European Liberal Education: renewal and re-formation

The Conference

Friday 1st September – Saturday 2nd September 2017
European Liberal Arts Education: renewal and re-formation

Last year Amsterdam University College held a conference on the resurgence of the liberal arts and sciences and core texts courses in Europe in association with ACTC (Association of Core Texts and Courses). It brought people together around a number of important themes and questions, such as the meaning of a well-rounded liberal education, the reading of and education in core texts, pedagogy, assessment techniques and big questions. Papers and discussions ranged from exploring the content and structure of a core texts curriculum to the importance of philosophical, historical, literary and cultural traditions and texts. These discussions were not only collegiate in character; they also opened the door for further links between colleagues, programmes, teaching and research across European institutions.

Our 2nd conference at the University of Winchester in September 2017, in cooperation with ACTC, seeks to continue and build on these discussions.

  • Philosophy | Literature | History | Arts

  • Politics | Anthropology | Sociology | Economics | Law

  • Biology | Physics | Mathematics.

The deadline for paper proposals and / or panel proposals is Monday 5th June 2017 (midnight).

Proposals are submitted by sending the following information to

Paper proposals

• Your name
• Affiliation
• E-mail address
• A title for the paper(s)
• A brief outline of paper (max. 250 words)


Panel proposals

• A title for and description of the panel theme (max. 250 words)

You will be notified whether your proposal can be accommodated before the end of June 2017.


Since the days of the Academy in Greece, liberal arts education, inside or outside of institutions, has shaped, at least, eight cultures and dialogues: Athens’s, Rome’s, Christianity’s as a synthesis of Rome and Jerusalem, Medieval universities, Renaissance Humanism, the Scientific Revolution, Romanticism and the Enlightenment. It may be that the time has come again for liberal arts education to re-shape and re-envision our idea of education, the world or, more practically, the canon of great books to be taught. Perhaps one cannot change our world for the better without knowing where we have been. In this sense, core texts help to ground us. And perhaps one cannot refashion the future unless one knows and understands something of the dialogues, inventions and innovations the liberal arts, then and now, are capable of.

With this in mind, the conference invites delegates who use core texts in one way or another in their courses, and especially in a liberal arts and sciences or interdisciplinary environment, to once again reflect on the role of liberal arts education. But, in particular, and in a time of social, political, financial, ecological and philosophical uncertainty in Europe, and rising populism, the conference asks delegates to consider what re-newed or re-formed visions liberal arts or core text courses might hold for the education, citizenry, and cultures of Europe.

We take a core text to be any text that has stood or is likely to stand the test of time, from Plato to Derrida, from Homer to Dostoyevsky, from Augustine to Gandhi, from Irigaray to Morrison. The conference defines core texts in an inclusive way as any classic text that provides the foundation for a shared discourse whether from the Western or non-Western tradition, from ancient to (post-) modern time periods, and embedded in the humanities - philosophy, literature, history, and the arts - the social sciences – politics, anthropology, sociology, economics, and law – or the natural sciences – biology, physics, mathematics.

Papers are required to be short (seminar style essay, approximately 5 pages double spaced). The usual presentation time allotted to each paper is 12-15 minutes. Panels should be designed to encourage lively liberal arts and sciences discussions, not only about teaching and skills but also about the content of the liberal arts and the liberal sciences. Those who wish to be active in planning panels or papers may wish to join the Association for Core Texts and Courses annual conference in Dallas, April 20-23, 2017 where there will be a planning meeting for the forthcoming European conference.
Visit for registration information.


Rebekah Howes, Programme Leader, Modern Liberal Arts, University of Winchester
Emma Cohen de Lara, Lecturer Political Theory, Amsterdam University College
Gesche Keding, Leuphana College
Álvaro Sánchez-ostiz Gutiérrez, Navarra University

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International speakers confirmed

Carl Gombrich

Programme Director, Arts and Sciences (BASc) University College London
Carl has degrees in Maths, Physics and Philosophy and was a professional opera singer before joining UCL in 2002. He taught physics at UCL. In September 2010, he was appointed as to lead the development and launch of UCL’s major new interdisciplinary liberal Arts and Sciences BASc degrees.

Murray Pratt

Dean of Amsterdam University College
Prof. Dr. Murray Pratt is Dean of Amsterdam University College. Pratt obtained a MA (Hons) in English and French from the University of Glasgow, and holds a PhD (DPhil) in Modern and Medieval Languages and Literature from the University of Oxford

Elizabeth Stuart

Deputy Vice-Chancellor University of Winchester
Professor Elizabeth Stuart joined the University in 1998 as a Professor of Christian Theology and Director of the Centre for the Study of Theology and Religion. She became Director of Research and Knowledge Transfer in 2005 being appointed Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic) in 2008, and then Deputy Vice-Chancellor in 2013.

Joshua Parens

Braniff Graduate School Dean, Professor, Institute of Philosophic Studies Director, Philosophy Ph.D. Program Director, University of Dallas
Joshua Parens is Professor of Philosophy and Politics and has been Dean of the Braniff Graduate School of Liberal Arts and Director of the Institute of Philosophic Studies, the only PhD program in the US, possibly the world, with a required core curriculum, at the University of Dallas, since 2013.

José M. Torralba

Director of the Core Curriculum Institute and Associate Professor at the Department of Philosophy, University of Navarra (Spain)
José was visiting scholar at the University of Chicago (2010-2012). He specializes in action theory and moral philosophy and has published on Leibniz, Kant, Hegel and Anscombe. He is also the author of articles on liberal education and the mission of the university.

‘When one day our humankind becomes full-grown, it will not define itself as the sum total of the whole world’s inhabitants, but as the infinite unity of their mutual needs’ (Sartre)

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