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Story | Education
10 November 2020

QF professor underlines importance of the liberal arts


Image source: Ken Wolter, via Shutterstock

Ahmad Dallal, Dean of Georgetown University in Qatar, a Qatar Foundation partner university, talks about what the liberal arts can offer in today's times

Much has been said about liberal arts facing the full force of the pandemic. With budget cuts, termination of programs, layoffs and furloughs taking place at institutions across the world, and especially in the US, the question remains as to whether the liberal arts education is worth pursuing.

It’s an interesting issue particularly considering so many people and so many institutions have investments in its continuance. Today, employers continue to endorse broad learning as essential to long-term career success, according to a report titled “Fulfilling the American Dream: Liberal Education and the Future of Work”. Skills such as oral communication, critical thinking, ethical judgment, working effectively in teams, written communication, and real-world application of skills and knowledge are rated highly by hiring managers.

And when it comes to preparing the young population for the job market, a liberal arts education is said to prepare students better – that they have a broader background than just being specialists in finance or marketing.

“You're training students in multiple disciplines but with the focus of solving problems. You will bring a philosopher, a theologist and a scientist and, each instead of each teaching three-credit courses, teach one credit course focusing on one particular problem,” says Ahmad Dallal, Dean of Georgetown University in Qatar.

Combining the liberal arts and practical training is the way of the future, and Georgetown University in Qatar – a Qatar Foundation partner university – is one such institution that prepares students for a variety of careers by providing a four-year liberal arts education focused on the multidisciplinary study of international affairs.

Looking back at the history of liberal arts, the liberal arts degree increased in value as the US population became better educated – an undergraduate degree became a minimal requirement for entrance into the middle classes.

Liberal Arts, as a course of study, has also evolved in the US. Originally, it was the study of the classics thrown in with sciences and theology. It was a hybrid of the classics course of study which one might pursue at Christ Church in Oxford combined with a science focus that one might find at Ludwig Maximilian University.

American liberal arts colleges, and there are about a thousand of them in the US, mainly have their roots in Scotland, with heavy Germanic influences. The entire educational system in the US was once a hybrid of various European models that have now morphed into something entirely unique – and its success is what drives other countries to follow suit.

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