New course to attract great minds

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 22 September, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 22 September, 2009, 12:00am

A new college recently set up at Sun Yat-Sen University is offering a very different sort of syllabus.

The liberal arts college offers a four-year course that covers ancient Chinese, ancient Greek, Latin, English, Chinese civilisation and Western civilisation.

According to the university, the college plans to accept 30 students. These students will receive a Bachelor of Philosophy in liberal arts education after their four years. Graduates with excellent results will be able to further study for the master's programme.

The university has employed Gan Yang, a former employee of the University of Hong Kong's Asia-Pacific research centre, as dean of the new college. He says the new curriculum requires students to read more and be more responsible for their own learning.

The purpose of the college is to foster 'polymaths' - great thinkers - people who are more concerned with global affairs and less bothered about financial gain.

'We want to enrol students who are ambitious and eager to become well-rounded individuals. Those who just want to make money are not welcome,' the dean says.

The timetable of the first term shows only three courses: The Books of Songs, which looks at the classic Chinese anthology, Latin and Ancient Greek Epics.

Students have four classes dedicated to The Books of Songs each week and three Latin lessons. With fewer courses and more homework, students have the opportunity to do more in-depth research.

The university's reform stirred a heated debate on the internet. Some don't believe the course will achieve what it set out to do, with one Netizen saying, 'Liberal arts education can not be accomplished only by a college.'

But others support the establishment of the college. Xiao Liping, a senior from Guangdong University of Foreign Studies, says: 'Although the college offers no definite major, I don't think it will affect graduates' employment opportunities because many graduates get jobs unrelated to their majors.

'Besides, one can learn a lot of topics from liberal arts education that mainstream degrees do not include.'