Liberal Arts Degree

Liberal arts in 2022: A new wave of education in India

Amarabati Bhattacharyya
Amarabati Bhattacharyya
Posted on 30 Jun 2022
12:27 PM
A liberal arts degree introduces a new wave of learning for all Indian students.

A liberal arts degree introduces a new wave of learning for all Indian students. Shutterstock

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Summary
A liberal arts education aims to provide interdisciplinary and holistic education to students, integrating various streams of Science, Humanities, Social Sciences, and Management
A liberal arts degree remains at its nascent stage in India. However, it is becoming increasingly relevant in context of the NEP 2020 and the fast-evolving demands of the job market

Even though the origins of a liberal arts education can be traced back to the Ancient Greek traditions of learning in the 12th century, the term ‘liberal arts’ itself is widely misunderstood in India. A large part of the Indian population synonymises liberal arts with humanities and remains unaware of what the degree truly entails and how it is invaluable for the present and next generation of students in the nation.

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What and How of Liberal Arts

The essence of a liberal arts curriculum was introduced in India through pioneer educational institutes such as the Takshashila and Nalanda University. These institutes taught a wide range of subjects under the same roof – drawn from the Ancient Greek objective of establishing a liberal arts model simply as a “desire for a universal understanding.”

A liberal arts institute provides interdisciplinary and multi-dimensional education to students, going beyond the rigidity of professional degrees to empower students with critical thinking, interpersonal, creative and adaptive skills.

Students of liberal arts can choose upto a number of majors and minors to specialize in across a plethora of disciplines based on their interests. Most liberal arts institutes provide Bachelor of Arts (BA) or Bachelor of Science (BSc.) degrees across disciplines, offering courses such as Media Studies, International Relations, Philosophy, Physics, English, Mathematics, Biology, Gender Studies, Film Studies, Political Science, Economics, Business and more. Underscored by extensive research and experiential learning, a liberal arts degree aims to prepare students for careers cutting across academia and practical fields.

A staple in the Euro-American education system, a Bachelor's degree in liberal arts is the stepping stone for students who wish to continue their education and pursue a Masters or a Phd considering it provides a wholesome and discursive perspective to students at the Undergraduate level, who can later specialize in their chosen niche at a Postgraduate or Doctoral level.

Where can you study Liberal Arts in India?

Although liberal arts colleges are yet to fully penetrate the Indian education landscape, certain universities have already launched the program. It has only been a decade since these schools were established, however, they are attracting more and more students. A liberal arts degree attracts students who wish to look beyond mainstream professional degrees of Engineering or Medicine, allowing them to combine Engineering with Business or Mathematics for instance. It equips students with greater knowledge and a stronger stake in the job market.

Some of the top universities offering liberal arts degrees in India are the following:

  • Ashoka University

Program: BA in Liberal Arts

Duration: 3 years

Location: Sonipat, Haryana

  • Christ University

Program: BA in Liberal Arts

Duration: 3 years

Location: Bengaluru, Karnataka

  • FLAME University

Program: BA/BSc. in Liberal Arts

Duration: 3 years

Location: Pune, Maharashtra

  • NMIMS University – Jyoti Dalal School of Liberal Arts

Program: BA (Hons) in Liberal Arts and Humanities

Duration: 3 years

Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra

  • OP Jindal Global University – Jindal School of Liberal Arts and Humanities

Program: BA (Hons) in Liberal Arts and Humanities

Duration: 3 years

Location: Sonipat, Haryana

  • Symbiosis International University – School for Liberal Arts

Program: BA/BSc. in Liberal Arts

Duration: 4 years

Location: Pune, Maharashtra

The future with Liberal Arts

A liberal arts education is becoming increasingly relevant at present time, particularly since the induction of the National Education Policy (NEP) in 2020 which aims to universalize and de-compartmentalise Indian education. Under the NEP, technical universities are required to include courses in humanities and social sciences whereas universities that primarily provide humanities courses are required to integrate their curriculum with science and management courses. The NEP aims to provide “holistic” education to school and college students, widening the breadth and depth of their learning – which follows the liberal arts doctrine.

“Liberal arts education breaks down the traditional disciplinary boundaries. It takes Albert Einstein's remark very seriously: Education is not just the learning of facts, but training of the mind to think. Liberal arts education asks us to learn from multiple disciplines at the same time. This is exactly the need of the hour in India. We need to connect sciences, the humanities, the social sciences with each other in our educational systems. That's the true hallmark of the modern world. We need to be able to figure out how to link health, machinery, questions of class, caste, gender and aesthetics together. Liberal arts is an attempt to figure out some of those ways,” says Nikhil Narkar, Faculty of Film & Cultural Studies at Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts.

“It always seemed impossible to me to inculcate a global perspective whilst being mindful of the micro-environment that I function within. However that is exactly what Liberal Arts taught me – stakeholder management and contextualizing situations with their socio-cultural backgrounds. In a dynamic field like Marketing, business and management are not the backbone of my job-role alone, but it is also sociology, consumer psychology and anthropology,” says Ankita Mathur, a Liberal Arts graduate from Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts.

Mathur currently works as a Solutions Architect at Integrated Marketing & Sales firm Schbang and believes that “a holistic Liberal Arts education” has taught her that she can’t “merely sell products but understand the deep-rooted needs of consumers over generations to weave solutions bound together by emotion.”

In 2022, as the Indian job market becomes more and more diversified and digitized with new-age roles taking the forefront, recruiters are looking to hire dynamic, socially-aware, flexible and inventive people with an expansive world-view. A liberal arts degree brings in new possibilities for students in India and a new wave for the Indian education ecosystem.

Last updated on 05 Jul 2022
16:22 PM
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