In a few days, the founders of the European Liberal Arts Initiative (ELAI), Daniel Kontowski and Tim Hoff, together with Teun Dekker (v-dean University College Maastricht) will host a panel at “The purpose of the future university. Philosophy of higher education conference” in Aarhus, Denmark. The conference which is co-organised by the Center for Higher Education Futures at Aarhus University will play an important role in the joint international endeavour of developing and strengthening the discussions about the purpose and role of the university as an institution.
With a focus on undergraduate education the panel will raise the question how liberal (arts) education shapes the future university: “Over 200 liberal arts initiatives are now operating outside the US, marking a departure from obligatory pre-tracking students into monodisciplinary courses leading to direct careers, and in Europe they are largely recent, original and diverse. Our panel will discuss their role for academia, democracy and society”.
We will present our ELAI database proving such pluralism and discuss different models of liberal arts in Europe. We will then elaborate on the role the conversation fueled by reflective judgement, essential for liberal arts education, plays in strengthening democracy. Finally, we will reflect on the tension between liberal and neoliberal education and suggest future paths to evaluating whether liberal arts education can indeed provide an alternative.
The ambition is to revive the tradition of liberal arts education panels at academic conferences in Europe, and broaden the impact of reflection on liberal arts education beyond the circle of already engaged. To this end, we will record our panel and put it online for people who cannot attend the conference and who are interested in our contribution. The conference takes place at Aarhus University from November 6th-8th, 2017.