Spring was a busy time for liberal arts in Europe. This post includes reviews and updates on the most relevant events and publications. If you want to know more about LESS, LESC, UCDN survey, updated websites and where ELAI is going this time, continue reading.
Review - 3rd Liberal Education Student Conference (LESC), Utrecht, The Netherlands
Almost 100 students representing 28 European liberal arts colleges and programmes have gathered in Utrecht between May 10-13 for a third edition of LESC. Before the conference started the students wrote more than 40 papers regarding complex contemporary challenges, such as food, climate, migration, privacy, and the EU. During the conference, students reflected on how their liberal arts education programmes address these challenges and prepared lists of best practices and practical improvements. The lists have then been merged through first voting and then deliberation, and the participants continue to work on them online to maximise the impact of LESC and create continuity.
LESC 2018 was successful in attracting a more diverse pool of students: non the least 20% of students came from Central and Eastern Europe. This has to be credited to the organising committee who has shown true professionalism that would benefit future editions as well. The Utrecht edition continued the tradition of student hospitality, high-minded camaraderie, and a good programmatic balance between student presentations, insightful keynotes linking theory to practice, and community building activities. Where it went the extra mile was in critically reflecting upon the best ways to funnel the student energy and generating synergies with sympathetic older students (=faculty) to make liberal art education better - and better known.
LESC conferences mark the maturing of European liberal arts scene, moving from a pioneer phase into more of a collaborative and self-reflective movement. While it won’t solve all the problems with liberal arts education, one should stop and see how much has already changed since European liberal arts students have first met in Lüneburg in 2016. LESC resulted in tangible academic (EPAT special issue) and non-academic (ebook) outcomes. Hundreds of eager students got to know their peers and learned about their programs. But most of all, we have started seriously reflecting on what does it mean to be a student of a liberal arts education programme in Europe and how this experience can be made better by nobody else than us.
One way to continue this conversation might be to join the Liberal Education Studies Humans group on Facebook and inviting your friends. Those seeking more academic approach might want to join ELAI Research Group. Even better: do both.
Review - 1st Liberal Education Student Symposium (LESS), Black Forest, Germany
Before the above-mentioned third edition of LESC kicked off in Utrecht, the student-led UCF Outreach Committee organised the first Liberal Education Student Symposium (LESS) in the Black Forest. The retreat attracted more than 35 liberal arts students from 8 different European Universities and was praised for its rather small scale and the personal atmosphere. The programme included keynotes, social activities as well as various academic sessions to provide ample opportunities for reflection and exchange about what it means to study liberal arts in Europe. The outreach committees’ final report about LESS has been published in the meantime and can be accessed here. If after reading the report you think you have missed out on a fruitful gathering, you might be pleased about the following: Rumor has is there will be more symposia in the future. We will definitely keep you posted.
UCDN Liberal Arts & Sciences Programmes alumni survey
The University Colleges Deans’ Network (UCDN) has commissioned a survey of liberal arts graduates from the Netherlands, and received more than 3000 responses from 11 different programmes. The survey is the first empirical research on liberal arts graduates of this scope in Europe, and the results are finally published in a convenient factsheet. To learn more about how students look back at their liberal arts programmes of study, how satisfied they are, and where they are now with regards to the job market and graduate schools, take a look here.
Liberal Arts online: ECOLAS and Winchester websites updated
ECOLAS, an advocacy group founded in 2007, have recently revamped their website. The new version, apart of more visuals, is kept up to date with news from ECOLAS network institutions, news about ECOLAS itself, and liberal education related news from around the world, mostly from the US. Reports from BLASTER project and other ECOLAS-sponsored activities are continuously uploaded to a mini-library of materials available for download.
Modern Liberal Arts at the University of Winchester have also created a new website promoting their philosophical approach to liberal arts. It now includes many thought-provoking quotes, linked essays, and full-screen graphics. One can also find all relevant program descriptions and a fast-growing catalogue of works by Winchester tutors, notable philosophers, journalists and links to selected liberal arts programs around the world.
ELAI at “VI International Summer School on Higher Education Research: SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC CONTRIBUTION OF HIGHER EDUCATION” St. Petersburg, Russia
ELAI co-founder and PhD candidate at the University of Hamburg, Tim Hoff, is one of 20 doctoral students, early-career scholars and institutional researchers invited to join the “VI International Summer School on Higher Education Research” in St. Petersburg, Russia. Hosted by the Institute of Education at National Research University Higher School of Economics (IoE at HSE), this year’s summer school focuses on the social and economic contributions of higher education.
Drawing from his ongoing PhD research, Tim will present first findings from interviewing educational / programme directors from liberal arts programmes of study in the UK and the Netherlands. Compared to more traditional, mono-disciplinary programmes, liberal arts in Europe bring different educational rationales and aims to the table. Therefore, Tim’s analysis will directly feed into the summer school’s theme of discussing the social and economic contributions of higher education. In these days, Tim argues, thinking about liberal arts is thinking about the purpose of undergraduate education.
With Smolny College around the corner we are looking forward to ELAI going this far East for the first time (well, apart from Hong Kong). We will definitely publish a report afterwards.