08 August 2022: The University of Wollongong (UOW) hosted a special dinner event last week to celebrate three years of partnership with the Ramsay Centre, and to reflect on the achievements of its BA in Western Civilisation degree program.
UOW Deputy-Chancellor Mr Warwick Shanks, and UOW Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Theo Farrell hosted the event, attended by senior Ramsay Centre representatives, including Director and former Prime Minister, the Hon Tony Abbott AC, and Ramsay Centre CEO Professor Simon Haines.
The dinner was also attended by approximately 85 BA in Western Civilisation degree students, from three different year cohorts, as well as their teachers, and the Head of UOW’s School of Liberal Arts, Senior Professor Daniel D. Hutto.
The Ramsay Centre and UOW entered a partnership in 2019. Worth approximately $50 million over eight years, the partnership enables UOW to offer its BA in Western Civilisation degree program, to offer at least 150 undergraduate scholarships over that period, and to hire world-class educators. Each UOW Ramsay Scholarship is worth up to $30,000 p.a. for up to five years, with scholars taught in small class groups, and receiving academic mentoring.
Deputy Chancellor Mr Shanks said UOW was sincerely grateful for the partnership, made possible by the late Paul Ramsay AO, and said the evening offered the opportunity to celebrate the success of the program.
‘Students in our School of Liberal Arts, (our BA in Western Civilisation students) are among the most satisfied and highest performing at the university…these students have achieved cumulative results that far exceed the university average. Many academics in Australia and worldwide are impressed by this program which focuses on creating articulate graduates who are capable of and invested in pursuing their education and personal enlightenment for the good of all,’ Mr Shanks said.
Acting Vice-Chancellor Professor Theo Farrell also praised the program, remarking that several UOW Ramsay scholars would complete their BA in Western Civilisation this year, and had been given a remarkable educational opportunity.
Ramsay Centre CEO Professor Simon Haines agreed, saying the graduating students could work in a variety of professions, as ‘this is actually an education for any career, not a specific one, partly because it is developing your capacity for critical and creative thought in sophisticated language: and partly because in the world of AI what employers need most of all is HI, human intelligence. And you are exposed to more of that in this degree than any other.’
Billed as a course for the ‘intellectually fearless’, UOW’s Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation 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.’
In a display of some of their learnings, a selection of students participated in a panel discussion on German-Jewish political philosopher Hannah Arendt and her famous quote, ‘There are no dangerous thoughts, thinking itself is dangerous.’
2020 UOW Ramsay Scholar and MC for the evening, Alexandra Mackay, said studying extraordinary works such as The Iliad, Don Quixote, The Canterbury Tales, and Nicomachean Ethics had been humbling.
‘They’ve taught me that I know very little, that my knowledge base is a grain of sand on a beach but that is okay because what’s important is being open to learning, seeing that there is more than one perspective, more than one answer and more than one path, being comfortable with being a little less absolute but confident in the decision that I take as a result of it.’
Dr Elena Walsh, a teacher in the program, said the small class size format enabled every student to contribute and made it possible ‘…to move beyond what might be called standard or typical interpretations of great works.’
‘In the first two subjects I teach, I witnessed students develop their ability to disagree with each other and to defend their own interpretations – in this way the tutorials are an antidote to dogmatism. Our students are intellectually curious about each other’s views, and they exhibit a great desire to continuously assess how different perspectives on a topic might be incorporated into more nuanced and holistic positions,’ Dr Walsh said.
Reflecting on Mr Ramsay’s legacy, Mr Abbott said Paul Ramsay appreciated ‘the great things’ that had made and produced the society in which he grew up and would want the scholars to use the opportunity they had been given to do more than just carve out a career for themselves.
Mr Abbott said Mr Ramsay wanted to encourage today’s generation of Australians to ‘…not just be people who went out and made a lot of money and flourished in a particular career but to be leaders, intellectual leaders, cultural leaders, thought leaders, people who make a difference.’
‘You’ve been given the best education that could possibly be given, an education to help you become your best self and help others become their best selves,’ Mr Abbott said.
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