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Sunday July 21, 2024

‘No shortage of jobs for those pursuing liberal arts education’

By Bilal Ahmed
October 13, 2022

The term ‘liberal arts school’ is used to describe particular universities or higher education institutes in the United States; however, the terminology is not in vogue in the educational landscape of the United Kingdom.

Dr Alexander Key, associate professor of comparative literature at the Stanford University, California, said this on Wednesday at a talk on liberal arts education at the Habib University, an institute dedicated to teaching liberal arts in Pakistan.

Dr Key, who has been associated with the Stanford University for around 10 years, was born in the UK. He is a scholar of classical Arabic literature and has been engaging with the Habib University for some time.

He said that liberal arts education in the US is meant to ensure flexibility and options for students of social sciences and arts so that they are exposed to multiple disciplines that would help them easily switch their career paths, if they want to, in the future.

He added that liberal arts institutes in the US are few, and they are usually small elite varsities that focus on undergraduate teaching. A liberal arts institute, he said, would tell its students that it wanted to give its students options during their four years at the institute so that they had options for themselves in the following years of their lives.

The philosophy of liberal arts teaching is not to dissuade the students from doing what they are good at but telling them to try other things as well, the speaker maintained. He said that this approach enables students to make sense of the world through multiple perspectives.

Dr Key said the Stanford University is not a liberal arts institute in that sense as its focus and claim for fame is sciences and technology. Moreover, the Stanford University is a big university, whereas liberal arts institutes are usually small varsities.

He said his students studying social sciences are often worried about their careers, and he has to continuously assure them that the choices they have made are all right. Later, replying to a question about career prospects for liberal arts students, he said that it is true that choosing to go for a non-vocational undergraduate degree is a difficult choice.

Nevertheless, he added, there is no shortage of industries that require the skills of writing and interpersonal negotiations, for which liberal arts graduates are more suitable. He also remarked that if you have spent four years studying calculus or programming, it is probable that you will not be good during meetings.