Western Civilisation degree details revealed

Course curriculum and agreement released.

The University of Wollongong has released full details of its new Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation, including the course curriculum together with feedback from prominent academics and its agreement with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation.

The public release of the documents marks another milestone in UOW’s continuing preparations for the transformative new program, which is due to receive its first cohort of students in 2020.

UOW curriculum

The curriculum is based on the course outline developed by Senior Professor Daniel Hutto for UOW’s response to the Ramsay Centre’s 2017 call for expressions of interest. This refined version of the program has evolved in light of feedback from academics at world-leading universities, liberal arts colleges and at the Ramsay Centre.

Professor Hutto consulted with over 20 highly-respected academics from institutions worldwide with expertise in developing or teaching similar courses centred on the great works of Western Civilisation and other traditions of art and thought. He also consulted with representatives of the indigenous community and other stakeholder groups.

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with 16 of these experienced academics subsequently agreeing to serve on the advisory board for UOW’s newly-created School of Liberal Arts in the Faculty of Law, Humanities and Arts.

Comprised of 16 core subjects, the philosophy-focused program will engage students in an intellectual conversation with some of the greatest thinkers down the ages.

Students will be challenged to critically examine exemplary masterpieces of Western art and thought, enter into respectful dialogue with non-Western perspectives, and address abiding questions of contemporary concern.

They will learn to engage in civil, rational and informed debate in small groups and develop in-depth knowledge and advanced research skills, equipping them to undertake independent humanities research.

“The UOW version of the Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation is a unique educational initiative –combining features of five different liberal arts, great books programs at: Columbia College, St John’s College, St Olaf College, Zaytuna College and Yale-NUS College.

“Elements of each were blended, in very specific proportions, to create UOW’s unique liberal arts degree,” Professor Hutto said.

The course curriculum was approved by the University in late January via well-established internal approval processes that enabled achievement of the tight deadlines required for enrolments in 2020.

MOU released

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the University of Wollongong and the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation has also been released.

This six-page agreement established foundations for the cooperative relationship between UOW and the Ramsay Centre and set parameters for detailed contract negotiations.

It outlines the Ramsay Centre’s commitment to fund: delivery of a Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation degree developed and internally approved by UOW; 10 academic and two support staff recruited by UOW-controlled selection panels; and 30 annual scholarships to be administered by UOW, including financial support for a study abroad activity.

It includes provision for UOW’s BA in Western Civilisation to be designed to enable students to undertake elective subjects or another major, or a double degree, from any other UOW program.

UOW’s accountability to the Ramsay Centre will be transparent, centred on an annual written report that includes evaluations of the subjects by the students.

The MOU does not create an exclusive relationship between the parties, nor does it preclude pursuing any other collaborative opportunities, or require any party to relinquish any independence.

It was not released earlier to avoid impacting on other negotiations. The parties are now satisfied this risk has abated, allowing for its publication.

The Memorandum was originally signed on Friday 14 December 2018 and publicly announced on Monday 17 December. It was then amended to more clearly describe the purpose and scope of visitation by Ramsay Centre representatives and re-signed on 21 January 2019.

Executive Dean of UOW’s Faculty of Law, Humanities and Arts, Professor Theo Farrell said it was normal practice for any university benefactor to be invited to visit campus to observe the impact of their gift.

“Because concerns raised elsewhere about this aspect of the relationship prompted questions following our announcement, all parties wanted to ensure the MOU clearly conveyed what had always been our shared intention.

“Visits will be for observation and social functions—not for any formal teaching evaluation—so they will not impede UOW’s academic independence.

“This distinction will also be clear in the final contract,” Professor Farrell said.

UOW Vice-Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings CBE, said the MOU was very similar to many other agreements the University has signed.

“The most remarkable aspect of this agreement is the opportunities for students created by the relationship it establishes.

“Thanks to the Ramsay Centre, high-achieving students will be able to access a generous scholarship to undertake a world-class liberal arts program developed by UOW, taught by high calibre academics chosen by UOW and using methods and facilities that enable the personalised approach to teaching and learning for which this University has received international acclaim,” Professor Wellings said.

The agreement has been made publicly available on the university’s website and further staff information sessions are being held as part of the University’s ongoing staff engagement and communications program.

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