ERG SES D 07, Leadership and Education
According to a 2013 study by Kara Godwin, there are over 30 liberal education programs or institutions across Europe. Currently prepared database (by D. Kontowski and Tim Hoff) includes about 50 universities, university colleges, liberal arts programs and other degree-granting arrangements that subscribe to the ideal of liberal arts education. Such recent developments in higher education have been portraited as the global "shifting tide" (with a US decline and steady growth elsewhere, notably in East Asia). In Western Europe they have been ascribed to the need for more selective, demanding and interdisciplinary curricula, while in Eastern Europe to the shifting political climate following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Describing non-American liberal education initiatives in higher education studies require settling down on criteria. Most researchers avoid a clear-cut criteria, instead trying to describe the phenomenon in an intuitional manner; part of the explanations is that they are typically interested solely in their own institution. Recently an attempt has been made (Godwin 2013, 2015) to provide a set of three criteria (core curriculum, electives and at least one other feature popular in the US liberal arts colleges). Interestingly, even in such elaborate attempt it has been impossible not to include self-description as another and equal criterion of inclusion. This constitutes a threat of circular logic: liberal education is whatever calls itself such.
The leading questions are pretty straightforward:
- What contemporary European liberal education programs have intellectually in common?
- Can they be described as a movement unified by shared values? or shorter:
- What does it really mean to offer liberal education in Europe?
My doctoral project would answer that question by offering a comparative and empircal study of the first leaders in eight European countries. Liberal education in this project is conceptualised as a set of educational aims, pedagogical principles and values held by those influential leaders and embedded in the institutions.
The study builds on works by Bruce A. Kimball, Sheldon Rothblatt, and Nigel Tubbs, who developed three historical-philosophical models of internal diversity withing the liberal (arts) education movement. My aim was to extend their analyses to the present day and move from the realm of written materials to social interaction with those directly engaged in liberal educational practices. While any institution is always nonreducible to its leader, questioning the latter allows for a better picture of motivations, ambitions and modus operandi of individuals who not only decided to use the label without helping context of a whole higher education system, but also were relatively succesful in building their own institutions and inspiring new ones. The final benefit is that during interviews it is easier to identify inconsistencies than in a mission statement, as was the practice of previous researchers.
One possible outcome of the project might be a matrix of aims, principles and values witihin liberal education in Europe, that can be of use for both researchers and practitioners (especially future leaders) of such institutions. Given the leadership generational change in growing number of programs, and a steady rate of development of new ones, it seems that it might be a good moment for such a study.
Breneman, D.W., 1994. Liberal Arts Colleges. Thriving, Surviving or Endangered?, Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Godwin, K.A., 2015a. The Counter Narrative: Critical Analysis of Liberal Education in Global Context. New Global Studies, 9(3), pp.223–244. Godwin, K.A., 2013. The Global Emergence of Liberal Education : A Comparative and Exploratory Study. Boston College. Godwin, K.A. & Altbach, P.G., 2016. A Historical and Global Perspective on Liberal Arts Education: What Was, What Is, and What Will Be. International Journal of Chinese Education, 5, pp.5–22. Jung, I., Nishimura, M. & Sasao, T., 2016. Liberal arts education and colleges in East Asia : possibilities and challenges in the global age. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=1179358. Kimball, B.A., 1995. Orators & Philosophers: A History of the Idea of Liberal Education R. Orrill, ed., New York: College Entrance Examination Board. Kimball, B.A., 2010. The Liberal Arts Tradition. A Documentary History, Lanham, Boulder, New York, Toronto, Plymouth: University Press of America. Kirby, W.C. & van der Wende, M.C. eds., 2016. Experiences in Liberal Arts and Science Education from America, Europe, and Asia, New York: Palgrave Macmillan US. Available at: http://link.springer.com/10.1057/978-1-349-94892-5. Kontowski, D., 2016. On the verge of liberal arts education: the case of MISH in Poland. Working Papers in Higher Education Studies, 2(1), pp.58–94. Available at: http://www.wphes-journal.eu/index.php/wphes/article/view/18. Peterson, P.M., 2012. Confronting challenges to the liberal arts curriculum: perspectives of developing and transitional countries, New York: Routledge. Rothblatt, S., 2003. The Living Arts: Comparative and Historical Reflections on Liberal Education, Washington, D. C.: Association of American Colleges and Universities. Rothblatt, S., 1976. Tradition and change in English liberal education: an essay in history and culture, London: Faber. Tubbs, N., 2015. Philosophy and modern liberal arts education: freedom is to learn, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan van der Wende, M.C., 2011. The Emergence of Liberal Arts and Sciences Education in Europe: A Comparative Perspective. Higher Education Policy, 24, pp.233 – 253.
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