, geometry, the theory of music, and astronomy were the following stage of education (as the quadrivium).
What is the Liberal Arts Education
Liberal arts education is not based on a selection of courses, but is rather a process; a process which makes the students well-rounded personalities that are able to look at a problem from many different angles.
A liberal arts education challenges you to consider not only how to solve problems, but also trains you to ask which problems to solve and why preparing you for positions of leadership and a life of service to the nation and all of humanity.
The idea is that if you pursue a liberal arts degree, you are more than likely not pursuing a specific career. When you pursue a Liberal Arts Degree with an emphasis on Computer Science, you are learning how to solve the big issues and problems. Rather than just learnings codes (in case you pursue BS Computer Science), you learn how to approach them from different angles, making you well rounded to choose other professions upon graduation.
Why study Liberal Arts?
Liberal Arts is a vast subject of its own and by exploring issues, ideas and methods across the natural & social sciences, humanities and the arts, you will learn how to read critically, write cogently and think broadly. These skills will raise the bar of your conversations in the classroom and strengthen your social and cultural analysis. They will eventually cultivate the skills necessary to allow you to navigate today’s most complex issues.
A liberal arts education challenges you to consider not only how to solve problems, but also trains you to question which problems to solve and why preparing you for positions of leadership and a life of service to the nation and all of humanity.
Career Scopes in Liberal Arts
‘Liberal arts’ is one such subject where it goes back to the ancient Greeks who considered a liberal arts education to be the ultimate mark of an educated person. Interestingly, it was originated in Europe however; liberal arts education has long had an established place in the US higher education system.
It has only recently resurfaced in continental Europe. Meanwhile, in Asia, discussions about introducing liberal arts have gained momentum in the last 5 years. Earlier, there was only one Liberal Arts College based in Africa – Ashesi University in Ghana, founded in 2002.
Just fresh out of high school, many students are still unsure about their future, making a liberal arts degree is the perfect choice for them. This type of education often gives students the chance to explore several disciplines, equipping them with extensive expertise in a variety of disciplines.
You are only limited by your imagination, your interests, and your willingness to devote time and energy to your work. Few of the fields that hire liberal arts specialists include:
- Advertising – A degree in sociology, psychology, literature, journalism, or philosophy for positions in marketing, promotions, or public relations are preferred by employers with liberal arts backgrounds.
- Law Enforcement – FBI special agents are required to have a foreign language degree to qualify for the language program; CIA language instructors also need a foreign language degree.
- Education – Public school teachers are in demand in the USA and every state in the US requires them to be licensed. Teachers need to have a bachelor’s degree, complete a certification program and have student-teacher training.
- Finance – Most employers require financial advisors to have a degree in finance, math, or economics.
- Technology – As the saying goes, creativity cannot be programmed. As we are getting more and more surrounded by digital technologies and automation, the demand for liberal arts graduates in the technology sector is increasing.
Related Articles On Various Sites including Stoodnt:
Liberal Arts in the Data Age (Harvard Business Review)
Arts and Humanities are becoming more important. Here’s why! (World Economic Forum)
Liberal Arts Curriculum
Earlier, liberal arts covered only three subjects: grammar, rhetoric, and logic, collectively known as the trivium. This was extended in medieval times to include four further subjects: arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy, named the quadrivium – so there were seven liberal arts subjects in the medieval liberal arts curriculum.
There are now many subjects that fall within the broad scope of the category; a typical liberal arts degree program is interdisciplinary, covering topics within the humanities, as well as social, natural and formal sciences. There are differences in the particular subjects included in liberal arts degree programs at different institutions. However, the liberal arts spectrum is generally accepted as covering the following fields:
Humanities – includes literature, art, linguistics, philosophy, religion, ethics, modern foreign languages, music, theater, speech, Latin/Greek classical languages, etc.
Social sciences – includes psychology, history, law, sociology, politics, gender studies, anthropology, business informatics, economics, geography, etc.
Natural sciences – include astronomy, biology, chemistry, physics, botany, archaeology, zoology, geology, Earth sciences, etc.
Formal sciences – includes mathematics, logic, statistics, etc.
Few of the key skills gained from a liberal arts degree are:
- Analytical and creative thinking skills
- Problem-solving and pattern intelligence skills
- Numerical skills, quantitative and qualitative data analysis skills
- Ethical decision-making skills
- Self-confidence and self-understanding
- Ability to be sensitive to others and be tolerant of cultural differences
- Foreign language skills and cross-cultural knowledge
- Effective oral and written communication skills
Key Advantages of Studying Liberal Arts after 12th
- No need to choose any specialization or major in the first two years
- Introduction to a wide range of career choices
- Stepping stone to other careers
- Preparation for work in a variety of sectors
- Liberal arts degrees are appealing to employers
- Provides a foundation for graduate study
- Provides skills to become a valuable community member
Why Study Liberal Arts in the US?
Today, liberal arts degrees are most commonly offered in the US. There are more than 1,500 liberal arts colleges and universities in the US, with even more institutions offering a liberal arts program alongside other options. Among them, more than 200 top-notch and tier 1 colleges are there.
Additionally, large universities like Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, UC Berkeley and many others also offer undergraduate programs in Liberal Arts. Liberal arts programs at both small private colleges and large universities offer a multidisciplinary course that includes a mix of subjects from different disciplines such as the humanities, science, and commerce.
While some universities now offer a one-year associate’s degree in liberal arts, however for liberal arts degrees in the US, it’s a four years full-time course. Students earn either a BA or a BS degree and can then progress to a graduate or professional school.
Some students may also choose to specialize by picking a major or minor subject in a specific area (common subjects to major in include business, law, communication, journalism, marketing, research, and politics).
There are some notable differences between dedicated liberal arts colleges and other universities in the US. Liberal arts colleges typically rely heavily on student participation and encourage a high level of student-teacher interaction, mentorship, and collaboration. Whereas universities tend to prioritize research, liberal arts colleges have more staff members dedicated to teaching full-time, rather than a combination of graduate student teaching assistants and research professors.
Top Liberal Arts Colleges in USA
If you’re keen to pursue a degree in the liberal arts, these are few US Schools you should certainly consider:
- Williams College
- Amherst College
- Swarthmore College
- Wellesley College
- Bowdoin College
- Carleton College
- Middlebury College
- Pomona College
- Claremont McKenna College
- Davidson College
- Vassar College
- Colgate University
Limitations of Studying Liberal Arts in India, Canada, and Europe
The main problem in India is the limited number of available choices. Institutes like Ashoka University, Christ University, Symbiosis, Flame, Auronya, OP Jindal, Lady Shri Ram are excellent colleges. But, given the number of prospective students in India, the seats are very limited. Hence, the competition to get into those top colleges is fierce.
As you might know, unlike STEM subjects, the brand name of a college matters a lot when it comes to liberal arts, humanities, and business studies. It also matters for STEM subjects. But, you can still afford to attend a Tier 2 college for STEM subjects. But, for liberal arts, you have to attend a Tier 1 (if not premium) institute by all means.
In Canada, the top universities like UBC or Toronto do not provide a flexible curriculum that one should expect from a Liberal Arts program. You need to apply for English Literature, History, Finance, Communication or Political Science major. However, McGill and Waterloo have got BA programs in Liberal Arts. So, the choices to study liberal arts at known and reputed universities in Canada is limited.
However, please be advised that while larger universities are providing more opportunities, undergraduate students seldom have a chance to get involved in research at larger universities. Professors at research-intensive institutions often choose Masters or Doctoral students to help with their work. That is not the case at primarily undergraduate liberal arts universities.
In Canada, there are a few dedicated liberal arts universities. But, they don’t get too much limelight. Since they don’t involve in research and publications, they don’t feature among the top university rankings despite providing excellent teaching.
Additionally, the location is also a problem. The majority of international students prefer large cities (e.g. Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver) due to facilities, safety, and multicultural environments. But, the liberal arts universities in Canada are situated in smaller cities. The number of international students in those places is pretty low. Hence, you won’t find diversity.
Top Liberal Arts Universities/Colleges in Canada
- Acadia University
- St. Francis Xavier University
- Bishop’s University
- Mcgill University
- University of Waterloo
- Lakehead University
- Centennial College
- Western University
- Windsor University
Though the concept of liberal arts originates in Europe, today it’s much less prevalent than in the US. At the moment less than half of European countries have liberal arts colleges or universities with a liberal arts degree program.
The UK, Sweden, the Netherlands, Italy, and Germany have got a few good liberal arts colleges. But, the choices of universities or colleges are still very limited in one country.
Traditionally, the UK or Europe are famous for specialized disciplines. Europe should be the destination only when you know what career path (or subject) you want to pursue. Otherwise, it’s always better to look into the US.
A few of the top universities for liberal arts in Europe are
- University College Utrecht
- Amsterdam University College
- Leiden University College
- VU Amsterdam
- University College Maastricht
- Kings College London
- University College London
- University of Bristol
- University of Exeter
- Durham University
- University of Warwick
- University of Leeds
- University of Nottingham
- University of Freiburg
- Bard College Berlin
- European Liberal Arts College Zurich
- Franklin University Switzerland
Author Bio: Parinita Gupta is a full-time banking professional. Additionally, she is also a passionate blogger and digital marketer.
She mostly writes about the Banking & Finance, Technology, and FinTech sector. But, she also enjoys writing on other topics as well. You can follow her on Twitter.
Author: Tanmoy Ray
I am a Career Adviser & MS Admission Consultant. Additionally, I also manage online marketing at Stoodnt. I did my Masters from the UK (Aston University) and have worked at the University of Oxford (UK), Utrecht University (Netherlands), University of New South Wales (Australia) and MeetUniversity (India).
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