THE BLOG

The Global Significance of Liberal Arts

11/11/2015 12:46 GMT | Updated 10/11/2016 10:12 GMT

I have been fortunate enough throughout my career to work in a variety of educational institutions around the world. My views on the necessity for a truly global education are well documented and I am committed to providing that opportunity for our students at Bath Spa University.

As well as ensuring our students become socially engaged global citizens, I am equally dedicated to encouraging my staff to engage with colleagues around the world. Of course international research is not new. Academics have long sought each other out and worked together to address global issues including climate change and food security. Sometimes our geographical distinctiveness means we can look at a challenge from a differing perspective which actually allows a greater clarity of thought in the end.

My own research has involved collaboration with colleagues across Europe and beyond. The sharing of knowledge and expertise is critical to our research endeavours if we are to have a true impact on society. I think this is especially critical to research within the liberal arts and is why I led the establishment of the Global Academy of Liberal Arts (GALA).

GALA is the first collaboration of its kind to bring together a diverse range of liberal arts providers from around the world. Liberal arts encompass the arts, humanities, education, science and social science. The aim of GALA is for member institutions to support the learning of our students by introducing them to global networks and international perspectives on the economic potential of creative and cultural industries.

I hosted the inaugural meeting of GALA at Bath Spa University in June 2014 and welcomed Professor Elizabeth Coleman, Director of the Elizabeth Coleman Centre for the Advancement of Public Action at Bennington College, USA to give our first lecture. She spoke about the responsibilities and potential legacy of liberal arts education.

Throughout its first year, GALA has seen many new collaborative partnerships forged between colleagues at various liberal arts institutions as well as providing unique opportunities for student exchanges and development. We are proud to have 17 member institutions in 12 countries.

When I launched GALA, I had a vision of bringing together staff and students in member institutions to explore the relationship between creativity and social engagement through teaching and research collaborations. To date, activities taking place in the network have included joint programme development, comparative research, student exchange, remote teaching, joint student projects and visiting lecturers.

For many countries, including the UK, the cultural and creative industries are a major export, generating vital income and boosting economic growth. International networks generate innovative thinking and impactful research outcomes.

Our students need to think on a global level if they are to succeed. Creativity's worth was in danger of fading in universities globally, but we cannot exist without developing students with intercultural competence to prepare them for this shifting landscape.