Liberal Arts International

13 October 2014

Rev. Dr Feidhlimidh Magennis, chair of the College’s Liberal Arts Programme Team, and Dr Matthew Martin, Senior Lecturer in English, represented St Mary’s University College at a conference in Brussels on “Improving Undergraduate Education in Europe – Liberal Arts and Sciences Colleges”, hosted by the Academic Cooperation Association.

Organized by ECOLAS, the European Consortium for Liberal Arts and Sciences, the conference took stock of the growth of liberal arts institutions and programmes in the aftermath of the “Bologna Accord” (1999). Representatives from over twenty liberal arts institutions attended to discuss how the liberal arts have raised the quality of university education.

Participants discussed the emergence of new institutions such as the university colleges in the Netherlands established within larger public universities. These offer a residential learning experience with a liberal arts curriculum that stresses multidisciplinary studies, skills acquisition and academic excellence. There are now seven such university colleges in the Netherlands. Similar publicly-funded institutions are emerging in Germany and other Western European countries, alongside private liberal arts colleges and universities; however, the greatest area of growth lies in Eastern Europe.

There were several presentations on adapting the liberal arts model of university education in Asia (China, India and Japan) and Africa (Ghana).

The St Mary’s representatives shared their experiences of establishing a Liberal Arts programme in Belfast, which had its first intake of students in 2000. As the first UK institution to offer a liberal arts degree programme in modern times, the college is keen to play a role in ECOLAS alongside its existing engagement with AACU, the American network of liberal arts institutions.

Samuel Abraham (Rector, Bratislava International School of Liberal Arts, Slovakia)
Matthew Martin (St Mary’s University College, Belfast)
Prof Henk Meijer (University College Roosevelt, Netherlands)

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