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Liberal Arts at St Mary's


At St Mary’s we aim to provide a high quality learning environment that embeds intellectual curiosity, innovation and best practice in learning, teaching and student support to enable students to achieve their full academic potential. On the BA (Liberal Arts) degree programme we do this by providing a range of learning experiences which enable our students to engage with subject and professional experts. Students are supported in developing attributes and perspectives that will equip them for life as professionals, while enhancing their development as independent, lifelong learners. The results of the National Student Survey have consistently shown that students rate the quality of teaching and learning in the College very highly. The College has recently completed an extensive refurbishment of the Student Centre, providing welcoming areas for students to meet and socialise. Additionally, the College has on its compact campus a modern, well-stocked library, an IT Open-Access Suite, dedicated workshop areas, a fitness suite and a specialist PE Centre. As St Mary’s students are also students of Queen’s University Belfast they have access to facilities at Queen’s, including the Students’ Union, libraries, IT facilities, Chaplaincy, Queen’s PEC and the Student Guidance Centre. Examples of the opportunities provided for learning on this course are:

  • Lectures: Lectures are used to provide students with essential information and an understanding of topics often as a starting point for further self-directed private study/reading. Lectures also provide students with opportunities to ask questions and gain some feedback and advice on assessments (often delivered in large groups to all year group peers).
  • Seminars/Tutorials: Significant amounts of teaching are carried out in seminars and tutorials with small groups (typically 8-20 students). These provide an opportunity for students to engage with academic staff who have specialist knowledge of the topic, to ask questions of them and to assess their own progress and understanding with the support of peers. Students should also expect to make presentations and other contributions to these groups.
  • Workshops/Practical Work: Students will have opportunities to develop competences in communication skills in practical sessions. Where students have chosen a specialist subject with a strong practical component (such as PE), much of the associated learning will take place in practical classes.
  • Self-directed Study: This is an essential part of life as a St Mary’s student, when important private reading, engagement with e-learning resources, reflection on feedback to date and assignment research and preparation work is carried out.
  • Work related learning: In years 2 and 3 of the degree programme, individual placements are arranged for students in a range of work environments (public sector, private sector, voluntary sector) so that students have the opportunity to develop employability skills through shadowing management and/or working on allocated projects. Placements are arranged by the College’s WRL Co-ordinator in consultation with the student to support the student’s career aspirations. By means of assessment instruments, the student is encouraged to relate their work experience to issues raised in college courses.
  • E-Learning Technologies: Information associated with lectures and assignments is often communicated via a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE), using the College Intranet site. A range of e-learning experiences are also embedded in the degree through, for example, interactive group workshops, sessions on the use of ICT in the work place, web-based learning activities, etc.
  • Supervised Projects: In final year, students are offered the opportunity across a range of modules to undertake a supervised project which requires them to carry out a significant piece of research on a topic that they have chosen. They receive support from a supervisor who will guide them in terms of how to carry out their research and who will provide advice during the write up stage.
  • Personal Tutor: Undergraduates are allocated a Personal Tutor on entry to the programme. The Personal Tutor is available to meet with them and to give advice throughout their time at St Mary’s, in support of their academic development and to help students find appropriate support where required.
  • Writing Centre and Peer Tutoring: St Mary’s operates the first Higher Education writing centre to be established on the island of Ireland. Through this students are assisting in developing their writing skills. For example, students may bring writing assignments to the Writing Centre to work with other students or “peer tutors” who function in a collaborative role, helping the students to discover what they want to write and how to develop as university-level writers. Incoming students have found the Writing Centre a valuable resource and often continue visiting the Centre throughout their university career.
  • Field Trips/Study Tours: Study visits and field trips are integrated into several of our subject modules. The purpose of these is to help students understand the real-life context of their studies and to exercise critical thinking and interpretation.
  • Study Abroad Opportunities: Students have the opportunity to spend time studying in one of over 40 European and North American universities and colleges with which the College has developed links. For example, this could take the form of a semester’s study in Norway, Belgium, Spain, etc, (for which credits are transferred back to your degree here in St Mary’s) or a one year placement in a North American college as part of the Study USA initiative.