Guide to Indian Liberal Arts Schools • Undergraduate
The Revival of Liberal Arts Education in India
POSTED ON 12/12/2023 BY The Red Pen
The echoes of liberal education once resonated within the hallowed halls of ancient Indian universities like Taxila and Nalanda. But as the colonial education system took precedence, its fixed curriculum and the allure of vocational degrees captivated minds, and the vibrant spirit of liberal arts began to wane. Fast forward to current times. In a globalised world where success demands more than a vocational mindset, liberal arts education is seeing a massive revival in India. Additionally, the 2020 National Education Policy (NEP) reforms reignited a focus on holistic, interdisciplinary education, encouraging universities to teach liberal arts.
Why pursue a liberal arts education in India?
1) India is poised to become one of the world’s leading educational hubs
Liberal Arts education in India is experiencing a significant upswing, thanks to the impetus provided by the NEP 2020. Simultaneously, the country’s educational landscape is on a notable growth trajectory, poised to achieve a substantial market value of US$ 225 billion by 2025. The All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) foresees a surge in the Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) for higher education, projected to reach 50 percent by 2035.
Additionally, In 2021, there was a remarkable 146 percent increase in applications for the ‘Study In India’ programme, which aims to promote India as a leading destination for international education by inviting students worldwide to pursue higher education here.
2) New-age Indian colleges offering a liberal arts education are globally recognised and have international affiliations
Renowned for fostering holistic education and cultivating critical thinking through a multidisciplinary approach, Indian liberal arts colleges have partnerships with renowned international universities. These partnerships facilitate international academic exchange, develop scientific relationships, support collaborative research activities and develop student exchange programmes. For example, Ashoka University has several partnerships with institutions like Boston University, Cornell University, HEC Paris, King’s College London, London School of Economics and Political Science, National Taiwan University, and others. Jindal School of Liberal Arts, on the other hand, boast partnerships with 150+ universities spanning more than 40 countries and provides extensive study-abroad opportunities.
3) New-age Indian colleges offer an affordable world-class liberal arts education
Compared to their international counterparts, Indian liberal arts colleges are distinguished not only by their commitment to a broad-based education but also by their affordability, making quality education more accessible. For example, the annual tuition fee for a four-year undergraduate programme at Williams College, a US Liberal Arts college, is $ 64,540. However, at Indian liberal arts colleges like Ashoka University, the fee is substantially lower at approximately $11,683.
What are the top new-age Indian universities offering a liberal arts education
|Annual Fee (INR)
|Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Economics, English, History, Mathematics, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology.
|Mathematics, Design, Computer Science, Data Science & Economics, Environmental Studies, International Studies, Music, Marketing
|Sri City, Andhra Pradesh
|MBA, Business Studies, Economics, History, Philosophy, Politics, Social Studies, Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Computer Science
|SAS Nagar, Punjab
|Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence, Biological Systems Engineering, Robotics, Data Science, Economics, Business.
|Symbiosis School For Liberal Arts
|Mathematics, Statistics, Computer Studies, English, Economics, Psychology, Sociology, Philosophy, Anthropology, History, Media Studies, Business Studies, International Relations and Political Science & Public Policy, Biology, Women and Gender Studies, Film Studies, Peace and Conflict Studies, Physics, Performing Arts, Law.
|Shiv Nadar University
|Gautam Buddha Nagar, UP
Chennai, Tamil Nadu
|Management Studies, Engineering, Biotechnology, Chemistry, Mathematics, Physics, Economics and Finance, Sociology, International Relations
|Jindal School Of Liberal Arts (O.P. Jindal Global University)
|Law, Business, Languages, Journalism, International Affairs, Public Health, Banking & Finance, Psychology, Architecture
|Arts, Business, Commerce, Economics, Mathematics, Life Sciences, Computer Science, Engineering
|4,00,000 (Undergraduate Programmes other than BTech)
1) Ashoka University
Established in 2014 and spanning 25 acres in Sonepat, Haryana, Ashoka University is just an hour and a half away from the International Airport and New Delhi Railway Station. It provides a comprehensive and engaging four-year undergraduate degree programme that allows students to develop diverse perspectives within and outside the classroom. Students explore courses across various disciplines, delve into extra-curricular and co-curricular pursuits, and uncover new passions. Commencing from the Monsoon intake, students can select from 12 pure majors or 11 interdisciplinary majors like Computer Science and Entrepreneurial Leadership, Mathematics and Computer Science, English and Media Studies, and History and International Relations, among others.
To earn a degree, students must complete credit-bearing modules of foundation courses, major courses (including interdisciplinary majors), co-curricular courses, and internships. While students begin with foundation courses that introduce them to multidisciplinary approaches, they start taking courses towards their specialisation in the second semester. They are expected to must declare their major in the third semester. Students are also encouraged to opt for minors in subjects outside their majors. The university also hosts Critical Thinking Seminars that help students acquire superior writing, critical thinking and communication skills.
Ashoka University has strategic global partnerships with institutions, including the University of Cambridge, Yale University, University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford University. These collaborations allow students to apply for engaging summer courses and research programmes, fostering collaborative teaching, training, and research initiatives. The 11:1 student-to-faculty ratio provides students with ample opportunities to learn from some of the finest minds in the country and globally. For instance, Valerie Ross, Director of the Marks Family Center for Excellence in Writing at the University of Pennsylvania, leads the Critical Writing Programme in a research collaboration with Ashoka University.
For the academic year 2023-24, Ashoka University plans to disburse an estimated INR 100+ crore for financial aid towards need and merit-based scholarships benefiting approximately 51 percent of the students. From the 2022 cohort, 351 students secured placements in prominent companies, including McKinsey, BCG, American Express, Citibank, Genpact and Godrej. Additionally, some graduates choose to work in the non-profit sector, with positions at organisations like the World Bank, WWF, Amnesty International, National Rural Livelihoods Mission, and the UN.
2) FLAME University
Situated on a sprawling 70-acre campus in Pune, FLAME University seeks to ignite the creativity of young minds and nurture innovation. It’s intense curriculum caters to worldly interests that expand across five schools: FLAME School of Liberal Education, FLAME School of Computing and Data Sciences, FLAME School of Business, FLAME School of Communication and FLAME School of Design, Art & Performance.
FLAME University offers four-year undergraduate degrees with an exit option after three years. The curriculum includes foundation courses, specialisation courses (major and minor) with combinations, experiential learning courses, value-added courses, project-based courses (in the optional fourth year), and open elective courses. 30 percent of students at FLAME are on scholarships and need-based support. This initiative aligns with FLAME University’s dedication to fostering academic excellence and aims to attract the most talented students applying for admission to its undergraduate programmes.
Featuring 24 majors, each complemented by a minimum of 8 corresponding minors, students have the freedom to craft their unique major-minor pairings from a pool of over 350 possibilities. This flexibility allows for intriguing combinations that span diverse disciplines and cater to individual interests. An example of an interdisciplinary education at FLAME University is the Data Science and Economics Programme. It equips students with comprehensive skills for analysing socio-economic and business data, preparing them for diverse career opportunities spanning various sectors, from business and government to healthcare, advertising, entertainment, and technology.
The university maintains an impressive faculty-student ratio of 1:10, ensuring personalised attention and a conducive learning environment. The faculty is an acclaimed group of researchers whose teaching is augmented by the contemporariness of their academic knowledge and real world experience, making FLAME a conducive learning environment. It also actively participates in collaborative, exchange, and study abroad programmes with several prestigious global institutions, including Yale University, Brown University, IE University, Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, and Wellesley College. These initiatives give students and faculty a worldwide perspective and prepare them for leadership roles in an interconnected world.
Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) has awarded FLAME University an overall Diamond ranking, along with Diamond rankings in Academic Development, Diversity and Accessibility, Facilities, Faculty Quality, and Research Parameters.
3) Krea University
Krea University’s sprawling 40-acre campus is in Sri City, Andhra Pradesh. The university’s distinctive Interwoven Learning model represents an innovative approach that shapes the student.
Krea University’s majors are writing-intensive, interdisciplinary, and research-based, emphasising ethics, historical perspectives, and immersive experiences. Students take core courses and skill courses. While core courses offer a comprehensive introduction to various subjects, enabling them to identify suitable majors, the skill courses teach Communication, Introduction to Computer Science, Design Thinking and other marketable skills. The university offers majors and minors in humanities and social sciences, literature and arts, and natural sciences. All students (regardless of concentration) write a Capstone Thesis in their final year. True to its interdisciplinary approach, Krea University also offers unique joint majors like Economics and Environment Studies, Politics and History, and Literature and Arts.
The university offers a four-year course granting a BA (Honours) or BSc (Honours) degree and a three-year course with a BA or BSc degree. The student-teacher ratio at the institution is 12:1, ensuring a personalised and conducive learning environment. It also provides internships, research experiences, global immersions, and an Industry Partner Programme. Their global immersions, offered as summer programmes, provide opportunities to participate in forward-thinking initiatives such as the Data and Policy Program at the University of Chicago or explore courses focused on Sustainable Development Goals at Nottingham Trent University.
4) Plaksha University
Founded in 2019, Plaksha University boasts a thoughtfully planned 50-acre campus in SAS Nagar, Punjab (Chandigarh Tricity). The university distinguishes itself through innovative interdisciplinary BTech degrees, encompassing Biological Systems Engineering, Robotics and Cyber-Physical Systems, Data Science economics and business, and computer science and artificial intelligence. The eight-semester curriculum teaches computing skills and emphasises efficient Programming Language and Solution Analysis. Along with the courses, students engage in real-world projects that demand logical problem-solving. Students can explore various majors during the initial three semesters before officially selecting their major.
The distinguished faculty members at Plaksha come from renowned institutions such as MIT, Stanford, Cornell, University of Cambridge, NTU Singapore, IIT, IISc, and more. The faculty-student ratio at Plaksha University is exceptional at 1:6, fostering active and personal engagement between students and faculty. Top global institutions engage with Plaksha in curriculum design, delivery, faculty and student exchange, and collaborative research, including partnerships with institutions such as UC Berkeley and Purdue University.
Many students in the BTech Class of 2025 completed internships at leading companies and universities like Airtel, Ernst and Young, HCL Technologies, Brown University, Orangewood Labs, Indegene, Metaverse and Gaming with Dave.Ai, University of Warwick, University of California, SUTD, IIT Delhi, IIT Mumbai and more. This year students have secured their third year internships at companies like Mircosoft, Arcesium, Boston Consulting Group, J M Financial and several others. Plaksha has provided over INR 11 crore in financial aid, with 70 percent of its students benefiting from scholarships.
5) Symbiosis School For Liberal Arts
Located in Pune, Symbiosis School for Liberal Arts (SSLA) fosters intellectual freedom and growth through a balanced approach to theory, practice, and experiential knowledge. It is also one of two Indian institutes to join the Alliance of Asian Liberal Arts Universities.
The four-year Bachelor of Arts (Liberal Arts) Honours Degree and Bachelor of Science (Liberal Arts) Honours Degree programmes, spanning eight semesters, require a minimum of 198 credits for graduation. The curriculum comprises 20 core courses, covering diverse skill-oriented subjects and allows for specialisation through 6 electives, one minor, and one major. Majors and minors include Mathematics and Statistics, Computer Studies, English, Economics, Psychology, Sociology, Philosophy, Anthropology, History, Media Studies, Business Studies, International Relations, Political Science and Public Policy, and more. The programme emphasises practical knowledge applicable across professions and promotes academic and personal growth through internships, research projects, and a community outreach project. Students can also complete the degree with additional minors, electives, or a second major.
The university facilitates semester-long exchange programmes, sending at least three students globally each semester to study courses of their choice and earn transferable credits upon SCIE approval. SSLA also collaborates with institutions like Bournemouth University for summer and winter programmes, fostering global cultural immersion and knowledge exchange. Its Floating Credit Semesters enable undergraduates to study abroad without strict adherence to their current course content, earning and seamlessly transferring credits.
SSLA provides various scholarships, like the Symbiosis Golden Jubilee, a full scholarship to support the students financially. In 2022-23, 218 students secured jobs with a placement rate of over 43 percent. In recent years, SSLA has welcomed industry leaders, including Deloitte, EY, PwC, KPMG, Wipro, Goldman Sachs, Northern Trust, Credit Suisse, and Deutsche Bank for placements.
6) Shiv Nadar University
Shiv Nadar University (SNU) is a multidisciplinary, student-centric research university established in 2011. While its 286-acre residential campus in Delhi NCR accommodates over 2500 students, with a faculty and staff of 250 members, the sprawling Chennai campus is home to 4000 students. Its undergraduate curriculum empowers students to choose a major and explore various electives spanning different disciplines. This flexibility in crafting individualised academic journeys allows students to unlock their full potential and cultivate essential capabilities crucial for success.
SNU has five schools: the School of Engineering, the School of Natural Sciences, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, the School of Management and Entrepreneurship and the Academy of Continuing Education. It is the first institution in India to establish a Center for Genomics and Spatial Transcriptomics (STOMICS).
The school offers a unique multidisciplinary curriculum for undergraduates. While students concentrate on their majors, they must diversify and acquire knowledge outside their majors. For example, Shrey Jain, SNU alumni and recipient of Forbes Asia’s ’30 under 30′, integrated Electrical and Communication Engineering with a minor in history. The core curriculum requires a minimum of 18 credits, while the major requires a minimum of 108 credits. Students must also choose from university-wide electives amounting to at least 18 credits. This approach ensures that graduates, equipped with expertise in their respective fields and a well-rounded perspective, are prepared to meet the evolving challenges of the dynamic world. Unique degree offerings at Shiv Nadar University include a joint major in Economics and Finance and a B.Tech in Chemical Engineering, specialising in Biochemical Engineering.
The institution has several international collaborations for study abroad, co-op programmes, professional development, and research ventures, including the University of California Berkeley (US), the University of Warwick (England), the University of Bologna (Italy), and institutions in China, Vietnam, and Taiwan.
SNU has 450+ employment partners, resulting in 93 percent of its students securing placements in top organisations, including Ernst & Young, Bank of America, Boston Consulting Group, American Express, ANZ, Willis Towers Watson, PricewaterhouseCoopers, CBRE, Dell, Deloitte, Nagarro, Futures First, and Xceedance. Shiv Nadar University offers a range of scholarships, including merit-based, need-based, sports-based scholarships, and scholarships for international students.
7) Jindal School of Liberal Arts
Jindal School of Liberal Arts (JSLU) is the fifth school within O. P. Jindal Global University in Sonepat, Haryana. The school delivers an interdisciplinary liberal arts education that meets global standards. Its mission is to cultivate informed global citizens capable of addressing the intricate challenges of our era through diverse perspectives and creative approaches. The faculty, drawn from esteemed institutions worldwide, guides students through rigorous classroom study and experiential learning. Graduates emerge well-prepared to navigate the world’s diverse challenges, equipped with a comprehensive education that extends beyond conventional boundaries.
True to its parent university, it boasts a commendable faculty-student ratio of 1:9, ensuring personalised attention and academic excellence. While the university offers more than 45 undergraduate and graduate programmes, JSLU offers a BA (Hons) in Sociology and a Bachelor of Fine Arts (Hons). O.P. Jindal Global University has also fostered collaborations with numerous institutions and universities worldwide, facilitating collaborative research endeavours with significant global impact. The university also has global dual-degree programmes across its schools, allowing students to earn degrees from Jindal Global School of Liberal Arts and prestigious partner institutions, including Cornell University, Singapore Management University, and King’s College London, enhancing educational opportunities and global perspectives. The university also granted over 2,000 scholarships for the 2024-25 academic year, benefiting 60 percent of incoming students.
8) Ahmedabad University
The Ahmedabad University, situated on a sprawling 158-acre campus in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, is a unique institution with the distinct advantage of its central location in a vibrant and secure city. With a vision to be a global leader in liberal arts education integrated within a research university framework, it attracts a diverse student body of 3,500 individuals from 22 Indian states and seven countries.
It comprises several schools and learning centres and offers 24 majors, spanning Humanities, Arts, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Management, Commerce and Engineering. Each degree allows students to explore more than one area of interest and craft a unique learning experience. The undergraduate programme typically requires students to complete 120 to 146 credits and includes a foundation programme, general education requirements, major requirements, free electives and volunteerism. The university has a unique approach towards interdisciplinary majors where students can choose and combine areas of interest as part of their degree programme.
Ahmedabad University boasts a wide-ranging network of national and global partners, offering students access to esteemed faculty from renowned institutions worldwide, such as IIMs, IITs, IISc, The Wharton School, Stanford University, MIT, and Harvard University. This collaborative environment enriches the learning experience and promotes academic excellence.
With international affiliations, affordable tuition, and a commitment to holistic education, new age colleges in India offering a liberal arts education are all set to transform the country into a leading educational destination. You may read our blog on What is Liberal Arts Education – Is It for You? However, if you need more information or assistance in applying to Indian liberal arts colleges, please get in touch. Our undergraduate team looks forward to hearing from you.