Liberal Studies Bachelor’s Degree: Features, Challenges and Benefits

A Liberal Studies bachelor’s degree has the potential to open the door to your dream job or small business if you have the facts to enable you to prepare, pursue the course and position yourself strategically for the job market.

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My goal in this post is to provide you with those facts. So if you’re searching for comprehensive answers to any one of the following questions to help you decide whether to study for a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies then you are in the right place.

  • What is the meaning of Liberal Studies?
  • Is Liberal Studies the same as Liberal Arts?
  • What are the foundation subjects to study in high school in order to gain admission to a university for a Liberal Studies program?
  • Which courses are available under a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies program?
  • What are the best-known universities for Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies students?
  • How long does it take to complete a BA in Liberal Studies degree program?
  • What are the general requirements?
  • Do BA in Liberal Studies students face any serious challenges?
  • What are the likely benefits of a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies?

Let’s quickly find the answers to these questions and more.

Table of Contents

What is the meaning of Liberal Studies?

Liberal Studies, which is also referred to as Liberal Arts, is an academic discipline that encompasses a wide range of subjects. Typically, a Liberal Studies course focuses on the development of a well-rounded, versatile education.

One unique feature of Liberal Studies is that it goes beyond specialized or vocational training and instead encourages students to explore various fields such as the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and the arts.

Liberal Studies Subjects

In a Liberal Studies program, therefore, you will study subjects like literature, history, philosophy, mathematics, sciences, and more.

The Objective of a BA in Liberal Studies

The primary goal of a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies is to develop in students critical thinking, communication skills, and a broad understanding of the world.

This multidisciplinary approach to Liberal Studies aims to create well-informed individuals who can adapt to various career paths and excel in a rapidly changing, knowledge-based economy.

Clearly, a Liberal Studies degree should give you a solid foundation for a diverse range of careers. This is because the course emphasizes the value of a holistic education in today’s dynamic job market.

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Foundation Subjects for A Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies

The next question you might be interested in as you contemplate the idea of enrolling in a Liberal Studies bachelor’s degree program at a university is this:

What are the popular foundation subjects that lead to admission to a bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies at a university?

The following should at least be a starting point. You can use it to figure out if you’re truly cut out for a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies.

Please note that the specific foundation subjects required for admission to a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies can vary by university. However, there are certain common subjects that most Liberal Studies departments teach.

Make sure to check the admission requirements of the specific university or program.

Again, bear in mind that Liberal Studies programs are so flexible that they are able to accommodate a wide range of foundation subjects. This allows students to tailor their education to their interests and career goals.

Let’s take a look at some of these foundation subjects in Liberal Studies.

Subjects

  • English Language and Literature: Strong language and communication skills are fundamental for liberal arts education.
  • Mathematics: Basic proficiency in mathematics is often a requirement, as it is essential for critical thinking and problem-solving.

One unique feature of Liberal Studies is that it goes beyond specialized or vocational training and instead encourages students to explore various fields such as the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and the arts.

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  • Science/General Science/Integrated Science: Courses in the natural or physical sciences, such as biology, chemistry, or physics, may be needed to provide a well-rounded scientific foundation.
  • Social Sciences: Subjects like history, economics, psychology, or sociology help students understand human behaviour and society.
  • Foreign Language: Some universities may require proficiency in a second language to underscore the international and multicultural aspects of liberal studies.

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  • Art and Humanities: Courses in fine arts, philosophy, literature, and other humanities subjects are often valued for their cultural and intellectual enrichment.

Electives: Elective courses that demonstrate a student’s curiosity and engagement in diverse areas of study can also enhance their application.

Courses Under BA in Liberal Studies

Under this section, you will have a list of popular liberal studies courses taught by universities around the world.

Please be aware that the availability of these courses and their specific titles may vary from one university to another.

Students pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree in Liberal Studies often have the option to select courses based on their interests and career aspirations.

Courses

Introduction to Philosophy: Explores fundamental philosophical concepts and critical thinking.

English Literature: The study of literary classics and analysis of various forms of literature.

World History: Examines global historical events, trends, and their impacts.

Introduction to Psychology: An overview of the human mind and behaviour.

Mathematics for Liberal Arts: A math course designed to enhance quantitative reasoning.

Cultural Anthropology: The study of human cultures, customs, and societies.

Political Science: Examines political systems, theories, and international relations.

Environmental Science: Studies the environment and sustainability issues.

Art History: The history and analysis of artistic movements and works.

Economics: Introduces economic concepts and principles.

Sociology: Explores society, social structures, and human interaction.

Classical Literature: The study of classical texts and ancient civilizations.

Media Studies: Analyzes media and its influence on society.

Creative Writing: Focuses on writing fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction.

Natural Science: An overview of scientific principles and phenomena.

Introduction to Ethics: Explores ethical theories and moral dilemmas.

Languages and Cultures: Courses in various languages and their respective cultures.

Religious Studies: Examines world religions and their impact on society.

Global Studies: A multidisciplinary study of global issues and affairs.

Introduction to Gender Studies: Explores gender roles and societal constructs.

Famous Liberal Studies Universities

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Let’s now have the names of some well-known universities in Europe and North America that offer Bachelor’s Degree programs in Liberal Studies:

Please note that the availability of Liberal Studies programs may vary between universities. Also, some institutions may offer similar programs under different names, such as “Liberal Arts and Sciences.”

It is up to you to check the specific offerings and admission requirements of each university.

Universities in Europe

University of Oxford (United Kingdom): Offers a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Liberal Arts and Sciences.

University of Amsterdam (Netherlands): Offers a Bachelor’s program in Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Central European University (Austria): Offers a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies.

University of Kent (United Kingdom): Offers a Liberal Arts BA program.

Leiden University (Netherlands): Offers a Liberal Arts and Sciences program.

Universities in North America

The best-known universities in the US and Canada, in particular, that offer Liberal Studies bachelor’s and master’s degree programs include the University of North Carolina, Harvard University, New York University and Simon Fraser University.

Harvard University (USA): Offers a Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree through its Extension School.

Columbia University (USA): Offers a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies through its School of General Studies.

New York University (USA): Offers a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies.

Simon Fraser University (Canada): Offers a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies.

University of North Carolina at Asheville (USA): Offers a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies.

Liberal Arts Education in African Universities

So which universities in Africa teach a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies program? Well, for a long time, a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies has been missing in the faculties of many African universities.

I can remember that as a student in the Faculty of Arts at Cape Coast University in the late 90s, we didn’t have any course specifically going by the BA in Liberal Studies (Liberal Arts) designation.

But on the whole, a BA Arts course content or its equivalent at the postgraduate level is in many ways similar to your typical bachelor’s or master’s degree in Liberal Studies.

You can check the lists of foundation subjects and Liberal Arts degree courses to verify this observation.

Today an increasing number of African universities are beginning to recognize the value of liberal arts education.

Again in Ghana, technical universities such as the Accra Technical University and Koforidua Technical University have departments dedicated to Liberal Studies or Liberal Arts.

The same goes for Ashesi University and the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration popularly known as GIMPA.

The situation appears to be the same in other parts of Africa.

In fact, some universities on the continent offer similar interdisciplinary programs. However, the specific titles and focus areas of such programs may vary.

Universities in Africa Offering Liberal Studies

Take a quick look at some universities in Africa known for their liberal arts or similar programs.

Ashesi University (Ghana)

United States International University Africa (USIU-Africa) (Kenya)

American University in Cairo (Egypt)

African Leadership University (Rwanda)

University of Pretoria (South Africa)

Rhodes University (South Africa)

Afe Babalola University (Nigeria)

Kampala International University (Uganda)

Makerere University (Uganda)

American University of Nigeria (Nigeria)

University of Ghana (Ghana)

Strathmore University (Kenya)

University of Ibadan (Nigeria)

The University of Nairobi (Kenya)

University of Dar es Salaam (Tanzania)

University of Zambia (Zambia)

Stellenbosch University (South Africa)

University of Lagos (Nigeria)

The University of Botswana (Botswana)

University of Namibia (Namibia)

Duration

The normal duration for a Bachelor’s degree course in Liberal Studies starts from three to four years. It depends very much on the particular university and country where the program is offered.

Find below a breakdown of the usual durations:

Three-Year Program

In some countries, such as the United Kingdom, a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Liberal Studies is often completed in three years.

These programs tend to be more focused on the chosen subjects, providing a condensed and intensive curriculum.

Four-Year Program

In the United States and many other countries, a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies usually spans four years.

This longer duration allows for a broader exploration of subjects. In many instances, it includes general education requirements in addition to specialized coursework.

Flexible Options

Some universities may offer flexible options that allow students to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies within three years by taking additional courses each semester, or to extend it to five years if they want to include internships or study abroad experiences.

Admission Requirements

Now that you’ve gathered enough information regarding the key aspects of Liberal Studies, it’s time for you to know the basic admission requirements for a bachelor’s degree in this area.

Here too, the admission requirements for a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies can vary from one university to another.

However, there are some common requirements that many institutions might ask for. Find below the basic admission requirements for such degree programs.

High School Diploma or Equivalent

You need to have completed high school or an equivalent qualification, such as a General Educational Development (GED) certificate.

Supposing you are reading this from somewhere in Africa (particularly West Africa), you may be required to have obtained a pass in WASSCE.

WASSCE is the standardized international test organized by the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) for the award of a high school diploma to students in the five English-speaking countries in West Africa. These are The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.

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Academic Transcripts

You’ll need to provide your high school transcripts, demonstrating your academic performance and grades.

Standardized Tests

Some universities may require standardized test scores like the SAT or ACT, although an increasing number of schools are opting for entrance tests.

Letters of Recommendation

Many institutions of higher learning ask for testimonials or letters of recommendation from teachers, mentors, or employers who can speak to your character, academic abilities, or potential for success in a liberal studies program.

Personal Statement or Essay

Some universities may ask you to write a personal statement or essay that explains your interest in the program, your goals, and how you believe a liberal education aligns with your aspirations.

Interview

In some cases, you might be invited for an interview, either in person or via video conference, to discuss your application and motivations.

Language Proficiency

If the program is taught in a language other than your native language, you may need to provide proof of language proficiency, typically through standardized tests like the TOEFL or IELTS.

Resume or Curriculum Vitae (CV)

Some institutions may request a resume or CV outlining your educational and extracurricular experiences.

Extracurricular Activities

Highlighting your involvement in extracurricular activities, community service, or leadership roles can strengthen your application.

Advantages of A Liberal Studies Degree

Let me now show you some major advantages of a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies.

The truth is a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Liberal Studies offers several significant benefits.

Broad Knowledge Base

Liberal Studies programs provide a well-rounded education that covers a wide range of subjects, fostering a deeper understanding of the world and its complexities.

Critical Thinking Skills

Students learn to think critically, analyze information, and make informed decisions, which are valuable skills in many career paths.

Effective Communication

Liberal Studies programs often emphasize communication skills, including writing and public speaking, which are essential in most professions.

Ability to Adapt

Liberal Studies or General Arts graduates are generally versatile and are able to pivot or adapt in difficult situations. This is what makes them well-suited for diverse job opportunities and changing industries.

Problem-Solving Skills

The interdisciplinary nature of these programs encourages creative problem-solving and the ability to approach challenges from different perspectives.

Global Perspective on Issues

As a student in this program, you will gain a global outlook. You can easily appreciate different cultures and perspectives.

This quality is becoming increasingly important in our interconnected world.

Career Flexibility

A liberal education opens the door to a variety of career options, as graduates are prepared for leadership roles in various fields.

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A Passion for Lifelong Learning

Liberal Arts education tends to instil in students a love for learning and a commitment to lifelong education. This is valuable in your quest for personal and professional growth in today’s fast-changing world.

Likely Challenges

We will now turn our attention to the likely challenges a liberal studies student may have to deal with.

Liberal Studies students, just like those pursuing other degree programs, may encounter several challenges during their academic journey.

These challenges can vary depending on individual circumstances and the specific program or institution. Find below some common ones.

Lack of Specialization

Liberal Studies programs are intentionally broad. This means students might not develop deep expertise in a particular subject and this may potentially pose a challenge in highly specialized job markets.

Uncertainty About Career Path

For many Liberal Studies majors, there is hardly any predefined, specific career path to follow.

The versatility of a Liberal Studies degree can sometimes lead to uncertainty and frustration about which career path to pursue.

Difficulty in Course Selection

With a wide array of courses to choose from, students might find it challenging to select the most relevant subjects.

This has the tendency to negatively impact their engagement and overall academic performance.

Excessive Workload

Let the truth be told. There is so much to study for a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies.

Balancing multiple disciplines and courses simultaneously can be demanding. The heavy workload may lead to stress and other health problems. This may be a headache for students who cannot cope with excessive academic work.

Unhelpful Perception from Employers

Some employers may not fully appreciate the value of a liberal education. This can be a source of worry for many Liberal Studies graduates during job interviews.

Transition to Specialized Graduate Programs

Students who may want to pursue specialized postgraduate degrees such as mass communication, law or medicine, may face additional requirements or prerequisites to enter these fields.

Demonstrating Relevance

Graduates may need to work harder to demonstrate the relevance of their education to specific job roles, as some employers may have a preference for more specialized degrees.

Educational Costs

Depending on the range of courses taken, educational costs can increase, as students may need to purchase additional textbooks or materials.

Academic Guidance and Counselling

Liberal Studies students might need more personalized guidance in selecting courses and defining their career goals. Unfortunately, this may not always be readily available.

The Need to Stay Current

Given the broad nature of liberal education, staying current in rapidly evolving fields or industries can be a challenge.

What To Do

Despite the likely challenges, it is still possible for a student who is passionate about studying Liberal Arts to perform creditably.

I urge you to consider the following advice if you still have an interest in studying for a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies.

Explore Your Interests

Liberal Studies offers flexibility, so explore subjects that genuinely interest you. Take advantage of the opportunity to craft a unique educational experience.

Connect with Advisors

Build strong relationships with academic advisors who can help you tailor your program to align with your career goals.

Build Practical Experience

Consider internships, co-op programs, or volunteer work to complement your academic studies and gain practical experience.

Network

Engage with professors, fellow students, and professionals in various fields to build a network that can be valuable in your future career.

Define Your Goals

Clarify your career aspirations and how your liberal education can support your path. Be proactive in seeking opportunities related to your goals.

Embrace Change

Recognize that the job market is evolving. Liberal Studies graduates are well-equipped to adapt to changing circumstances, so embrace new opportunities and consider further education if it aligns with your ambitions.

Leverage Transferable Skills

Highlight your transferable skills, such as critical thinking and communication, in job applications and interviews. These skills are highly sought after by employers.

Final Thoughts

I trust that given the features, challenges and benefits associated with a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies, we’ve been looking at, you’re in a much better position to decide if this course is the best fit for you.

Remember to check the specific admission requirements of the available courses under Liberal Studies you may want to pursue.

Remember to check the specific admission requirements of the university you’re interested in, as there can be variations in what each institution seeks from applicants. Additionally, some liberal studies programs may have a holistic admissions process that takes into account not just grades and test scores but also an applicant’s overall fit with the program’s values and objectives.

Finally, do not let the likely challenges stop you from pursuing your passion for liberal arts education. The reason is that you can overcome any difficulties that may come your way by cultivating a positive mindset and by seeking help from your tutors and advisors.

Cegast Academy is your partner.

As an online learning platform dedicated to helping individuals and institutions succeed in the study of liberal studies subjects and courses, Cegast Academy will continue to do everything possible to make learning fun and easier for you, your students or your loved ones.

We strive to, as much as possible, attend to your requests for help with any topic or question which is part of the liberal education curriculum.

Did you find this information helpful? Then share it on your favourite social media platform for the benefit of others you care about. Thank you!

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Ralph Nyadzi is the Director of Studies at Cegast Academy. He is a qualified English tutor with decades of experience behind him. Since 2001, he has successfully coached thousands of High School General Arts WASSCE candidates in English, Literature and related subjects. He combines his expertise with a passion for lifelong learning to guide learners from varying backgrounds to achieve their educational goals. Ralph shares lessons from his blogging journey on BloggingtotheMax. He lives with River, his pet cat, in the Central Region of Ghana.

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