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What is Liberal Arts?

Dr Gavin Schwartz-Leeper speaking to a group of students during a workshop

What is Liberal Arts?

A liberal education puts critical thinking and problem solving at the heart of learning. This approach exposes you to a broad range of knowledge and teaches you how to learn. Thinking critically across disciplines has underpinned the training of free thinkers, visionary leaders, and intellectual revolutionaries for thousands of years. Throughout history, we have reinvented liberal education to prepare future leaders to face complex challenges.

Find out more about the history of Liberal Arts and different types of Liberal Arts programmes.


Liberal Arts at Warwick

Liberal Arts at Warwick is a way of approaching what matters most to you. You will draw on knowledge from a range of disciplines to address complex problems, including those in the humanities and social sciences. You will design your degree by choosing a pathway, closely supported by our expert tutors. This course balances breadth and depth, giving you flexibility with your module choices whilst ensuring you graduate with specific expertise in your area of interest.


Thinking like a Liberal Arts student

In Liberal Arts at Warwick, you will cross disciplinary boundaries and ask insightful, investigative questions. You will learn to draw on knowledge and expertise from different disciplines to make interventions in the problems that matter to you. You might choose to ask questions from the viewpoint of a mathematician or a sociologist. You could clarify a problem by adopting an economics approach with added political insight. Or you could use art, literature or film to highlight how a problem has developed over time in different social contexts.


What makes us different?


Video credit: Books for Thought, IEC

Access the transcript for this video.

Our degree is radically different from other Liberal Arts programmes around the world. Here you will focus on developing high-level research skills to create interventions in complex problems - both those observable in the contemporary world, and academic problems that emerge from the conflicts and convergences of different ideas. You will have the guidance of our experienced transdisciplinary academics each step of the way.

The best way to shape the intellectual leaders of the future is by training them to tackle the most difficult and pressing problems facing our world today. We do this through our unique Problem-Based Learning approach. This is where you understand a topic by examining complex problems from a variety of perspectives and develop your own distinctive stance.

We deliver our core Liberal Arts modules using Problem-Based Learning workshops. These are defined by student-led research-based inquiry. There are no formal lectures - instead you will spend your time in the classroom debating, framing, and presenting research questions and interventions. Your specific interests guide this learning method. So content, explored through in-depth case studies, changes depending on the student cohort.

“A Problem-Based Learning classroom is a lively space of discussion where students have gone out, conducted their own independent research, shared their ideas with each other and together worked as part of a team to produce a response which we then unpick collectively and explore further."

Dr Kirsten Harris | Associate Professor, Liberal Arts

At the end of your first year you will choose a unique pathway through your degree. On your pathway, you will gain in-depth knowledge whilst working with experts across the University. You will have the opportunity to apply the skills developed in our core modules to your pathway modules. This will give you a deeper and more critical understanding of your chosen options.

Your pathway offers you flexibility when thinking about which modules fit your interests. Do you want to reinvent how we see the past? Or, are you concerned with how we build the future? You will put together modules that give you the knowledge, skills, and expertise to be a leader in your area of interest. We will work with you to help you construct a degree that aligns with what matters to you.

We offer two types of pathways:

  1. Specialist Interest: Our Specialist Interest pathways are open to your interpretation. You are free to pursue your interests, whatever they might be. We will work closely with you to help you design a pathway that enables you to study the areas that you want to explore.
  2. Disciplinary Interest: You will select your optional modules exclusively from one of our partner departments. Our partner departments are Classics, Economics, Education, English, Film and Television Studies, History, Languages, Life Sciences, Philosophy, and Theatre and Performance Studies.

Do you want to extend your learning and broaden your perspective by studying overseas? If so, we can support you to apply for a year's study abroad at a leading university. We have partnered with elite institutions in Europe and Canada, allowing our students to study Liberal Arts programmes that share our passion for rigorous interdisciplinarity and critical thinking.

We have embedded your professional development in our programme. You will have the opportunity to take certificates designed to develop skills identified by employers as being vital for success in the workplace. You will also have the opportunity to engage in work placements and begin to build your professional networks. Our department's Employability and Placement Manager is here to support you, providing one-to-one careers guidance.

Our academics in the Liberal Arts Department are passionate about liberal education and are experts in a range of subject areas. They are also specialists in research-led teaching and learning; they publish and lecture regularly on the teaching methods used here at Warwick. All of our academics in the Liberal Arts Department are accredited as Fellows or Senior Fellows of the Higher Education Academy. Our experience in transdisciplinary learning means you will have expert support at every stage of your degree.

In Liberal Arts at Warwick, original knowledge generation is at the heart of what our students do. From your first year we will help you to build a toolkit of foundational primary and secondary research skills. We will support you in joining our previous students in producing, publishing, and presenting research beyond the bounds of the classroom.

“The International Conference of Undergraduate Research is a chance to learn in multiple senses. You present your own research in an interdisciplinary setting, and you also learn from your peers presenting. I enjoyed learning things that lay outside the disciplines I have explored in Liberal Arts.”

Ceara | Liberal Arts Graduate

Research activities

Our students take part in a range of research activities, including:

You will join our friendly, supportive, and inclusive community. We have our own departmental base and dedicated student facilities. We are committed to educational equity and providing a fair and accessible education. We value the unique combinations of experiences, interests, and perspectives that every student brings to the course.

As a student-focused department, we are keen to support ideas and initiatives led by you. In the past this has included reform to our course design and the introduction of new pathways. You will have the opportunity to use your voice in staff-student forums and the student-led Liberal Arts Society.

Hear what our graduates think of the Liberal Arts community at Warwick.

95.7%

Overall satisfaction for Liberal Arts students at Warwick

(The National Student Survey 2021)

7th

Warwick is ranked 7th overall among UK research universities

(Research Excellence Framework, 2014, the most recent UK-wide assessment)

100%

of Liberal Arts students at Warwick agree that the course is intellectually stimulating

(The National Student Survey 2021)