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Liberal Arts: A New Year, A New Degree


Eleanor Marsh provides a fresher’s insight into studying a Liberal Arts degree at Exeter

LIBERAL ARTS. I’m sure the name has already evoked many eyebrow-raising images: lots of hippies sitting in a field discussing art, to eventually achieve some sort of official qualification, something like that. But actually, it’s rather different. For anyone who is familiar with the American education system, this degree will ring a few bells. Across the pond, Liberal Arts has been an established form of teaching for a few hundred years and is still hugely popular. It is such an integral part of American culture that there is even a film called Liberal Arts, starring the ever-charming Josh Radnor (or Ted from How I Met Your Mother). I’d recommend it.

Traditionally, Liberal Arts courses generally involve a range of modules from areas across the university, and here in Exeter this is no different. As it is the first year of Liberal Arts at the University, things are still a little ‘loose’, but we are currently taking modules spanning from areas such as Archeology and Theology, to English and Film, to Languages and Statistics.

Following the American system, the degree also offers us the chance to choose a major from any subject that the University has to offer. This is really exciting for all of us: not only to secure a wide foundation of knowledge for ourselves in this first year, but later we are able to specialize in a subject that really grabs our interest. Personally, I am leaning towards English, but the majors vary from person to person.. This term will be spent taking classes for our major and experiencing all the different aspects of other subjects. The variety keeps us on our toes, meaning there is rarely a dull moment.

Truth be told there have been a few kinks in the course. However, most of these were quickly smoothed out at the beginning of term, ready for us eager first-year students to get started. It can be frustrating constantly explaining what Liberal Arts actually is – I can’t count the number of times I’ve had to recount ‘it’s a mix of humanities and social sciences’, aware that I don’t have enough energy for another explanation. Although, it is actually more than just that. We are given so many opportunities with this course, both academic and personal. Not only do we get to study a wide range of subjects, but next year we will undertake a challenging work experience program. We will also have the choice to spend a year abroad in our third year and as our course spans across the University, our choice of destinations is pretty much unlimited.

I’ve really enjoyed it, so far. Being a naturally interdisciplinary person, the range of subject areas is wonderful. Plus, I’ve had lectures from experts all over the university, each one passionate about their different subjects.

It really is an engaging and exciting course, encompassing lots of different subject areas, and it’s got a lot of things planned for the future. With universities across the country developing Liberal Arts programs, it is only a matter of time before the looks of confusion regarding the degree disappear – hallelujah! I’ve made some great friends, learnt a lot, and have got a lot of opportunities coming my way – what else could I need?

Eleanor Marsh 


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