What is Liberal Arts?

What is Liberal Arts?
  • Nitin
  • 12 Jun, 2019

Liberal Arts, even after being one of the oldest subjects in the world, couldn’t influence the masses on a global level. Though in the US higher education system, it is among the most sought-after courses; however, the other parts of the world including Europe and Asia are yet to comprehend its significance. In recent years, Asian countries like China, South Korea, Singapore and Japan are emphasising on the true value of the liberal arts and being thoughtful about the social and economic benefits of the liberal arts education. Let’s take a sneak peek into the brief history of the liberal arts education first!

Brief History of Liberal Arts Education

During the classical antiquity, the liberal arts education was indispensable for every free individual of Greece and Rome. This would give free citizens the understanding of their civic duties and development of the humankind. Those having liberal arts education were fortunate enough to take part in the public debates and defend themselves during the court hearing etc. This was the era when there were only three subjects in the liberal arts viz. grammar, logic and rhetoric, which were known as the trivium. In the medieval times, four other subjects were introduced to the liberal arts; arithmetic, astronomy, geometry and music, collectively known as the quadrivium. Together these seven subjects made the liberal arts education a complete curriculum to shape a person with ethics, knowledge, virtues.

What is Modern Liberal Arts?

With time, we have seen many changes in liberal arts education and subjects. Owing to the expansion of technology, progression and civilisation, liberal arts education, today, have become much wider than it ever was. Though the liberal arts subjects vary between educational institutions and course curriculum; however, these interdisciplinary subjects fall in the typical liberal arts degree course:




Art, Classical Languages (Latin/Greek), Ethics, Linguistics, Literature, Modern Foreign Languages, Music, Philosophy, Religion, Speech and Theatre etc.

Social Sciences

Anthropology, Business Informatics, Economics, Gender Studies, Geography, History, Law, Politics, Psychology and Sociology etc.

Natural Sciences

Astronomy, Archaeology, Biology, Botany, Chemistry, Earth Sciences, Geology, Physics and Zoology etc.

Formal Sciences

Logic, Mathematics and Statistics etc.


The Shift in Nature of Liberal Arts Between 20th and 21st Century

Back in the 20th century, liberal arts education was seen as an option available for the fortunate individuals only; however, today, it is indispensable for each and every student.

Earlier, many countries, including the USA, would introduce the liberal arts subjects in their education system as the non-vocational ones. But today, the liberal arts education is considered as one important pillar of the education system for the success in the progressive global economy.

Prior to the 21st century, only a bunch of liberal arts colleges, along with some arts and science colleges, would offer the liberal arts education. Nowadays, almost every school, college and university offers liberal arts education, either through a dedicated liberal arts degree program or alongside other options.

Fortunately, what has not changed over the decades is that the liberal arts education used to be seen as the symbol of intellectual and personal development of the individual and it continues to be the same.

Liberal Arts Education/ Degrees in the US

In the USA, the liberal arts education has been in existence for decades and centuries now. Today, there are tons of dedicated liberal arts colleges in the USA catering to thousands of students every year. Other than that, various universities and institutions offer liberal arts programs along with other degree courses. Furthermore, quite a few universities provide students with the opportunity to pursue a dedicated one-year associate’s degree program in liberal arts. Students in the USA have the options to earn a four-year B.A or B.Sc certification before heading towards the graduate or professional school.

Liberal Arts Education/ Degrees in Europe

Since the liberal arts education broke the surface recently in Europe, the influence of liberal arts studies is quite less here as compared to the USA. However, in the past few years, many European countries have come up with committed liberal arts courses, especially in the UK, Germany, Italy, Sweden and the Netherlands.

Liberal Arts Education/ Degrees in Asia

Much similar to Europe, Asian countries like India, Japan, China, Singapore, and South Korea, etc have started recognizing the worth of liberal arts education lately. Consequently, these countries have opened up many liberal arts colleges offering researched-based academically strong degree courses in liberal arts subjects. However, there is still a long way to go when it comes to mass adoption of the liberal arts in Asia.

Why is Liberal Arts Important?

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