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Liberal Arts Education and the Modern University

  • Yifeng Sun (a1)


The nature of liberal arts education merits renewed attention and consideration, especially in the context of the modern university in both Hong Kong and mainland China, where there is growing recognition that quality education standards should be improved, and an interdisciplinary approach to education and research is the way forward. The liberal arts spirit is an illustration of the power of inspiration and transformation, and through engaging with different perspectives, students are enabled and encouraged to pursue independent study, which boosts their creativity and critical thinking. As a catalyst and facilitator, liberal arts education that encompasses fresh global perspectives and connections has proved its worth over the years. However, since it is sometimes easy to lose sight of some of the fundamental principles essential to university education, we need to realize that too little interaction between science and the humanities has widened the two-culture divide, and the question is how to reconcile, or better still combine, the two. The two-culture debate, although suffering neglect for a long time in China, is of profound relevance and implications for the modern university. It can be observed that participatory interaction inherent in the dynamism of pedagogical engagement is increasingly promoted as the preferred mode of teaching students, who have benefited from broad-based learning as the embodiment of liberal education. Overcoming rigid disciplinary exclusiveness is positively correlated with empowering students with broad knowledge and skills to succeed in the future.



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1. Snow, C.P. (2012) The Two Cultures (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), pp. 1415.
2. Collini, S. (2012) Introduction. The Two Cultures (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), p. viii.
4. Fauvel, J. (1994) Mathematics and poetry. Companion Encyclopedia of the History and Philosophy of the Mathematical Sciences, Volume 2, ed. by I. Grattan-Guinness (London & New York: Routledge. 1994) p. 1648.
5. Miller, A. (2015) A New Vision of Liberal Education: The Good of the Unexamined Life (Abingdon, Oxfordshire & New York: Routledge), p. 156.
8. Ren, Fujun and Zhai, Jiequan (2013) Communication and Popularization of Science and Technology in China (Heidelberg: Springer Science & Business Media), p. 175.
9. Yu, Haibu (2022) Yunyu yushijujin de renwenjingshen – fang zhongguo renmin dxue xiaozhang Ji Baocheng jiaoshou (Nurturing liberal arts spirit in advancing with the times – an interview with Professor Ji Baocheng, President of Renmin University). In Guangming Daily, 1 November.
10.Please see ‘Warwick bangs the drum for liberal arts far and wide’, 26 November 2015, The Times Higher Education Supplement, Issue: 2231!?&_suid=148647326134106481920722397989 (accessed on 8 February 2017).
12. Patel, E. (2017) How robots will save liberal education. In The Chronicle of Higher Education, 5 February.
13. Roth, M.S. (2017) Liberal education: now more than ever. Reposted from the Washington Post. now-more-than-ever/
14. Quoted by, Jian, Zhang (2016) Chuanqirenwu Yanpusun” (Empson, a legendary figure). In Zhonghua dushubao (Chinese Reading Weekly), Section 18, 21 September.
16.Some of the most prestigious universities in China, including Peking University, Tsinghua University, Nanjing University and Sun Yat-sen University, have established liberal arts colleges, apart from similar components in their curricula.
17. Goldstein, M. (2007) Foreword. Reclaiming the Public University: Conversations on General & Liberal Education, eds. J. Summerfield and C. Benedicks (New York: Peter Lang), p. xi.
18. Reisz, M. (2017) China: Shakespeare now welcome. The Times Higher Education Supplement, 26 January, Issue: 2290
19. (accessed on 21 February 2017).


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