For those students who do not wish to confine themselves to one subject area at university and are looking for a more holistic type of education, a Liberal Arts and Science program could be a great option.
These interdisciplinary programmes place a strong emphasis on the student community and create small-scale learning environments, where both faculty and students feel part of and contribute to the collective.
Students selecting this type of study can construct a more open curriculum that is catered to their diverse interests – usually choosing courses from across the arts, humanities, science and social science faculties.
The concept of a liberal education originated in the US where students have a plethora of colleges of all different shapes and sizes, and campus cultures to choose from – many have fewer than 2,000 students which allows for a much more intimate experience than most regular universities. But there are also a growing number of options for this kind of programme in Europe.
For those students not wishing to study in the US, I think that one of the best options is the well established network of university colleges in the Netherlands, each connected to one of the leading research universities. Typically these programmes admit only 100-300 students per year via a holistically selective process. Students live together on a residential campus in a very international community and craft their own unique programmes, sometimes with an overarching theme, such as the Global Challenges: Diversity, peace, Sustainability and Peace and Justice programme at University College Leiden or the Technology and Liberal Arts and Sciences programme (ATLAS) at the University College Twente aimed at students who want to make a difference through science and technology.
Liberal Arts and Sciences programmes in The Netherlands:
- Amsterdam University College: Liberal Arts and Sciences – a 3 year programme admitting 300 applicants per year. Students can choose to major in the Sciences, Humanities, or Social Sciences; they study a core curriculum, learn a language, and explore the ‘big questions’ whilst designing their own interdisciplinary study path. Strong Maths skills are required for the science and social science tracks.
- Erasmus University College: Liberal Arts and Sciences – students choose major, minor and elective classes from Economics & Business, Humanities, Life Sciences and Social & Behavioural Sciences. Majors are declared after the first year and the college offers a study abroad option and an active learning environment. Based in Rotterdam.
- Leiden University College The Hague: Liberal Arts and Sciences – a 3 year programme focusing on today’s Global Challenges: Diversity, Prosperity, Sustainability, and Peace and Justice. Students choose from 6 majors based around these Global Challenges: World Politics; International Justice; and Culture, History and Society lead to a BA degree. The BSc majors are: Global Public Health; Earth, Energy and Sustainability; and Governance, Economics and Development.
- University College Groningen: Liberal Arts and Sciences – students can explore a broad range of classes before deciding on their major focus within the Sciences, Humanities or Social Sciences. Groningen has some interesting choices for majors, including: Smart Technologies; Mind, Machines and Morality; Truth, Meaning and Rationality; and International Business and Entrepreneurship. Option to pursue a double degree programme with Ca Foscari University in Venice.
- University College Maastricht: Liberal Arts and Sciences – Students are taught using Problem Based Learning methodologies and choose from a wide range of courses with the Sciences, Humanities or Social Sciences. Maastricht also has two other liberal arts and sciences programmes: the Maastricht Science Programme focusing on the natural sciences such as biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics and neuroscience; and the University College Venlo programme focused on nutrition, food and health – based in the city of Venlo.
- University College Roosevelt: Liberal Arts and Sciences – students design their own programme from courses in 4 departments: Arts and Humanities, Engineering, Social Science and Science. Perhaps one of the broadest UC programmes in the Netherlands, UCR is one of two university colleges aligned with Utrecht University. Located in the small south-west town of Middelburg, students are guaranteed accomodation for all three years – not something to be taken for granted in the Netherlands!
- University College Tilburg: Liberal Arts and Sciences – after a broad first year, students choose from 5 majors, each with core classes and electives: Social Sciences – Human Behaviour; Law in an International Context; Arts and Humanities – Past-Present-Future; Business and Economics; and Cognitive Neuroscience – Brain and Cognition.
- University College Twente: Technology & Liberal Arts and Sciences (called ATLAS) – guaranteeing students accommodation for the first two years, UCT offers students the chance to design their own curriculum based around Challenge-based learning (CBL) projects. In the 5th semester students study abroad, complete an internship or take a minor at another university. There are a wide range of courses to choose from across 4 areas: Sciences, Humanities, Engineering, and the Social and Behavioural Sciences.
- University College Utrecht: Liberal Arts and Sciences – UCU was the first university college in the Netherlands and is now home to around 750 students who are guaranteed housing for the entire program on the American-style campus. Students design their own curriculum focusing on two disciplines with a maximum of 25% in any one subject. Selections can be made from over 230 classes in the Science, Social Science and Humanities fields. There are also a number of special programmes including UCU in East Africa, a pre-medical programme, a Cultural Heritage Internship Programme, and Double Degrees LAS and Dutch law or LAS and Physics.
- +Erasmus University Rotterdam: Dual Degree in Arts and Sciences – an exciting programme that allows students to continue their quest for academic learning whilst also nurturing their artistic or musical talents. This is a 5 year programme in conjunction with the Willem de Kooning Academy (WDKA) and Codarts. Students pick one programme offered at Erasmus University or Erasmus University College and then combine it with one programme from either WDKA (Fine Art and Photography, Animation, Graphic Design, Illustration, Leisure and Events Management, and more) or Codarts (Classic Music, Jazz, Pop, World Music). Students have to apply to both institutions and meet their respective requirements.
Popular interdisciplinary options elsewhere in Europe and the United Kingdom:
Central European University – Quantitative Social Sciences (QSS), Culture, Politics and Society (CPS), and Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) – offering three highly interdisciplinary degree pathways, students earn a degree that is both Austrian and American. Small classes on the new Vienna campus; the undergraduate offerings are relatively new, but CEU has 30+ years of experience delivering graduate-level education.
Vrije University Brussels: Bachelor of Science in Social Sciences – drawing from sociology, political science and communication studies, this is a 3 year English taught program with the aim of equipping students with the skills needed to tackle the global problems of tomorrow. Delivered by faculty from both VUB and Ghent University students will commute between the two institutions and have access to the facilities of both. Students should have strong communication skills in English.
American University in Bulgaria – students have the freedom to craft their own Self Designed Major (SDM) and graduate with an international diploma accredited in both the U.S and the EU.
Anglo-American University – Humanities, Society and Culture – a 3 year accredited American and European BA degree offering interdisciplinary studies in humanitarian issues and how they interact with societies and cultures. Students, based in Prague, complete general education modules and then choose their major and a range of electives. There are two annual intakes: in fall and spring.
Charles University (Prague Campus): Liberal Arts and Humanities – a 3 year interdisciplinary programme taught fully in English providing students with a strong background in the humanities and social sciences. Very open curriculum with only a few mandatory classes.
Tallinn University – students choose between two 3 year liberal programmes taught fully in English: Liberal Arts in Social Sciences through the School of Governance, Law and Society, or Liberal Arts in Humanities.
Sciences Po: Multidisciplinary Studies with an International Focus – a 3 year BA programme that offers students a foundation in the humanities and social sciences with a focus on civic, linguistic, artistic and digital education. Students complete a common core of social science classes, select a major from the three on offer (Economy & Society, Political Humanities, or Politics & Government) , and also take specialised courses focused on specific world regions. They will spend two years in France at one of seven campuses and one mandatory year abroad. Instruction is in English and French, and students are required to learn French whilst at Sciences Po if they are non-French speaking applicants. Sciences Po also has an exciting range of dual-degree programmes with leading French and international institutions.
The American University of Paris: Liberal Arts – a core curriculum and 25 majors. Lots of freedom to design your own degree programme.
Bard College Berlin – the European outpost of Bard College in New York. Two core programmes to choose from: BA in Economics, Politics and Social Thought and BA in Humanities, the Arts, and Social Sciences.
University College Freiburg: Liberal Arts and Sciences – a 4 year programme with lots of room for intellectual exploration across a range of academic areas. Requirement to learn German up to A2 level as part of the course.
University of Pecs – Liberal Arts – a 3 year multidisciplinary programme with the option to major in Art History, Classical Studies, Ethics, Film and Visual Studies, or Philosophy.
John Cabot University – Liberal Arts – based in Rome, this is a four year American style liberal arts programme consisting of 40 courses with a major field and distribution requirements, including English, Mathematics and a Foreign Language.
Sapienza University of Rome: Global Humanities – interdisciplinary curriculum organised around studies in history, sociology, anthropology, arts, literature, law, economics, psychology and health. 3 year programme open to Italian and international students – with internship, traineeships workshops and labs integral to the course.
The American University of Rome: Interdisciplinary Studies – small liberal arts college offering an American style undergraduate education with Rome as the classroom. Students have the flexibility to design their own programme from a wide range of offerings. General Education programme requirements must be fulfilled.
University of Rome II: Global Governance – taught entirely in English this programme prepares students to address key global challenges from an interdisciplinary perspective. Students choose from the 3 majors on offer: Economics and Philosophy; Political Science, Law and History; or Science and Technology.
The London Interdisciplinary School: Interdisciplinary Problems and Methods – the LIS is a new institution based in east London and focused on a problem based approach to learning. Each term students will be presented with a clear problem statement that they will then explore from an interdisciplinary perspective. Students acquire foundational research tools and coaching is central to their methodology. Applicants can apply to LIS in addition to their 5 UCAS choices.
University of Birmingham: Liberal Arts and Sciences – one of the few programmes of its kind in the UK this 4 year degree allows students to design a flexible programme of study around a major specialism. A wide range of extra curricular and cultural opportunities combine to offer students a unique and stimulating study environment. Entry is highly competitive A*AA-AAA and 32-34 IB.
There are also quite a number of UK universities that offer Liberal Arts programmes for students who just wish to focus on the humanities. Options can be found by searching on UCAS.