A free-wheeling discussion with Prof. Nicholas Dirks, Honorary Pro Chancellor of SRM University, AP- Amaravati
“Liberal Arts education can easily claim to be the oldest education stream in history,” elborates Prof. Nicholas Dirk, American academic and the former Chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley who has been recently appointed as the Honorary Pro Chancellor of SRM University, AP – Amaravati.
While content may differ between countries and institutes, it is widely agreed that Liberal Arts education at the core refers to matters not relating to the professional, vocational, or technical curriculum. Clearly it offers opportunity for deep study and specialisation to anyone interested in these fields. In that case, one would be tempted to ask ‘What is the importance of Liberal Arts for a person interested in pursuing a conventional career track?’
The answer is ‘a lot’.
SRM University, AP – Amaravati was established in 2017 with the vision to emerge as a world class university. The School of Liberal Arts and Basic Sciences (SLABS) established in 2018 offers BA, BBA, B.Com and B.Sc programs across 12 disciplines. The focus of SLABS is to develop multi-dimensional thought process and problem-solving skills amongst students which helps them to tackle the complex issues and challenges faced in the world today. As the name suggests, the focus will be on a professional education with a Liberal Arts bent. The training helps students to develop a multi-dimensional, creative, and innovative methodology towards tackling real life problems.
The making of a multidisciplinary curriculum- Prof. Bakhle on the thoughts that went behind SLABS’ course design
“No subject can be mastered in isolation to other subjects,” explains Prof. Janaki Bakhle, the author of Two Men and Music: Nationalism and the Making of an Indian Classical Tradition. Often described as the writer of brave history, Prof. Bakhle’s work touches the cultural and intellectual roots of modern tensions between India’s religious and ethnic communities. She currently teaches in the University of California, Berkeley and is one of the team members designing the path-breaking, innovative curriculum of School of Liberal Arts and Basic Sciences (SLABS) of SRM University, AP- Amaravati.
To study Liberal Arts is like possessing a power- a power that has the ability to change the world, one action at a time. Therefore, SRM University- Andhra Pradesh, is leaving no stone unturned to create the School of Liberal Arts and Basic Sciences (SLABS) as a place for students to push themselves beyond the given- question the norms, go against the tide, improvise, ideate and innovate.
The School of Liberal Arts and Basic Sciences (SLABS) at SRM University- AP, Amaravati focuses on providing a fully rounded, multi-disciplinary undergraduate education. This education equips our students with skills to deal with increasingly complex issues and challenges using a multi-dimensional thought process and problem-solving skills.
From Sabarimala to LA, we as people are compelled to question gender roles and divides in our society. How much of the divide is due to lack of awareness, our conditioning or even Science, which is supposed to be neutral and objective? Dr. Malavika Binny, Assistant Professor, Department of History, SRM University AP, Amaravati takes a closer look at the latter with her research ‘From the status of anokha to lesser humans – a study on Ayurveda and transgenders’.
How Arts and Science co-exist in Education
An article published in online coding school, Skillcrush’s magazine last year made a startling claim. If you want to succeed in the Tech industry, don’t major in Computer science, its headline read. That is contrary to traditional belief that if you want to make it big in a career, you master the specific field.
But today’s workplaces are anything but conventional. Tech companies now believe that creative problem solvers come from areas outside of Computer Science. Hence, it’s not unheard of for them to hire professionals with a background in Philosophy or History. In fact, it seems to be the way ahead, and the phenomenon is not related to IT alone.
What are my career options after completing my BA?
Find yourself asking: after BA, what next? You’re not the only one. In science-and-tech-obsessed India, a bachelors in arts or a BA is often portrayed as a “lesser” option. Some parents even dissuade their children from an education in the arts, despite the student’s keen interest in a subject like history, political science, or English literature. The common assumption is that job prospects after a BA are poor. So, is that true? Absolutely not! As you will see through this article, your career options after a BA are rich and promising, with high-paying jobs after BA a reality. Apart from debunking the myth that a BA is a bad career choice, we would also want to stress on the importance of choosing your Bachelor’s degree according to your interest area, rather than what people think is popular. This way, you lay the foundation for a long and rewarding career that actually sustains your interest!
But first, what do I study in a BA?
In India, a BA degree is either a Pass course, in which you study a mix of subjects or an honours degree which specializes in one subject, such as a BA (Honours) in Political Science. Again, a BA Pass degree is regarded as inferior to an Honours degree, but fresh thinking suggests a Pass or multidisciplinary Bachelors may actually be useful from a career point of view because it trains you in many subjects. A Bachelors in Arts degree covers subjects in Liberal Arts, such as
- Languages, such as Hindi, English, Sanskrit, French and more
- Social Sciences, such as Economics, Political science, History, Psychology
- Humanities, such as English literature, Maths, Philosophy, Statistics, Journalism, and Fine Arts
What are Maths and Economics doing in a Bachelor of Arts?
Fun fact: Economics and Maths are traditionally recorded as Liberal Arts rather than science disciplines! Many colleges still offer a BA, rather than a BSc, in Maths. Since economics is a science about society, and since Maths is closely linked with music and art – think about fields like beats, dimension, perspective, and geometry – both of these are considered Arts subjects!
Where should I enrol for my BA?
Enrolling at a good college for your BA is important because this will give you a competitive advantage. If you’re planning to apply to a BA, work hard and ensure you have a good score in Class 12th so you can get the college and subject of your choice. Some of the best colleges for a BA in India are:
- Lady Sri Ram College, University of Delhi. Best for English, Economics, Maths, Psychology, Statistics, and Journalism
- St Stephen’s College, University of Delhi. Best for English, Philosophy, History, and Political Science
- Presidency College, Kolkata. Best for Political Science
- Christ Church University, Bangalore. Best for English and Economics
- Fergusson College, Pune. Best for Economics
- Loyola College, Chennai. Best for English, Economics, and Statistics
- SRM University, Andhra Pradesh. Best for Interdisciplinary Bachelors. You can customize 6-7 courses across Arts and Science disciplines.
- Ambedkar University, New Delhi. Best for Psychology and Fine Arts
- MS University Baroda. Best for Fine Arts
- Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. Best for BA in German, Spanish and other languages.
What are my career options after graduation in arts?
Like we’ve seen, the range of subjects covered under a BA degree are vast. Your career scope after a BA program will depend on your choice of subjects to a great extent. For example, A bachelors in English or communication will help you make a career in the media, while a BA in Statistics will prepare you for a career in insurance and risk management. However, one advantage of doing a BA is that your career choices are quite fluid; so, you can always for a career in advertising after a political science degree or pursue an MBA after an Honours in English. Based on whether you want to pursue advanced studies, or look for a job right after your BA, here are some career options:
Which is the best course after graduation in arts?
The best course is the one which most suits your interest and skills. Here are a few options you can choose from.
MA/ MPhil in your subject
In case you want to pursue a career in higher education and research, opt for a Master’s in your subject. You can be eligible to teach in a college after an MA if you qualify the National Eligibility Test (NET). You can further pursue an MPhil/ PhD from universities, such as University of Delhi, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, and SRM University, Amravati. Ever since the Sixth Pay Commission, educationists get very rewarding salaries.
Starting monthly salary for an ad-Hoc college professor: Rs 50,000 for a central university
Bachelors in Education
If you would like to teach at a school, you can pursue a Bachelors in Education, which is typically a two-year course. A B Ed qualifies you for school teaching, which is both lucrative and emotionally rewarding since you get to mentor the youth of tomorrow.
Starting monthly salary: Rs 25,000 upwards for pre-primary teachers; Rs 35,000 upwards for primary teachers
After your 3-year B. A degree, you can appear for the Common Law Aptitude Test (CLAT) which enables you to get into a Bachelors of Law (LLB) program. After specializing in civil, criminal, corporate, or intellectual property law, you can join either a district or high court as a lawyer, or even work for the legal department of a firm. Where: National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore; Symbiosis Law School, Indian Law College (ILS), Pune; MSU, Baroda
Starting monthly salary: Varies greatly, starting from Rs 20,000 for a lawyer at a districts court
Students often ask: can I do an MBA after a BA in English or History? Of course, you can! A graduate from any discipline can apply for an MBA after a BA. You will be required to take the CAT for the IIMs and other entrance exams for institutes such as the IIMs, and other exams for institutes like XLRI, Jamshedpur and Indian School of Business, Hyderabad. A great option for MBA after your BA is MICA (once known as the Mudra Institute Communications, Ahmedabad) which offers an MBA in Marketing and Advertising. In an MBA, you can specialize in options such as finance, marketing, human resources, foreign trade, and more. Depending on your specialization, you can work as a manager in various departments of Indian and multinational companies, such as American Express bank, tech giants like Google and Intel technologies, and consulting firms like KPMG and Deloitte. Choose a specialization allied with your strengths to get the most out of your MBA degree.
Starting monthly salary: Graduates from tier-1 colleges like IIM Ahmedabad and ISB can expect a monthly average salary of Rs 1,25,000.
Postgraduate courses and diplomas in journalism
Have a distinctive voice and want to make it heard? A master or postgraduate diploma in business journalism after your B. Com prepares from institutes such as the Asian College of Journalism (ACJ), Chennai, and Indian Institute of Mass Communications (IIMC), Delhi prepares you for a career in print, TV, or digital media! You can work as a reporter, writer, or editor with a newspaper, news agency, TV channel, or website, depending on your preference and specialization. Popular employers in India are the Times Group, the Indian Express, TV18, and NDTV.
Starting monthly salary: Reputable print and digital media outlets pay a starting salary ranging from Rs 25,000 to Rs 40,000. For TV channels, the salary can go up to Rs 60,000.
Masters in Social Work
If you want to make a difference to the world around you, a Masters in Social Work is a good option. This course prepares you for a career with non-profits, in the corporate social responsibility arms of MNCs, healthcare, and counselling, depending on your stream of specialization. The Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, as well as the Department of Social Work, University of Delhi offer very reputable Masters in Social Work (MSW) degrees.
Starting monthly salary: Rs 20,000 with small non-profits to Rs 50,000 and upwards for large non-profits, MNCs, hospitals, and governmental organizations.
What if I want to apply for a job after my BA?
You have many options here too. Some great options are listed below.
Government jobs after BA
Government jobs after a BA are a good option. A BA is especially useful in preparing you for the Indian Administrative Exams (IAS), and the Provincial Civil Services Exam (PCS) as many questions in the preliminary exams cover subjects such as Indian politics, history, and general knowledge. Most such competitive exams for the Central and state government require only a Bachelor’s degree, so they are always a good option.
Hot tip: Though subjects like political science and history are evergreen options for government exams, specializing in subjects like Sanskrit or Philosophy is also a good choice, since these subjects are high scoring.
Monthly salary range: Upwards of Rs 50,000 for IAS and PCS.
After your BA, you can take the NDA (If you are under 19) or CDS (between the ages of 19 and 24) recruitment exams to join the defence forces. Apart from numerous perks, the monthly salary ranges for the lieutenant rank in the army is upwards of Rs 50,000 (basic pay).
You can also take bank exams to join public sector banks, such as Bank of Baroda and Punjab National Bank, or the separate RBI exam for the Reserve Bank of India. The RBI exam is a great option, though quite competitive.
Starting monthly salary: upwards of Rs 38,000 for probationary officers (PO) in banks, Rs 68,000 for RBI Grade B officers (including basic pay and benefits)
Journalism is a great career option after a BA in English. You can join a newspaper, television channel, or digital outlet as a reporter right after your graduation; though without a postgraduate diploma in journalism, you may be required to take an editing and general knowledge test. Remember to brush up on your language skills and reading before taking such an exam!
Starting monthly pay: Rs 25,000 upwards
Writing for a website, blog, or business is a good option, especially if you are creative and good at secondary research. It helps if you establish a niche, such as education, lifestyle, business, or healthcare and specialize in it. You can work with businesses from Amazon to Myntra to Nykaa to Microsoft as a content writer. Often, you may be required to undertake a writing test.
Starting monthly salary: Depending on the size of the outfit, this can range from 15,000 to Rs 40,000 for Microsoft and Nykaa
Have a knack for coming up with catchy hashtags and memorable slogans? You have a good chance of joining an ad agency as a copywriter right after your BA. Most ad agencies, such as Leo Burnett, Ogilvy and Mather, and Dentsu will require you to take a copy test to evaluate your creativity and language skills.
Starting monthly pay: Rs 20,000 upwards
An executive with a multinational corporation
If you have a BA in subjects like Economics, Statistics, or Maths, you can join an MNC as an antry-level associate, consultant, or executive. Companies such as Price Waterhouse Cooper, JP Morgan, and McKinsey often hire freshers.
Starting monthly pay: Rs 30,000 upwards
Whether it be news agencies, NGOs, or corporates, all organizations require researchers who can collect, process, and archive data. You can join news organizations such as NDTV, NGOs such as CRY and Goonj, or MNCs like Gartner as a researcher right after your BA.
Starting monthly pay: Rs 15, 000 (for small non-profits) to Rs 20,000 upwards (for larger NGOs, media agencies, and MNCs)
Have a BA in French, Spanish, Japanese, Urdu, or Sanskrit? Or are you fluent in more than one language and have a flair for translation? You can work as a translator for a publishing house, a multinational corporation, travel agencies, and embassies. Fluency in foreign languages, especially those that are tough to master, such as Japanese, can be especially lucrative.
Starting monthly salary: Rs 20,000 (for publishing houses) to Rs 40,000 upwards (for large translation agencies and MNCs)
All large organizations and many smaller ones have public relations arms, so there is no shortage of PR and marketing jobs. A Bachelors in English or communications presents an additional advantage in getting a job in public relations, marketing, and sales. Though starting salaries in these fields may be low, the ramp up can be fast if you exhibit good language, communication, and sales skills.
Starting monthly salary: Rs 15,000 upwards for small organizations to Rs 30,00 and more for larger companies
Graphic designer or illustrator
In a world increasingly attuned to the visual medium, this option is perfect for those with a Bachelors in Fine Arts. Advertising agencies, production houses, design and branding studios, as well as media houses, often require illustrators, so brush up your portfolio!
Starting monthly salary: Rs 25,000 and upwards
With all these options around, a Bachelor in Arts can be a hidden advantage, especially since studying humanities and liberal arts subjects often hone your communications skills and emotional quotient, factors that go a long way in building a fruitful career.
“In a properly automated and educated world, then, machines may prove to be the true humanizing influence. It may be that machines will do the work that makes life possible and that human beings will do all the other things that make life pleasant and worthwhile.”
― Isaac Asimov
The urge to get exposed to a more diversified learning approach is understandable. Choosing a major that can help develop essential life skills while gaining a broader world perspective can be a great stride in your career. Liberal arts have always been an underrated field of study with numerous unexplored scopes. However, there is a shift in the air since the increasingly evolving world demands the production of skilled professionals with a knack for critical thinking. The trend is gradually spreading in the Indian educational scenario too.
India’s National Education Policy 2020 holds a greater emphasis on Liberal arts education. It envisions the holistic development of individuals through multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary, and transdisciplinary learning approaches. It insists on the need for higher education institutes to become multidisciplinary by 2040. De-compartmentalising the educational sector by breaking the rigid barrier between professional and liberal education is one of its major agendas. Educational structures in India are thus getting more flexible while contemplating the future of Liberal arts education. The rapidly changing employment landscape and the forthcoming industrial revolution clearly imply the extreme relevance of Liberal arts education. This calls the world’s attention towards the broader aspects of the stream of Liberal arts.
The stream of Liberal arts
The term liberal arts have roots in the classical Greek concept of a diversified education that focuses on the intellectual cultivation of the mind. The education of the Greeks in those days included different areas ranging from grammar to geometry and music. Liberal arts in the present day offer a wide range of majors and minors. These options fall into the more significant categories of humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Liberal arts education evokes the ability to analyse socio-political, economic, and environmental problems while being contemplative and creative. These abilities are highly relevant in current social circumstances, especially in India.
Liberal arts in the era of uncertainties
In an age that keeps updating itself, the fear of getting outdated is real. Living in a world constantly exposed to digitization, outsourcing, automating, etc., will demand fierce competence from the jobseekers. What matters is not what you learned over the years but how you learned all those things. The chances of the things you learned getting outdated are higher, but not how you perceived that knowledge.
Liberal arts as a learning subject becomes highly relevant in this scenario. Students from a liberal arts background will have much more to contribute to the ever-advancing society than the students from other streams. Liberal arts nurture the abilities of problem-solving and critical thinking. It trains the learner to think out of the box and develop original solutions.
Why Liberal arts
Liberal arts majors have the privilege of entering varying career paths due to the holistic approach the learning process holds. The possibilities are never limited. The discipline of liberal arts targets to provide a general idea regarding the subject matter and trains to think critically. The skills they earn are not restricted to a specific technical profession. Writing, critical thinking, and research skills are continuously refined through exposure to various subject matters. The job market offers opportunities for liberal arts students in science, technology, engineering, business, and many other fields. Every mainstream working ecosystem will require the input of a liberal arts major.
Advantages of pursuing a liberal arts course
Democratised educational process
Modern liberal arts education is armed with a curriculum that promotes breadth as well as the depth of knowledge. The curriculum is sufficiently flexible and gives prominence to the student’s choice. They get to play a significant role in shaping their program. This facilitates the democratisation of the educational process.
Diverse disciplines and broader perspectives
Liberal arts education provides exposure to diverse disciplines of study, which makes the learner capable of gaining a broader perspective of the field they prefer. A positive mindset, readiness to look at the world with enthusiasm, and innovative learning strategies will benefit any organization.
Thinking capacity and expanded worldview
Obtaining knowledge will help the learner gain skills in a particular area, but it also helps develop thinking capacity. Liberal arts education makes sure to guard the learners with an ability to understand and widen their knowledge limits. It nurtures the enthusiasm of the learner. This, in turn, helps to adjust the lens with which they view the world around them.
Different thinking processes
Liberal arts education lets you understand the importance of different thinking processes in every learning environment. Be it creative, analytical, or critical, a Liberal arts major knows when and how to assert these thinking processes. Challenging the preconceived notions and showing the courage not to follow the crowd is a remarkable impact liberal arts education has on the learner. This is a much-needed quality an individual should aspire to master.
A liberal arts student knows how to build skills based on the broader foundational knowledge. Thus, they are very flexible in acquiring new knowledge and establishing needed skills. This will help them not settle down for one specific job for an entire lifetime.
Every industry needs individuals with skills that are in high demand. Some of them are effective communication, critical thinking, problem-solving, and leadership qualities. Liberal arts education prepares the students to attain these qualities.
Socially responsible learner
Liberal arts don’t focus on a specialised subject. It gives a vast knowledge and allows the learner to develop creative paths to resolve social challenges exposed to them.
Opportunity to explore and experiment
Innovative ideas, concepts, and unique experiences are always there in the vicinity of the learner. The advantages of community-based learning and peer-reviewed research are accessible to the learner. This allows them to explore and experiment with the knowledge they have.
Processing the information and thinking analytically will guide the learner to think across the disciplines. This will remain a crucial life skill that could be helpful in a variety of circumstances.
Scope of liberal arts in India
The dynamics of education is an ever-evolving process. New learning methods and diverse professions will keep popping up from time to time. With the remarkable shift that happened in the field of education, a door to a diverse set of specialized career options has opened. Not to deny the requirement for skilled professionals in the age-old job market, but the jobs will be more reasoning-oriented in the future, favoring liberal arts education. Professionals should be able to analyse the present scenario and make decisions for future changes. They should be able to think critically and be ready to absorb the constantly changing knowledge environment. This indicates the demand for liberal arts majors in the future.
Liberal arts is an interdisciplinary model of education preferred by many youngsters worldwide. Introducing the student community to the perks of liberal arts education can do wonders in a developing country like India. The advantages of opening multiple career options for the country’s youth are immaculate. Also, including and enhancing liberal arts in the mainstream education sector will help improve the global ranking of Indian educational institutions.
The advancing job market demands competitive advantages from individuals. They are looking for someone more human and connected. Along with passion and energy, they also need their employees to be flexible during changes and see things as they are.
The pace, scope, and strategies of this generation are entirely different from that of the previous one. Drastic changes in climate, artificial intelligence, way of approach, etc., will demand more extraordinary resourcefulness to sustain the updating. The diverse economy of India will make sure that the students interact with different individuals irrespective of gender, religion, class, etc. This will enhance their development as valuable employees, citizens, and, most importantly, human beings.
A liberal arts degree prepares one to withstand the uncertainties of a career. It can cope with the test of time since there are no expiry dates for critical thinking and problem-solving. Polished proficiency in writing, speaking, presenting, and collaborating is another trademark of liberal arts education. It is immensely helpful if viewed from the perspective of a job aspirant.
Enhanced cultural understanding is another valuable reward from liberal arts. Interdisciplinary studies play a significant role in building this broader understanding. The importance of cultural anthropology and international relations is relatively higher, especially in India. The list of career options emerging from liberal arts includes law, politics, social work, psychology, public relations, journalism, Civil services, and many more. These job sectors are considerable investments in the development of the country.
The ability to find out opportunities and take unexpected directions will be beneficial irrespective of the interests of your comfort zones. Arming the students with flexibility and imagination will prepare them to be confident in the continuously updating job markets. In an era where the information and options are available at your fingertips, it is your perspective that makes the difference.
Selecting a career that will not disappoint you is a hectic task in every individual’s life. Especially when you don’t really want to focus on one specific field of study. If you are interested in multiple subjects and ready to get exposed to a diverse study environment, Liberal arts is your answer. If you are willing to invest yourself in a more diversified approach to learning, attending a Liberal arts institution like SRM University AP might be the right choice.
Liberal arts at SRM AP
The Liberal arts education at SRM University AP provides an opportunity to pursue an interdisciplinary program across Humanities, Social Sciences, Commerce, Business Studies, and Physical sciences. Complex and increasing challenges are a part of this generation, and we are destined to face them. Multi-dimensional thought processes and problem-solving skills are the demanding qualities of an individual in a world of constant changes. A holistic education will help students to develop these necessary skills.
SRM AP has a School of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (SLASS), allowing students to choose courses across the disciplines. The school is comprised of six departments, namely English, History, Psychology, Economics, Commerce, and Liberal arts. The Bachelor’s degree curriculum is broadly divided into Foundation courses and Majors. Students can choose their minor from a variety of subjects across the disciplines. This will help them to expand their knowledge beyond their subject of specialisation.
SRM University AP has faculties from all over India and across the world. SLASS at SRM AP offers a high-quality library that has the facilities of books or journals in print and electronic, extra-mural lectures, and colloquiums by academicians and eminent scholars. The diversity of available courses provides an unrestricted learning environment that is supported by the facilities provided by the university.
Multidisciplinary learning ecosystem
Students are free to choose courses from diverse disciplines along with their major and foundational course.
Liberal arts; employer’s choice
The latest employment surveys state that multinational employers prefer aspirants with liberal arts degrees for their wide range of skills and ability to adapt to changes.
Learn from world-class faculties
75% of the faculty at SRM University AP holds international academic exposure or are from foreign universities, and 15% are foreign nationals.
International career opportunities
The global recognition of the courses grants a plethora of opportunities at international and postgraduation levels.
Liberal arts education will train you to learn things outside the textbook, making you confident enough to stand confidently in the face of change. In a world where machines overtake all the works of human beings, there should be more humans to look at life and think accordingly to provide much-needed responses.