01 June 2023: Thirty- seven students from across NSW attended a special Liberal Arts School at the University of Wollongong (UOW) recently, designed to enable them to experience in a small way the type of study a Western Civilisation degree at the University offers.
This is the third Liberal Arts School for high school students hosted by UOW since the introduction of its Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation degree in 2020. The Liberal Arts School is a free program open to high-achieving students in years 11 and 12. The one-day event, which students apply for, includes intellectually stimulating workshops led by academic experts, as well as fun social activities.
This year’s Liberal Arts School took the HSC students on a journey through Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, focusing on the themes of isolation, knowledge of other minds, and the scepticism produced by excessive doubt. Students were also introduced to the radical doubt of Descartes, and considered how his scepticism was used to usher in new forms of knowledge.
UOW’s School of Liberal Arts (SOLA) Head, Senior Professor Dan Hutto and Professor Diana Glenn, Academic Director of the Ramsay Centre, gave introductions to UOW’s Western Civilisation degree program, and the value of studying Great Books.
This was followed by an icebreaker led by UOW Ramsay Scholars Aislinn McArdle and David Allen, who asked students to work in pairs to identify something they felt they knew with certainty, and to consider whether they might ever have cause to doubt it.
The students then participated in two academic activities, the first led by UOW academic Dr. Sophie Frazer on Frankenstein, and the second jointly led by UOW academics Dr. Julian Lamb and Dr. Elena Walsh on Shakespearian scepticism and the methodology of radical doubt instituted by Descartes.
In the afternoon, classicist Dr. Tristan Bradshaw spoke with students about the value of critical thinking and of literary and philosophical modes of inquiry for employers, and of the intrinsic value of a liberal arts education. This was followed by a Q and A session with two senior SOLA students, Philippa Graham and Andy Cameron, and an introduction to the structure of the three-year BA in Western Civilisation led by UOW Careers Adviser Stewart Mailer.
Overall, it was an exciting and enjoyable day for the students giving them the opportunity to engage in critical inquiry with like-minded peers and learn about the value of critical thinking and literary reflection.
It also gave the students a preview of UOW’s BA in Western Civilisation, which is billed as a ‘course for the intellectually fearless’. The degree is designed to ‘help students discover the enduring insights of the greatest thinkers, poets, and artists of Western civilisation’ and ‘become part of a conversation about ideas that have changed the world as we know it.’
Thanks to a $50 million partnership agreement between the Ramsay Centre and the University of Wollongong (UOW), high-achieving students are supported to complete UOW’s Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation, through scholarships of up to $32,000 p.a. The scholars are taught in small class groups and receive academic mentoring. This year UOW welcomed its fourth cohort of UOW Ramsay Scholars since the partnership began in 2019.
For more information on UOW’s Bachelor of Western Civilisation degree go to https://www.uow.edu.au/the-arts-social-sciences-humanities/schools-entities/liberal-arts/courses-study-options/
Media contact: Sarah Switzer 0407 816 098/ firstname.lastname@example.org
For more information on the centre please visit our website: www.ramsaycentre.org