Liberal study programmes at our universities, who benefits most?

BY: Lawrence Mantey

Attaining higher education comes with several privileges and also enhances one’s dignity in society.

Those who are aware of this spare no effort at mobilising resources to either pursue it themselves or help their wards towards that end.

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At our universities, there are a wide range of programmes that one can pursue to attain diplomas and degrees at various levels. In time past, the programme pursued at the university was not an issue. A degree in any subject could land you a job of your dream, save enough to pursue more of your education and to shift careers if you so wish.

Today things are different. Not every degree can give you a guarantee for the future you expect even if one ended with a quality class. This makes people more selective when it comes to choosing a programme to pursue at the university. The less programme of choice for many are those found within the humanities especially the liberal courses usch as the social sciences, classics and history and the literary arts.

Besides the low job prospects for pursuing these programmes, people have additional reasons to call for reduction in funding for the running of such programmes at the universities. People find it too expensive a programme to pursue. Many times when institutional reforms are carried out at the universities it is the liberal courses that are downsized or scrapped from the university programmes altogether.

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Indeed, we are living in an era where science and technology drive growth and industrialisation and modernisation are desirable as justification for development. Our economies are no more subsistence, where our labour and products are our own, we have sold them for cash and have established an employee and employer relationship.

Labour is now a commodity to be paid for, bought and sold. As subsistence economies yield increasingly to cash economy, job seeking and unemployment are now a global problem. Industrialisation backed by science and technology produces more for consumption beyond what we even need, in effect depleting our finite natural resources. We have embraced these so-called revolutionary advances in our quest to develop and advance as a country. What will guarantee our development is how well we are positioned to address its attendant challenges mentioned above.

This is where the liberal education programmes at our universities can be of supreme value to the state as well as the individual students who pursue it.
Most of these programmes, besides developing those highest gifts of body and mind, inculcate in the individual good morals which make them kind and considerate of others when conducting public business. A subject like history, which must not on any account be neglected by anyone who aspires to true cultivation, enlarges one’s foresight on contemporary affairs and affords citizens and monarchs lessons in the ordering of public policy.

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In the classics, the great orators of antiquity are not left out. No where can we find the virtues more warmly extolled and the vices so fiercely decried. From the writings of the poets, we also find deep speculation upon nature and upon the causes and origins of things which carry weight with us from their antiquity and from their authorship.

The ideas those liberal study programmes impart to us may not have commercial value as some may argue; however, the problem-solving values and ideas they contain are enormous and unimaginable. When Albert Einstein once asked: “Why is it that when the mind of man has stretched so far as to discover the structure of the atom, we have been unable to devise the means to prevent the atom from destroying us? ” he replied: “ This is simple my friend, it is because this task is more difficult than physics.”

That difficult task, the fall out from our revolutionary advances fuelled by the application of science and technology – the emerging problems of unemployment, over depletion of our natural resources and greed and corruption can only be tackled by those whose course of studies were marked by a broad spirit, foresight, accurate scholarship and broad acquaintance with realities of facts and truth and principles.

Liberal study programmes in the humanities are very rich in these values. Despite the declining interest in the pursuit of these programmes at the universities, it is quite heartwarming that the College of Humanities at the University of Ghana has realised their relevance in our national development effort and has embarked on a five-year strategic plan to mark the 70th anniversary celebration of the university. It is the general hope that some of these courses run by the college would be well packaged as part of the strategic plan to prove their relevance in this modern era where jobs, money and technology matter.