74% of employers recommend a Liberal Studies education. Here’s why
Today, companies are going all out to hire Liberal Studies graduates, says Dr. Shubhashis Gangopadhyay, Dean and Distinguished Professor, UPES School of Liberal Studies. In a conversation with renowned academicians, he discusses the ‘What, Why and How of Liberal Studies’ so students can make an informed decision
Almost all the heads of public affairs division in India have a background in Liberal Studies. According to a study conducted by the Association of American Colleges and Universities, 74% of employers want people trained in Liberal Studies education. Why? “Because they understand how to deal with people more efficiently. And today, that is the name of the game,” Dr. Shubhashis Gangopadhyay, Dean, UPES School of Liberal Studies said.
He was speaking at a webinar on ‘The What, Why and How of Liberal Studies’ organised by UPES. Joining him as panellists were esteemed academicians Professor Jeannine E. Relly, School of Government and Public Policy, Member of the Graduate Faculty, University of Arizona, United States, and Professor Alasdair Roberts, Director, School of Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, United States.
The session was moderated by Professor Himanshu Jha, Lecturer and Research Fellow, South Asia Institute, Department of Political Science, Heidelberg University, Germany. Excerpts:
Why Liberal Studies
Professor Roberts: With Liberal Studies, we are trying to make sense of the complicated and sometimes confusing world. Whatever the domain might be, you are trying to amass evidence and interpret what is going on in one or the other sphere of human activity, whether it is politics or law or public policy in my case.
You sort the evidence, reach a conclusion about the way the world is working, and effectively communicate your understanding to an audience, be it in the workplace or more generally. So, Liberal Studies is about making sense of the world, collecting and interpreting evidence, and communicating results, making a coherent, powerful argument about what you think is happening.
Professor Relly: Liberal Studies has allowed me to look at issues of our times – or the Fourth Industrial Revolution – from the lens of big picture and visionary thinking. Looking at the same issue from different perspectives is one of the hallmarks of Liberal Studies programs.
Professor Gangopadhyay: Higher education system is essentially a public good. We are being trained to solve societal problems. And none of these problems can be solved by one group of expertise. Because one of the most important things in society today and the way we are transforming in the society of tomorrow, is to be able to anticipate and formulate problems that may come up, and how do we prepare ourselves to address those issues.
If that is what I want to do as an outcome of my education, then I must think about the kind of society I want to live in, a society that is attractive to others. Therefore, the humanistic element is fundamental to whatever we are trying to do with our education.
If I can formulate a problem in a correct fashion, I can always figure out what is the type of expertise I need to solve that problem. And then I can go to the professional studies.
Any societal issue has various aspects connected with it, and the most important is human behaviour. Hence, we have to understand the complexity within human beings. And that is what the Liberal Studies program allows you to do. It gives you a basic understanding of the society where you are living and whose problems you are trying to solve. So, contextuality is important. That is what differentiates Liberal Studies from any other disciplines.
Scope and career prospects
Professor Roberts: In a way a Liberal Studies program is a radical project. It is always questioning. You do not subscribe to an opinion just because your elders or experts told you that’s the way the world functions. You are always questioning, you are always challenging, and you want the evidence. You are always trying to develop your own point of view about the way the world should work. That capacity is important whichever direction you want to go.
Liberal Studies allows you to solve complex problems creatively.
Professor Relly: Liberal Studies programs take in the global context, which is how issues in societies interact and inform one another because everything is connected. That provides a critical-enquiry environment, where we can look at things from interdisciplinary points of view.
Professor Gangopadhyay: Steve Jobs said that it is in Apple’s DNA that technology alone is not enough. It is technology married with Liberal Studies and humanity that make our hearts sing. Technology is a tool used to solve the problem, but formulation of the problem is what a Liberal Studies training allows us to do.
From advertising to public relations and financial analysis, today, companies are going all out to hire Liberal Studies graduates.
During the implementation of Indian government’s fantastic initiative ‘Jan Dhan Yojana’, we had enough technology, but we were not getting all the people to use that technology. Why is that? Because when they go to a bank, the so-called elite bankers do not treat them well.
Now technology cannot address this issue. That is where Liberal Studies comes into picture. Later, we figured that we have to get rid of the personal interaction. It should be an interaction driven entirely by the individual. The mobile payment system that we now have through UPI has allowed it to happen.
School of Liberal Studies at UPES
Professor Gangopadhyay: At UPES School of Liberal Studies, we have divided the curriculum into three parts. One is classroom teaching, which essentially is received wisdom. As teachers, our roles have changed tremendously. In our times, teachers were the repositories of knowledge. Today, google is the knowledge repository for students, provided they are taught the ways to authenticate that knowledge.
What we need to have is critical thinking. The next generation will face the problems we have not faced. So, they must know the art of analytical thinking. The second part of our curriculum focusses on exactly this. How do I connect abstract disciplines like political philosophy to the neighbourhood? Where can I apply what I have learnt in the classroom to the various schemes and the various political interplay?
We have about 12 villages around UPES. We have talked to the gram panchayats and the village heads on how to introduce our students to their way of life and to connect what they are studying. This is an integral part of the curriculum because students earn credits.
The third part is open or research questions, which are essentially kite flying. Here, we try to figure out what kind of society we want to build.
Personally, I do not believe in multi-disciplinary people; I believe in multidisciplinary teams. People with diverse expertise coming together to solve a common problem. Take for example Covid-19. Even though Covid was purely a health problem, we needed experts from different fields apart from doctors and nurses to curb it.
If we look at the societal problems with this lens, we need to realise that societal problems converge on human beings. And human beings have a 360-degree existence. So, we need a 360-degree approach.
That is how we have designed an integrated, whole curriculum for UPES School of Liberal Studies.
Career after a Liberal Studies degree
Professor Gangopadhyay: I was reading a publication that listed the type of jobs that a BA in Liberal Studies can give you. They include accounting, advertising, journalism, social work, and public affairs division of companies. There are so many possibilities for young learners. Imagine yourself 10-20 years from now and then see backwards. The advantage of Liberal Studies is that it allows you all these possibilities.
Watch the full webinar here: https://www.facebook.com/UPESddnuk/videos/729086864877026/
(The session has been edited for length and clarity.)