Course in Liberal Arts is No Longer Fancy But a Viable Alternative

Course in Liberal Arts: After class 12 results, it’s time now to choose the college that suits your area of interest

5 min read

(With both CBSE and ISC announcing class 12 results, The Quint is re-publishing this piece from its archives. The piece first appeared on 18 June 2018.)

There used to be a time when just a BA degree would be enough to ensure a job. Not anymore! Over the years, the BA degree has lost its charm, with students making a beeline for professional courses such as B Tech, MBBS and BBA. The three-year-long bachelor’s in arts programme has also been synonymous with those who want to take a break after graduation for the civil services exam.


A few private players, however, are trying to change that notion with their three-year-program in liberal arts. With a mix of subjects from arts, science and commerce, the three-year-program in liberal arts is aimed at exposing students to different streams and helping them identify their strengths and weaknesses.

If you don’t want to take the tried and tested route of a regular graduate program or a professional course, here are few suggestions that might come in handy:

Too busy to read? Listen to instead.

Ashoka University: ‘No More Stagnant Course Structure’

The college claims to be among few institutions in the country on the lines of America’s prestigious Ivy League Universities. In an interview with the Financial Times, one of the founding members of the university, Sanjeev Bikhchandani, founder of rued the fact that the stagnant course structure was coming in the way of students pursuing higher education in India.

Course in Liberal Arts: After class 12 results, it’s time now to choose the college that suits your area of interest

Critical thinking is prioritised, thereby allowing students to form their own perspective about specific issues. Another founder of the university, Pramath Raj Sinha, believes that the strength of the institution lies in its liberal education style:

Your classes are pedagogically much more about teaching you how to ask the right questions and learning how to learn, while at the same time making you think, write and communicate critically.
Pramath Raj Sinha, Founder, Ashoka University

Flexible Course at Jindal School For Students

Interdisciplinary approach is the USP of the Jindal School of Liberal Arts and Humanities, that allows students to choose their own electives before zeroing down on majors in the final year. Aryaman Trivedi, a second-year student who has political science as his majors, feels that interdisciplinary courses help prepare students for the job market.

  • For second-year student Aryaman Trivedi, his stint at Jindal School of Liberal Studies has enabled him with a better understanding in his area of interest.

    (Photo: Akanksha Kumar)

This semester, I have taken an elective in horror cinema and it was completely out of my initial area of study. This really allowed me to understand not only film-making techniques but also ideas in literature and cinema, I wouldn’t have expected otherwise. That kind of offbeat elective really allowed me to take a break from my academic-heavy subjects and understand literature and cinema from a new angle.
Aryaman Trivedi, second-year student

According to Sean Padriac Bala, Assistant Professor and Director of Admissions and Outreach at Jindal University, "it is the red line of teacher to student ratio of 1:13" which helps in overcoming the communication barrier between students and faculty.


Shiv Nadar University: Popular for Research Opportunities

Apart from an interdisciplinary approach, that basically allows you to pursue Sociology along with Mathematics, the Shiv Nadar University is quite popular among students for its research-based opportunities. A student can volunteer for an independent research program called Opportunities for Undergraduate Research Program (OUR) that allows one to be a part of ongoing projects.

For Harsha Vytla who is pursuing BA (Research) program in English it was the ‘flexible curriculum’ that drew him to the Shiv Nadar University:

I joined Shiv Nadar University after dropping out from an engineering program. It is among one of the very few universities that has a flexible curriculum which allows the student to change the program, as they discover a wide range of disciplines and areas of study.
Harsha Vytla, Student, Shiv Nadar University

Talking about how the university inculcates a multi-dimensional approach towards solving a problem, Sundar Ramanujam, an alumnus of the university, had this to say in response to a question on Quora:

Think of it this way: You may find yourself, sitting down with your peers from a professional course and discussing a multi-disciplinary project like Economics and Data Analytics or Economics and Finance. Exposed to such a diverse range of academic disciplines, you are in a better position to assess the impact of any measure you may propose as a liberal arts/social science major.
Sundar Ramanujam, former student, Shiv Nadar University
Course in Liberal Arts: After class 12 results, it’s time now to choose the college that suits your area of interest

FLAME University: Balance Between Academics and Extra-Curriculars

Located in Pune, the FLAME University specialises in liberal education and offers BA, BSc and BBA programs at the undergraduate level. According to Karan Mehta who passed out of the university this year and had entrepreneurship as major while music was minor subject, it is the balance between academics and extra-curricular activities that works for students on any given day.

To be completely honest, it is fun and if you are active in clubs or take part in different sports (we have great sports facilities) then, you won’t even get bored at this place. On the other hand, it is extremely easy to balance it with your academics.
Karan Mehta, former student on Quora

Azim Premji University: Focus on Critical Thinking

In 2015, when the Azim Premji University came up with the School of Liberal Studies, around 27 colleges had stopped offering BSc courses in Bangalore. Yet the university went ahead with its ambitious programme in arts, that included a wide array of about 16-20 courses for students to choose their majors and minors.

Our response to the need for liberal education in India has three aspects – develop foundational capacities of reasoning and communication, and allow students to specialise in disciplines of their interest. 
Venu Narayan, Director, School of Liberal Studies, Azim Premji University
Course in Liberal Arts: After class 12 results, it’s time now to choose the college that suits your area of interest

Narayan also emphasises on the fact that the term ‘liberal arts’ doesn’t matter in India’s context. It is well-known that curriculum, teaching and exam-focused learning outcomes leave a lot to be desired when it comes to higher education in our country. It is this vacuum that these new colleges are trying to fill with their innovative model of education.

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