Scope of liberal arts in India: How can a liberal arts degree help you?

What is the first thing every student shall do after finishing school? In India, the answer is obvious – the first and foremost thing to do after school is choose your stream for higher studies. Each and every student decides to place themselves in any of the pre-defined classifications of arts, commerce or science. Some opt to pursue science – pure science, medical or engineering courses – drifting wholly away from arts and humanities. Some others choose to study commerce, bidding adieu to the basics of science subjects. Needless to say, most of us are forced to make a very hard decision between what might gift us a good career and what might appeal to our hearts. 

Well, can you ever imagine a student getting to graduate in Business Administration along with creative writing? Or someone who takes forward a graduate degree in computer science without having to set aside his dream to learn dance? What about being able to graduate in biology and English literature alike, under the same course? The idea might seem far-fetched and absurd, but not anymore. Let us get to know a bit more about the course that can make this happen – Liberal Arts.

What is Liberal Arts – Science, Commerce, Arts or all three?

Graduate course in Liberal Arts is comparatively new in Indian education field, but it has been proven to be fulfilling in other parts of the world. As we discussed earlier, getting a degree in Liberal Arts equals to getting a chance to choose the combination of subjects you want to study. Student can decide the major and minor subjects that would go into his course, either pure or interdisciplinary in nature. However, many would be deceived by the term ‘arts’ in the course title. Liberal Arts is not a course were you get to study arts subjects. On the contrary, what makes it further more interesting is the fact that you can choose your combinations from arts, commerce and science subjects. The core idea of the course is to open up a liberal approach towards learning. You can earn a BA/BSc/BCom/BBA degree in Liberal Arts, according to the major you choose.

Students can choose from a plethora of subjects including literature, history, computer science, philosophy, political science, economics, biology, international relations, media studies, business studies, psychology, mathematics, statistics, sociology and many more. They also get a chance to learn creative writing, dance, performance arts, visual arts, photography and languages as allied subjects or minors. Apart from the wide range of options given, the course put forth a holistic approach towards education, which is based on the skills of problem solving and decision making. Liberal Arts, in other words, sets a distinct example in India’s education field by taking the student through diverse experiences, and thereby training them to accommodate diversities.

Liberal Arts over traditional degree: What makes it different?

Liberal Arts is an interdisciplinary course, shaping students to become more of a generalist rather than a specialist. Unlike other graduate courses, most of the Liberal Arts courses available in the country spans over a period of 8 semesters or 4 years. Why, then, would students still choose Liberal Arts? What makes it significant and different when compared to other traditional courses? 

We have already seen that Liberal Arts degree enables the students to study arts, commerce and science courses together, without being pushed into any specific columns of classification. Many among us might be confused about the course to choose after school, and yet be forced to choose any concrete arts/commerce/science course without even getting a chance to experiment with their possibilities. This situation is completely ruled out in Liberal Arts graduation. You get ample time to engage with various subjects, and then decide which one is your forte.

Being enrolled in a holistic course like this would trigger your analytical and critical thinking abilities. The curriculum is carefully designed so that students are trained in problem solving, multifaceted thinking process, decision making, team skills, organisational and managerial skills, and creativity. This sets the bar even higher when compared to conventional courses that focus entirely on the subject and texts. Moreover, the four-year course is desirable for those who wish to pursue higher studies abroad, since it satisfies the condition of 16-year long uninterrupted education, which is a requirement in many leading universities. Liberal Arts, as a stream of graduation, gives you a better shot with foreign universities. 

Syllabus and Course Structure: What do you study in Liberal Arts?

Structure of this four-year graduation course is indeed creative and interesting. There is a wide variety of subjects available for the student to choose from, under two broad classifications – major subjects, which will be the core courses of the degree and minor subjects, which will complement the major subjects. Nature of the degree will be closely connected with the choice of major subjects, which can either be pure or interdisciplinary. In universities abroad, students can register for the course without declaring the major subjects and then eventually choose them during the course. This, however, is not permissible in India, and a title of BA, BSc, BCom or BBA would be awarded in Liberal Arts according to the major chosen.

Following list shows a comprehensive list of all the major and minor subjects available for Liberal Arts students in India to choose from:

Major SubjectsMinor Subjects
  • English
  • History
  • Economics
  • Computer Science
  • Biology
  • Politics and Society
  • Philosophy
  • Sociology and Anthropology
  • Psychology
  • Business Studies
  • Mathematics
  • Finance
  • Literary and Cultural Studies
  • Public Policy
  • Journalism
  • Statistics
  • Physics
  • Digital Marketing and Communications
  • Performing Arts
  • Entrepreneurship
  • International Relations
  • Creative Writing
  • Environmental Studies
  • Media Studies
  • Visual Arts
  • Photography
  • Design
  • Music
  • Theatre
  • Women’s and Gender Studies
  • Law
  • Languages
  • Film and TV

Foundational courses are also provided in the opening semesters of Liberal Arts course, which includes courses on Introduction to mathematical thinking, Indian civilization, mind and behaviour, literature and the world, principles of science, and social and political formations. These introductory courses enables the students to derive a larger understanding of the knowledge world, and then choose which subjects would choose them the most. Seminars, presentations, case studies and field visits are integral parts of the curriculum.

Where to study Liberal Arts: Eligibility, Colleges and Fee

As we have already realised, Liberal Arts is a novel take in India’s educational scenario, and hence not many colleges and universities provide this course. However, there are several leading players in Liberal Arts education in the country, who have been enrolling graduate students since as early as 2012. Apart from graduate courses, master’s degree is also available in Liberal Arts. That is, students can easily choose to continue their studies with Liberal Arts or move on to more specific subjects after graduation. Well-known centres of scholarship such as Harvard University, Bristol University, University of Kent, University College London and Quest University Canada provide brilliant courses in Liberal Arts. In India, the few universities which conduct the course selects eligible candidates on the basis of an elaborate entrance examination. Each university and college holds separate examinations, in which aptitude test, essay writing, group discussion, personal interview and scores of 10+2 courses play significant parts.

These are the universities and institutes that provide graduate/post-graduate courses in Liberal Arts in India:

  • Ashoka University, Haryana
  • FLAMES University, Pune
  • Symbiosis School of Liberal Arts, Pune
  • Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University, Gandhinagar
  • Jindal School of Liberal Arts and Humanities
  • Apeejay Stya University, Gurugram
  • NMIMS, Mumbai

Among these, one year post graduate diploma course provided by Ashoka University under the title ‘Young India Fellowship’ is highly popular and sought after. Subjects of specialisation offered by the universities might show slight variation, but the elements of holistic approach and openness to diversity are common in all these centres. Some of these institutions offer three-year graduate courses, two-year post-graduate courses and one-year diploma courses in Liberal Arts as well. Well, given that the opportunities opened up before the student is ample and manifold, and owing to the fact that most of these institutions are not government-funded, entire course fee can go ranging between 1 lakh and 25 lakh.

Scope, Career and Salary: What is the future of Liberal Arts?

Here we move on to the most interesting part about studying Liberal Arts. With so much possibilities associated with course combinations and subject choices, what could be the extent of job opportunities for a Liberal Arts graduate! Multinational companies and leading firms are now looking forward to hiring generalists, who can engage with more than one stream of knowledge. The era of specialist intervention is slowly declining in the corporate world. Jack of all trades is the new market requirement. This is exactly what Liberal Arts will prepare you to deal with. A graduate in Liberal Arts can be placed in many fields of profession including marketing, banking, consultancy, public relations, advertising, research, analytics, journalism, management, accounting, social work, library operations, NGO’s, publishing, media instructor and any other profession accessible by any other regular graduate as well.

One notable scope of Liberal Arts is the high chances of clearing UPSC examinations, since the course gives exposure to all the major subjects covered in such examinations. The overall design of the course which gives prominence to interpersonal skills and risk management techniques will certainly make excellent policy makers and government officials. You can easily qualify for any job profile that suits any of the subjects you chose in the course. How amazing is that!

Well, if you wish to advance with higher studies, Liberal Arts becomes even more desirable. Leading universities in and out the country – New York University, University of Oxford, Stanford University, IITs, and IIMs – prefers Liberal Arts graduates for advanced courses. Top-notch corporate companies like TCS Consultancy, Max Healthcare, Deloitte, ITC Hotels, BCG, McKinsey & Company, EY, Bloomberg Quint, HDFC AMC etc. recruit Liberal Arts graduates in large numbers. Since the job profiles can vary with too much deviation, the annual salary of a Liberal Arts graduate can also vary from 3 Lakh to 20 Lakh per annum.

Conclusion

Liberal Arts might be a new concept to many in India. But, it is indeed amusing that Liberal Arts is one of the earliest streams of education. Being equipped in more than one streams of knowledge was the basic idea of education since the earliest of times. When we began to streamline our expertise and interests unidirectionally, our ability to accommodate multiplicities and experiment with possibilities died a slow death. Liberal Arts can also be perceived as a way to bring back the ‘wholeness’ of knowledge. Moreover, it can easily act as a point of entry to many career options in one go. If you are a person of multiple talents and passions, then why turn away from opportunities? Give a chance to Liberal Arts – the harbinger of a decisive shift in our education sector.

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