Liberal Arts: A Road Less Travelled
Forbes India|April 23, 2021
Colleges offering these courses in India have begun to gain ground, but for them to truly shine on the global map, they must be cognisant of the country’s culture and challenges
Anubhuti Matta & Mansvini Kaushik

Academician Pratap Bhanu Mehta’s resignation from Haryana-based Ashoka University in March not only resulted in protests by students, but also put the spotlight on universities that offer them the option of getting a well-rounded and expansive intellectual grounding in all kinds of humanistic inquiry—in the form of a liberal arts degree.

Though specialised liberal arts colleges in India are still relatively young—most of them were established only about a decade ago—they are increasingly becoming popular and beginning to gain a wider student base.

Liberal arts courses are designed to introduce students to four areas of study—arts, humanities, natural and social sciences—and enable them to critically evaluate the environment around them. According to the draft National Education Policy (NEP) 2020 document, “A liberal arts education enables one to truly develop both sides of the brain—the creative and analytical side.”

HOW, NOT WHAT

Courses under the umbrella of liberal arts are designed with a multi-faceted approach to challenge students’ understanding beyond their lived experiences. They are focussed on the ‘how’ rather than on ‘what’.

“Students are not taught what to think, but how to think,” says Dishan Kamdar, vice-chancellor of Pune-based Flame University. “Such a learning system helps students develop abilities to connect the dots, hone a creative mindset, and inculcate skills to think out of the ordinary”.

The development of skills such as critical thinking, problem-solving and adaptability makes liberal arts even more important in today’s times given the fact that for several decades, the Indian education system has focussed on early specialisation and encouraged rote learning.

“This has resulted in a majority of the graduates coming out of our education system not being employable as they lack the requisite skillsets for 21st-century jobs,” says professor Malabika Sarkar, vice chancellor, Ashoka University. “Liberal arts’ focus on all-round development and in shaping students’ intellectual, aesthetic, social, physical and emotional capacities not only equips students for a career but also for life.”

Every liberal arts college provides an opportunity to combine multiple academic interests into a single degree programme ranging from arts and performance, communication and design, to history, economics and even international relations.

At Ashoka University, a not-for-profit university and a philanthropic initiative that has raised over ₹1,100 crore in the past eight years through 119 individual and 27 corporate founders, students can choose from a range of 21 majors and 18 minors while making it mandatory to opt for two co-curricular courses.

At Delhi-NCR-based Shiv Nadar University, too, the course is designed to allow students to specialise in a particular subject while studying and experimenting with a wide range of other elective subjects. “Our programmes are designed to strengthen the learner’s foundation or core with a broad multidisciplinary approach and provide depth of learning in a major subject. While there is flexibility in the curriculum, an equal focus is laid on academic rigour,” says Dr Rupamanjari Ghosh, vice chancellor of Shiv Nadar University. The university, funded by the Shiv Nadar Foundation to the tune of $300 million, started in 2011.

Continue reading your story on the app

Continue reading your story in the magazine

MORE STORIES FROM FORBES INDIAView All

The Outsider

FRANK SLOOTMAN DOESN’T START COMPANIES. BUT NO ONE IN BUSINESS HISTORY HAS A BETTER TRACK RECORD OF TURNING THE IDEAS OF OTHERS INTO JACKPOTS. WITH $80 BILLION SNOWFLAKE, THE BIGGEST SOFTWARE IPO EVER, HE’S REWRITTEN THE PLAYBOOK

10+ mins read
Forbes India
May 07, 2021

Revenge Of Winklev

After losing an epic battle with Mark Zuckerberg over ownership of Facebook and being shunned in Silicon Valley, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss are back— this time as budding bitcoin billionaires at the centre of the future of money, the creative economy and quite possibly a new operating model for Big Tech itself

10+ mins read
Forbes India
May 07, 2021

SRF's Coming of Age

How Arun Bharat Ram’s sons have transformed the maker of nylon tyre cord into a specialty chemical player with global scale

6 mins read
Forbes India
May 07, 2021

THE RISING

European-style breads have gone mainstream in urban India, thanks to a growing bunch of bakers, and a push from the Covid-19 pandemic

8 mins read
Forbes India
May 07, 2021

One-Woman Show

Judy Faulkner, the billionaire founder of Epic Systems, pioneered—then dominated—electronic medical records. She’s been the industry’s leading actor for decades, but now the pandemic is fuelling a digital health care race that may finally cost her the spotlight

10+ mins read
Forbes India
May 07, 2021

The Friendly Assassin

David Vélez set out to kill off the fat fees and lousy service of Brazil’s big banks. The operation succeeded beyond his wildest dreams: Today, his no-fee Nubank is the most valuable digital bank in the world, with 35 million customers—and he’s gunning for more

10 mins read
Forbes India
May 07, 2021

FUNNY GUY

Multi-hyphenate comedian Danish Sait has broken out of his regional playground during the lockdown months and expanded his footprint nationally. And he’s only getting started

9 mins read
Forbes India
May 07, 2021

A Higher Calling

Billionaire Beau Wrigley is building his cannabis company, Parallel, to be bigger than his family’s chewing gum business—and he’s not banking on getting consumers stoned

7 mins read
Forbes India
May 07, 2021

Wealth-Creation In A Pandemic

Covid-19 brought terrible suffering, economic pain, geopolitical tension—and the greatest acceleration of wealth in human history. Why this pandemic paradox could become a cause for celebration, not concern

10+ mins read
Forbes India
May 07, 2021

Banking's Newest Billionaire

With a net worth of $1.3 billion, Sanjay Agarwal debuts on Forbes’s list of world’s billionaires. His AU Small Finance Bank aims to be counted among its larger peers over the next decade

9 mins read
Forbes India
May 07, 2021
RELATED STORIES

Where More Education Doesn't Mean More Jobs

The more education you have, the more likely you are to have a job. This relationship holds true across the U.S. labor market, with one notable exception. In February, 74.6% of men 25 and older with only a bachelor’s degree were employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, while just 72.7% of men with advanced degrees were.

1 min read
Bloomberg Businessweek
March 22, 2021

Seesaw – Best in Class

For helping to make remote learning work during the pandemic.

5 mins read
Inc.
Winter 2020 - 2021

School Wasn't So Great Before Covid, Either

Yes, remote schooling has been a misery—but it’s offering a rare chance to rethink early education entirely.

10+ mins read
The Atlantic
December 2020

What Is MasterClass Actually Selling?

The Ads are everywhere: You can learn to serve like Serena Williams, write like Margaret Atwood, act like Natalie Portman. But what MasterClass really delivers is something altoguether different.

10+ mins read
The Atlantic
September 2020

The Secret of Success

Madhusudan Reddy explores how success comes through discipline, and provides simple effective ways of cultivating that discipline in daily life.

3 mins read
Heartfulness eMagazine
April 2020

The Vital Role Of Certification In Education

Educators and employers are using certification to build tomorrow’s tech workforce

6 mins read
Certification Magazine
January 2020

Of Two Minds

By insisting that boys' and girls' brains are wired differently, proponents of single-sex education are selling all kids short.

10+ mins read
Mother Jones
March/April 2020

Can Maryland Defuse The Inequality ‘Time Bomb'?

The state legislature is weighing a proposal to make education more fair

4 mins read
Bloomberg Businessweek
February 17 - 24, 2020

Tips For Beating Test Anxiety

Study strategies and coping skills transform attitudes

6 mins read
Flagler Parent
February 2020

Most Influential Business YouTube Channels

YouTube has become one of the most influential media for entertainment, education, business, and other information exchange. There are several business YouTube Channels in the global context that are present in the virtual world and subscribed by millions for daily viewership. The contents and graphics in these channels help the business decision-makers to learn new concepts understand changing business scenarios and develop new skills to perform better on the business front. The following are the top ten most influential business YouTube Channels in the global context as of 20th November 2019.

4 mins read
Industry Leaders
December 2019