The Liberal Arts and the Modern University:
The ‘liberal arts’ may not yet be a term as familiar in Britain as it is in the USA with its many liberal arts colleges but an increasing number of British universities are now offering liberal arts degrees. There is also growing interest in the liberal arts among universities and colleges elsewhere in the world especially in Europe and Asia. A liberal arts education may have expanded well beyond the seven disciplines of grammar, logic, rhetoric, music, arithmetic, geometry, and astronomy that defined its curriculum for over 1500 years, but the principle of a broad-based and civic-minded educational programme—underpinned by intellectual freedom, critical thinking, creative curiosity, and reasoned debate—remains central. To mark the establishment of Bath Spa University’s new College of Liberal Arts, four speakers—a philosopher, a literary critic, a scientist, and a composer—will come together to discuss the place of the liberal arts in the modern university. Drawing on their own distinct perspectives, they will assess the cultural, social, and political value of a liberal arts education, identify the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, and consider what a twenty-first-century liberal arts curriculum might look like.
Professor A. C. Grayling is the Master of the New College of the Humanities, London, and its Professor of Philosophy, and the author of over thirty books of philosophy, biography, history of ideas, and essays. He is a columnist for Prospect magazine, and was for a number of years a columnist on the Guardian and Times. He has contributed to many leading newspapers in the UK, US and Australia, and to BBC radios 4, 3, 2 and the World Service, for which he did the annual ‘Exchanges at the Frontier’ series; and he has often appeared on television. He has twice been a judge on the Booker Prize, in 2015 serving as the Chair of the judging panel. He is a Vice President of the British Humanist Association, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. [Photograph courtesy of the New College of the Humanities]
Dr Jennifer Rohn is Principal Research Associate in the Division of Medicine at University College London, where she runs a cell biology lab investigating chronic urinary tract infection. She is also founder and editor of LabLit.com , a popular website devoted to scientists in fiction and culture, and the chair of Science is Vital, a grassroots campaigning group aimed at helping to protect research funding in the UK. She has published two novels, and appears frequently in print, broadcast and in person as a science communicator and pundit. Jennifer credits her liberal arts education for providing a sound basis for her diverse activities. She graduated summa cum laude with a BA in Biology from Oberlin College, Ohio, one of the top liberal arts universities in the USA. Oberlin is renowned for its activism and progressiveness, having been the first university in the US to admit women, students of African descent — and to establish co-educational dormitories.
Dr Shirley Thompson is a renowned and award-winning English composer of Jamaican descent who serves as Reader in Composition and Performance at the University of Westminster, London. Dr Thompson’s compositional output consists of large works including symphonies, ballets, operas, concertos, and ensembles, as well as music for TV, film, and theatre. Her co-scored ballet, PUSH , has been premiered in more than 38 countries over the last 10 years and originally produced by Sadler’s Wells Theatre in 2005. In 2002, she became the recipient of a commission to compose a large work for the Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. Thompson composed a symphony, New Nation Rising: A London Story , which was premiered by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 2003, as well as being performed to Queen Elizabeth II in London. In 2004, Thompson became the first woman in Europe in forty years to compose and conduct a symphony. In 2012, the concept of A London Story was assumed for the 2012 Olympics Opening Ceremony.
Professor Andrei Zorin is Professor and Chair of Russian at the University of Oxford, a Fellow of New College, Oxford, and the Academic Director of the Liberal Arts College at the Russian Presidential Academy for National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA), Moscow. He has previously served as Professor in the Russian State University for Humanities (Moscow, 1993–2004), and Visiting Professor in Stanford (1995, 2000), Harvard (1999, 2003), University of Michigan Ann-Arbor (1999), NYU (2001), and other American Universities. He has taught lecture courses in USA, France, Finland and Japan and is a member of the editorial boards of New Literary Review ( Novoe Literaturnoe Obozrenie , Moscow, Russia), Slavic Review (USA), Cahiers du Monde Russe (France). His areas of specialization are Russian literature and cultural history, especially of the 18th and 19th centuries, late Soviet and post-Soviet era literature, and the cultural history of emotions.
Professor John Strachan is a Professor of English Literature and Vice-Provost for Research and Enterprise at Bath Spa University. He is an Associate Editor of the Oxford Companion to English Literature , a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and a Trustee of the Wordsworth Conference Foundation. His research focuses on British Romanticism, with a particular attention to Romantic-era popular culture, parody and satire, literary magazines and the work of Leigh Hunt, John Keats and William Wordsworth. He is also interested in Irish literature, especially that of the Revival period, and Irish cultural history.#College of Liberal Arts
Bath Spa’s College of Liberal Arts, established in February 2016, brings together subjects from the humanities, social sciences, sciences and the creative arts. Its Executive Dean is Professor Rob Mears.