Liberal Arts at the University of Nottingham

July 25, 2019, by Ross Wilson

What does Liberal Arts in the UK look like?

Over the last few years Liberal Arts degree programmes have really taken off within British universities. There are now courses provided across universities with different focuses on humanities, sciences and languages. What brings them all together is a focus on how an interdisciplinary approach allows students to explore, develop new ideas and to think differently about their studies and their careers.

Despite the fact that Liberal Arts courses are new to the UK the idea of Liberal Arts is well-established. We could talk about the tradition of the trivium in Ancient Greece where students would learn grammar, logic and rhetoric. We could speak about the quadrivium, of the seven liberal arts taught in universities during the medieval period. However, modern Liberal Arts degrees build on this tradition but they do something different with it when we ask students to combine subject areas. To think in interdisciplinary terms!

Liberal Arts Banner

Liberal Arts Banner

In American colleges and universities, a liberal arts education is the bedrock of higher education for many as it provides instruction across the humanities, sciences and social sciences. Across India, China and Malaysia, a liberal arts approach has recently been incorporated in some institutions to allow for flexible studies and to promote innovation. In some countries like the Netherlands, this tradition of a liberal arts approach has structured university experience for over a century.

A global movement can now be identified which has seen universities turning to an interdisciplinary, liberal arts approach to provide opportunities for students and to ensure that a new generation can meet the challenges of the twenty-first century by thinking differently.

Introduction to Liberal Arts - our first year module

Introduction to Liberal Arts – our first year module

So, this is what defines a liberal arts education; to engage in a range of subjects that reflects your interests and which allows you to broaden your ideas. This is also what is achieved within a Liberal Arts degree in the UK.

Within these degree programmes, we also focus on applying the ideas gained from studying across disciplines. We’re keen on ensuring that you can use your ideas to solve problems, build something useful for communities, create things of value and importance and to share ideas with others that can transform lives.

This is a key feature of a Liberal Arts degree in the UK which incorporates a liberal arts education: the application of your knowledge to make a difference.

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