June 19, 2019, by Ross Wilson
Liberal Arts in a Global Context: A Tri-Campus Conference
Over the past twelve months, colleagues in the UK, China and Malaysia have been working on developing Liberal Arts degrees and pedagogical approaches. The experiences of faculty, ideas for future developments and the work of students were shared and discussed during a tri-campus conference in Ningbo held on May 23rd and 24th. The meeting brought together those who have been at the forefront of designing, promoting and delivering Liberal Arts at the University of Nottingham.
It was particularly important that the opening keynote speech on the first day of the conference was delivered by Professor Yang Fujia who has promoted the importance of a liberal arts education through the creation of the University of Nottingham’s Ningbo Campus. In his address, Professor Yang outlined the way in which a liberal arts education can enhance a student’s educational experience and enrich their opportunities during and after their university degree.
The attendees at the conference then heard a series of papers from Mark Bradley, Uditi Sen, Ross Wilson and Geoff Hall which explored what Liberal Arts means in a global context. The delivery of a Liberal Arts education in North America, Europe and Asia was discussed to understand how this philosophy of education has been developed in different contexts to meet the needs of wider society and to respond to student interest.
The design of liberal arts education was the subject of the next panel as the potential of a liberal arts education in China and Malaysia was raised by Christian Mueller, Greg Moore and Chew Ging Lee. This provided a fantastic opportunity to find out more about the Liberal Arts degree which will begin on the Malaysia campus in September 2019. This programme will allow students to study business, humanities and languages as part of their degree.
The development of this new Liberal Arts degree programme allowed Mark Bradley and Ross Wilson to present the creation, promotion and design of the degree programme in the UK. From September 2018, students started studying for a Liberal Arts BA at the University of Nottingham and the way in which this interdisciplinary study has been shaped was outlined by the team visiting from the UK.
The second day developed this theme of pedagogical innovation as Mark Bradley, Derek Irwin, Chew Ging Lee and Sami Janssens all brought their perspective on the challenges and the potential of teaching across multiple disciplines. The student response to interdisciplinary teaching was discussed by Ross Wilson through a showcase of student project work from the first semester of the Liberal Arts programme in the UK.
The most important aspect of this conference was the discussion of potential points of engagement for teaching and learning that can be delivered across the three campuses. Cecilia Goria presented a framework for digital learning before a workshop session was organised to design a tri-campus module. Attendees were divided into groups and they then forwarded ideas for potential themes and assessment exercises. The ideas from the workshop have proven to be particularly useful and planning is underway to develop these ideas and introduce them into programmes in the UK, Malaysia and China to provide a global learning experience for students.
The potential of this vision of an international, interdisciplinary education was at the centre of the discussion at the close of the conference. Liberal Arts students from the UK will be studying in China and Malaysia in the forthcoming academic year and this presents a fantastic opportunity to build stronger links across the campuses and offer students a global education. The tri-campus conference was the start of thinking differently about how this philosophy of education and the formation of Liberal Arts degree programmes can enhance the student experience within the University of Nottingham.