The Liberal Arts

Liberal arts. What does it mean? Why choose a university with a liberal arts approach? What difference does it make to students?

Liberal arts education has been around for thousands of years, since the time of the Ancient Greeks and Romans, who considered a liberal arts education necessary for a human being to be free.

But what does ‘liberal arts’ mean? It’s not a programme focused only on the ‘arts’ – a collection of subjects generally associated with the humanities. It derives from the classical and mediaeval collection of subjects known asartes liberalis: the knowledge worthy of a free person.

‘The academic course of instruction at a college intended to provide general knowledge and comprising the arts, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences.’ (Collins Dictionary)

Traditionally, there are seven subjects that made up the liberal arts:

  • The trivium of humanities (grammar, logic, and rhetoric); and
  • The ‘scientific’ quadrivium (astronomy/astrology, music, geometry, and arithmetic).

Taken collectively, these seven ‘artes’ contributed to the overarching art, philosophy.

The core aim of a liberal arts education remains true to these roots today, providing students with knowledge on topics as diverse as science, visual thinking literature, maths and global development.

Let liberal arts empower you

A liberal arts education empowers students to solve problems, adapt, and collaborate. It also prepares students to become the types of employees organisations want to hire. But a liberal arts education doesn’t just provide great employability. It also enhances students’ personal and social development, providing them with self-confidence, self-understanding and a sense of social responsibility. A liberal arts education at ż can foster those qualities and skills, providing choice, freedom and diversity.

Here’s how.

All of our undergraduate students at ż take 9 Core Curriculum courses in liberal arts, alongside some courses relating to their chosen subject or subjects (students may be exempt from some of these Liberal Arts subjects depending on their qualifications, see below for details). These courses reach across disciplines, building connections between different academic areas such as philosophy, writing, science, business, creativity, communications, digital futures, international relations, history and psychology.

By exploring a wide range of subjects, it enables students to gain a broader perspective of the world around them, developing their intellectual curiosity. It also makes for a much more diverse student experience, working with students taking other subjects in a truly multi-cultural, international learning environment.

A cartoon illustration featuring colorful clipart and graphics.


Study a global curriculum in London with students from across the world and learn to understand and celebrate what makes us different and what makes us the same.

A person is standing confidently in an illustrated landscape.


Choose your own path and decide your major and minor as you learn and develop rather than having to decide before you arrive.

The logo as an icon.


Enjoy flexibility across your subjects and the chance to study and to intern across the globe – a life-transforming opportunity.

Major or minor?What do these mean?

Based on the US liberal arts system, your main subject will be a ‘major’. Not sure which subject to take? No problem, you can choose your subject in the first year. All majors are supported by a wide range of electives or optional courses, giving you more choice.

You can also choose to take a ‘minor’, an optional, additional subject which doesn’t need to be related to your major but it could be a subject that you’re passionate about. Or it could give you a competitive edge when it comes to graduation. We have no less than 26 minors for you to choose from, mix and match from these options:

A graphic design featuring a circle, font, graphics, logo, text, symbol, and typography in the screenshot.


Programme Structure
Your degree at ż will usually take four years (or eight semesters), although this can be shortened through the transfer of eligible academic credit. If you enter with A-levels at grade C or above, or equivalent qualifications, you may be exempt from some of these Liberal Arts subjects and could complete your degree programme sooner. Students entering with a US High School Diploma or equivalent usually complete in four years.

The Liberal Arts Core Programme is based on nine core curriculum courses (with a mix of required and optional courses), including an Environmental Studies course in your first, second or third year andone research course which will be specific to your programme. The nine courses, which are spread over the first three years of a four-year degree programme, are outlined below.

Year 1 – Level 3

Three required courses

  • Tools for Change

    Our mission is to develop you as a student, an active citizen and a future employable graduate. Think of this course as an opportunity to consider your transition to university, reflecting on your development as an independent learner and a critical thinker. You will research and create a plan for service learning in the London area. You will learn to use a range of digital platforms for individual and group project work, focusing heavily on effective communication, including oral presentation, and taking into account issues of accessibility for all.

  • Research and Writing I

    Develop your ability to read and think critically, and to analyse texts from a range of genres. How do you successfully negotiate a path through a sea of information and then write it up? Using information literacy skills to help with guided research, you will develop your ability to produce effective and appropriate academic writing across the curriculum.

    Plus Visual Thinking or Narratives of Change

  • Visual Thinking

    Explore the practice and theory of critical visual thinking with this course as you develop your visual analysis skills across a range of cultures and contexts: the arts, politics, science, sport and technology. How can we make sense of an art installation that consists of a pile of stones on a gallery floor? How can we learn to communicate ideas visually and verbally?

  • Narratives of Change

    Discover works of contemporary global literature with this course by exploring how literature both shapes and responds to our changing world, encompassing gender, race, environment and technology.

    Plus Environmental Studies

    Choose an option from courses in Environmental Studies which include Energy: A Global Perspective, World Regional Geography and Foundations in Environmental Studies, all of which will help you gain skills in scientific reasoning, data and ethical analysis.

Year 2 – Level 4

Three required courses

  • Research and Writing II

    You will learn how to produce well-researched writing that demonstrates critical engagement. How do you develop your critical research and writing skills to be effective in the academic and professional arenas? How do you design and structure an argument that is convincing? You will be able to answer these questions and more as you develop confidence in your writing skills.

  • Social Change in Practice

    This is your opportunity to make a positive change in the community through this course where you will apply a range of planning and research techniques to deliver a community-based project related to a social or environmental issue that you are interested in.

    Plus Data Analysis for Social Change or Probability and Statistics 1

  • Data Analysis for Social Change

    How do we engage with digital and social media content, and how can these reactions and behaviours be measured? This course explores the techniques, tools and debates around social media analytics, including the ethical and social implications of data analysis.

  • Probability and Statistics 1

    Gain an understanding of probability and statistics as you develop the right statistical vocabulary and perform some of the most useful statistical methods such as using statistical tables and software, learning all about the assumptions and pitfalls of various statistical methods.

    Plus Environmental Studies

    Take a course in Environmental Studies which focuses on ‘Endangered Species: Ecology and Conservation’, which will help you gain skills in scientific reasoning, data and ethical analysis.

Year 3 – Level 5

Two required courses

  • Service Learning

    Find a cause that you are passionate about and undertake a service learning placement in the local community. This experiential learning course will not only develop your research, critical thinking and self-reflection skills, but will enhance your cultural and global awareness as you link classroom work to real world problems and needs within the local community.

  • Research Methods

    Expand your research methods skills with this course which will be specific to your programme, providing you with greater employability when you graduate.

The Liberal Arts Core – at a glance

A focus on embodying change

Nine required courses

Level 3 – Three required courses

– GEP 3102 – Tools for change
– GEP 3180 – Research & Writing I
– GEP 3150 – Visual Thinking
– GEP 3170 – Narratives of Change

Level 4 – Three required courses

– GEP 4180 – Research & Writing II
– GEP 4105 – Change in Practice
– DGT 4110 – Data Analytics for Social Change (if no MTH in major)
– MTH 4120 – Probability & Statistics I (if MTH in major)

Level 5 – Two required courses

Service Learning, choose one from:

– GEP 5101 – Digital Collaboration
– GEP 5102 – Leadership in a Changing World
– GEP 5103 – Environment and Society
– GEP 5104 – Global Citizenship and Migration

Level 5 Research discipline specific

One Required ENV course at Level 3, 4 or 5

– ENV 3125 – Foundation of Environmental Studies
– ENV 3120 – Energy: A Global Perspective
– ENV 4135 – Endangered Species
– ENV 5100 – Environmental Ethics

*if required, tested into like EAP

Subject exemptions

As outlined above, if you enter with A-levels at grade C or above, or equivalent qualifications, you may be exempt from some of these subjects and could complete your degree programme sooner. Students entering with a US High School Diploma or equivalent usually complete in four years.

In order to assess you for potential exemptions we will need to complete a TCE (transfer credit evaluation). For more information please visit our transfer credits page.

Key transferable skills

If you’re considering attending university, think about the relevant skills you will need for the future. Not just your first job when you graduate, but the one you’ll have 20 years from now. Ask employers what they look for in employees, or what the most valuable skills are. The list often includes transferable skills such as the ability to collaborate, view things from multiple perspectives, adapt to changing demands and analyse and interpret data.

These are some of the inter-disciplinary, transferable skills that you can gain with our liberal arts approach at ż:

  • Effective oral and written communication skills
  • Problem-solving and pattern intelligence skills
  • Ability to learn and synthesise new ideas
  • Experience in quantitative and qualitative data analysis
  • Critical and reflective reading skills
  • Numerical skills
  • Effective research skills
  • Organisation and time-management skills
  • Information literacy skills
  • Ability to adapt easily to situations
  • Ethical decision-making skills
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Self-confidence and self-understanding
  • Ability to be sensitive to others and be tolerant of cultural differences
  • Cross-cultural knowledge
  • Ability to pose meaningful questions
A person is sitting in a library room surrounded by furniture, a bookcase, and a computer, actively learning and reading from a book while using their laptop.
Two people sit side by side.
A group is walking.

Benefits of a liberal arts education

To help outline some of the pros of attending a liberal arts university, here are justsome of the benefits given:

Integrates different areas of study, providing diversity and exposing students to a wide range of subjects. This broad education in a truly international environment with students and faculty from around the world prepares students to succeed in whatever career they choose.

“Post-graduation I have found that my degrees from ż (both UK and US accreditations) have opened many doors both in London and abroad. Explaining how I majored in Economics but also took classes studying the history of Rock & Roll, Mysticism and Magic, Photography, History of Florence (just to name a few), invites conversation from prospective employers and clients alike.

ż offers an unparalleled course catalogue alongside a uniquely diverse student population which results in an outstanding liberal arts degree, enabling flexibility for future careers.”
– Katrina

You choose your own path and decide your major and minor as you learn and develop rather than having to decide from day one.

Through our liberal arts courses, students are provided with the all-important problem-solving and critical thinking skills. They focus onhowto think, notwhatto think. Instead of memorising facts and then forgetting the information at the end of the semester, students learn to examine, think and connect ideas. These valuable skills are even more vital in the workplace.

With an emphasis on personal responsibility and opportunities for community engagement, all liberal arts students at ż undertake some form of service learning or work in the community. This opens their eyes to the world around them and how certain actions affect others. Whether it’s working for a local cancer charity or helping clean a river, liberal arts students at ż are engaged and committed to making the world a better place.

A liberal arts education prepares students not only for their first job, but it’s great preparation for future jobs that aren’t even created yet!

There are many jobs that are prominent today that didn’t exist 20 years ago –social media influencers and drone operators to name but two. It’s eye-opening to think about the results of a which says around 85 percent of jobs in 2030 haven’t yet been invented.

How our students become global citizens thanks to liberal arts

A person wears a suit and tie.

“ż is a wonderful place to study, expand your horizons and think out of the box about the challenges facing the global community. ż prepared me for a career in both the legislative and executive branches of the US Government and imbued in me a commitment to help make the world a better place.

As a senior civil servant at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) I lead a team that helps American communities become more resilient to disasters. I recall my time at ż fondly and hope that current and future students get as much out of their years in London as I did.”

Aaron LevyBA International Relations, now Director, Federal Emergency Management Agency
The individual has long hair.

“Now that I have graduated, I have noticed that employers are especially interested by the wide array of subjects I have taken at ż, which focused both on the theory and the practice, as well as by the dual UK/US degree and the study abroad opportunities this has brought. The diversity at ż is something I have also seen to be appreciated by employers in the interviews, as nowadays, a multicultural environment is an aspect companies put a lot of importance on.”

Cristina PavelescuBA Economics, Intern Assistant at Julius Baer
A person is wearing glasses.

“After earning my BA in Political Science and International Relations from ż, I went on to earn my MSc from the London School of Economics and JD from Rutgers School of Law. I am currently a Deputy Attorney General for New Jersey in the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability. I joined my current office after practicing at a large international law firm for more than five years.

There is a through line from my time at ż to my current practice. Practicing law requires, among other things, the ability to quickly digest facts, see an issue from all sides, and draw key distinctions among competing arguments. At ż, the quality of instruction, class size, and diverse community of students helped make me uniquely prepared for my career.”

Trevor TaniguchiBA Political Science and International Relations, now Deputy Attorney General, New Jersey
The person has long hair.

“My courses at ż have helped me gain the necessary knowledge in different areas – economics, politics, philosophy, international relations, environmentalism etc. – that have allowed me to approach my internship experience with the right confidence and make the most out of it.”

Miriam AntoniniBA International Relations
A person is smiling for the camera.

“The course elements at ż gave me the ability to create and start various initiatives due to the unique make-up of the University. My ż experience allowed me to explore my interests and I was able to determine where my passion and strengths lie, which completely changed my perspective and career path.”

Sanjay RajaBA Economics, now UK Economist (Vice President), Deutsche Bank