Liberal Arts Education

by Fujia Yang (Author)
©2021 Monographs XX, 182 Pages


This book traces the historical background of liberal arts education from west to east, expounds its implication and fundamental goal of universities, and introduces its application in Western and Chinese universities, particularly its experimentation at University of Nottingham Ningbo China. It takes the University of Nottingham Ningbo China as an example to introduce readers to the achievements and shortcomings of British education in the process of implementing liberal arts education. The author summarises the five elements of liberal arts education: "Bo": integration of arts and sciences, cross-discipline, seeking in-depth knowledge on the basis of extensive learning, understanding the new and gaining a wide knowledge of the old; "Ya": human beings first, professionals second; being committed to student-centred idea, prioritizing education among all work; encouraging questioning; and very abundant, organized extra-curriculum classes. This book will appeal to anyone who is interested in liberal arts education and the comparison between Western and Chinese education. It advocates that in order to meet the needs of all aspects of society, the structure of China’s education must be diversified for the realization of the China dream. This book will appeal to teachers and students, educators, and readers interested in education.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Preface of the Fourth Edition
  • Preface of the Third Edition
  • Acknowledgments
  • Chapter 1 History of the Development of Liberal Arts Education
  • Liberal Arts Education in the West
  • Liberal Arts Education in China: The Embodiment of Liberal Arts Education in Ancient Chinese Confucian Classics
  • The Real Academy: Inspired by a Visit to Hong Kong and Macao Residential College
  • Appendix: The Analogy Made by Mr. Lv Shuxiang (Ye Shengtao)
  • Chapter 2 Know Widely: Science, Literature and History
  • The Integration of Science, Literature and History
  • Appendix 1: New General Education Outline of Harvard University
  • Appendix 2: The Core Curriculum of Stanford University
  • Appendix 3: Gary Locke’s Speech on June 28, 2013 (Media Report)
  • Appendix 4: Yau Shing-Tung’s Speech on July 25, 2014 (Media Report)
  • Appendix 5: Yau Shing-Tung Sent a Message to Young Students: Think from a Historical Perspective
  • Appendix 6: Where Does the Original Power of the Great Scholars Come From?
  • Chapter 3 Elegance: Human Beings First, Professionals Second
  • Imparting Knowledge and Educating People, Transmitting Wisdom and Resolving Doubts
  • Appendix: An Open Letter to All the Students of Gezhi High School of Shanghai China
  • Appendix: Environment-Friendly Architecture and the Right Attitude
  • Chapter 4 The Fundamental Goal of Universities
  • The Fundamental Goal of Universities Lies in Educating People
  • Appendix: The Yale Report of 1828 (Selected)
  • Chapter 5 I Love Plato, but I Love Truth More
  • Questioning the Key to Nurturing Outstanding Talents
  • First Visit to Oxford University Residential College
  • Copenhagen Spirit: Commemoration of the 100 Anniversaries of the Publication of the Niels Bohr’s Trilogy, the Structure of Atomic and Molecular
  • Rethinking “Kong Rong Gave Up the Biggest Pear but I Don’t”
  • Chapter 6 Abundant Organized Extra-Curriculum Activities
  • The Students’ Societies, Social Practices and Students’ Scientific Research Activities
  • Teachers and Students in “Chun-Tsung Program” Paid a Visit to Mr. Tsung-Dao Lee in the United State
  • Appendix 1: Masters and Development of Gifted Talents—Written When the Professor Was 80 Years Old
  • Appendix 2: Dialogues between Science and Art
  • Appendix 3: Creativity: The Common Basis of Science and Art
  • Appendix 4: More about the Development of Third Classroom (MOOC)
  • Chapter 7 Implementing Educational Principle and Liberal Arts Education
  • Carry “Liberal Arts” Through the Developments of Talents
  • Learning Wen Jiabao Talking about Education
  • Appendix: A Letter from Premier Wen Jiabao on September 14, 2007
  • From “Geological Notes,” We Can See the “Bo” and “Ya” of Education
  • Chapter 8 Liberal Arts Colleges in the United States
  • Overview of Liberal Arts Colleges in the United States
  • Overview of American Liberal Arts College
  • Appendix 1: A News Report on the National College Freshmen Survey
  • Appendix 2: Liberal Arts College, Small and Beautiful
  • Appendix 3: 2014 American Liberal Arts College Rankings
  • Chapter 9 University of Nottingham Ningbo China: High-Quality Education and Cultivation of High-Quality International Talents—Preliminary Examination of Liberal Arts Education
  • “Combination of Chinese and Western Education”
  • The First Sino-foreign Cooperative University in China
  • Ningbo Nottingham University (UNNC) has gone through 10 years. Can it be replicated?
  • Does Chinese Education Defeat British Education
  • A Dialogue with Yang Fujia, President of UNNC
  • Excellent Students
  • Appendix 1: News Report 1 UNNC SIFE Team Won the First Runner-up in the 2010 SIFE World Cup Global Finals
  • Appendix 2: News Report 2 UNNC Students Won the First Prize in the International Architectural Design Competition
  • Appendix 3: A Letter From a Master Graduate—Comments on My Study at UNNC
  • Appendix 4: Letters from Two Undergraduates
  • Appendix 5: A Letter from a Graduating Student
  • Postscript: School Should Create Good Atmosphere to Cultivate First-class Students
  • A Summary of the Symposium on Liberal Arts Education in China
  • Appendix: Liberal Arts Education and Oriental Culture (Pan Guoju)
  • Chapter 10 One May Distinguish Himself in Any Trade
  • Education Develops in a Balanced Way, One May Distinguish Himself in Any Trade
  • Differences between Chinese and Foreign Views on Vocational Education
  • Appendix 1: James Watt and Adam Smith
  • Appendix 2: Decisions of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China on Several Major Issues Concerning the Comprehensive Deepening of Reform (excerpts)
  • Xi Jinping: Accelerate the Development of Vocational Education So That Everyone Has a Brilliant Opportunity in Life
  • I Have a Dream
  • Concluding Remarks The Chinese Dream: Primarily One about Education

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Preface (the fourth edition)

In April 2014, the 1st “International Liberal Arts Education Conference” was held at University of Nottingham, Ningbo China. Prior to this conference, Fudan University Press published Liberal Arts Education (for inside view), on the basis of which, the first and second edition was published in succession.

In October 2015, the 2nd “International Liberal Arts Education Conference” was held in Singapore. And the World Scientific Publishing Company of Singapore published the Singapore version of Liberal Arts Education for this conference. After that, Fudan University Press, deciding to learn from the renowned publishing company in Singapore, published the 3rd edition of Liberal Arts Education.

The 4th edition of Liberal Arts Education is published especially for the coming of the 3rd “International Liberal Arts Education Conference” in April next year. In addition to the correction of some clerical error, the 4th edition involves several new articles.

At the end of Chapter 6, related articles including “Masters and Development of Gifted Talents” are added, which is originally completed for the celebration of Tsung-Dao Lee’s 88-year-old birthday, now being used to celebrate his 90-year-old birthday.

At the end of Chapter 7, “From ‘Geological Notes’, We Can See the ‘Bo’ and ‘Ya’ of Education” is added.

←ix | x→

Another article “Does Chinese Education Defeat British Education—A Dialogue with Yang Fujia, President of UNNC” is added to articles introducing University of Nottingham, Ningbo China in Chapter 9.

Article “I Have a Dream” is added before the epilogue.

Thanks to the contributions made by Mr. Yang Liu, and the industrious work of Fan Renmei, the editor-in-charge for the publishing of this book.

December 2016

←x | xi→


Preface (the third edition)

The Chinese dream, in my opinion, is first of all a dream of education. Education is fundamental to national rejuvenation, prosperity, and technological advancement. How to improve education? I believe that liberal arts education can facilitate China’s education. My knowledge and experience of liberal arts education do not come overnight. When I was the president of Fudan University, I did not know well about liberal arts education.

Before 1990, I was mainly engaged in teaching and research of physics. However, when I was elected as an academician of the Chinese Academy of Sciences in 1991, and served as the president of Fudan University in 1993, I embarked on the road of education management.

From the first day of the 21st century, I have served as chancellor1 of the University of Nottingham. It was the third time I came to the UK when I saw the Queen of England in February 2001. I, however, have been to the United States more than 60 times. Naturally, I constantly compare the similarities and differences between British and American education. The first feeling is that the two differ greatly. American education was brought in from the United Kingdom: the British, coming to the New World in the Mayflower, did three things first: running schools, building churches, and post offices. It was when Harvard University was established. However, higher education in the United States developed better than that in the UK. They replaced the education model of 7+3 in the UK with the 6+2+2 ←xi | xii→model. The United Kingdom believed that seven years’ study of general education in secondary schools was enough for education in different majors once entering college. The division of majors was even delicate than the Soviet model adopted by China. However, many research universities in the United States believed that seven years of general education is not enough, so they adopted 6+2+2 for general education, that is, six years of high school, no division of majors in the first two years after entering a university, and even the next two years saw little professional education about different majors. General education ran through from middle school to undergraduate education, and the actual education in majors was carried out after graduation. For example, students in Yale University only had the access to 11 professional colleges such as medical school, law school, and business school after four years of undergraduate education. From this point of view, there was a huge difference between education in the UK and the United States. However, I soon realized that the so-called general education should actually be Liberal Arts Education, which had a variety of translation, such as general education, quality education, and free education. Some schools that implement liberal education were called Liberal Arts Colleges and Faculty of Humanities, but the translation of “liberal arts” could more reflect its connotation and beauty. “Bo” meant broad knowledge, and “Ya” meant excellent personal quality.

Liberal Arts Colleges and some of the world’s top research universities such as Harvard University and Yale University that implement liberal arts education in the United States are the best undergraduate universities in the United States and even the world. And American elites, for example, all American presidents after the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and the United States are without exception from such undergraduate universities.

What about the United Kingdom? In fact, after I understood the elements of liberal arts education, the differences between the UK and the United States were not as great as I originally thought.

After visiting the liberal arts colleges in the United States, I summarized their common points, namely the five elements of liberal arts education:

(1)“Bo”: integration of arts and sciences, cross-discipline, seeking in-depth knowledge on the basis of extensive learning; understanding the new and gaining a wide knowledge of the old.

(2)“Ya”: Human beings first, professionals second. A gentleman accommodates things with great virtues, being aware of virtues, abiding by virtues, and keeping himself from personal interests.

(3)Being committed to student-centered idea, prioritizing education among all work.

←xii |

(4)Encourage questioning, “I love Plato, but I love truth more,” which is fully reflected in the major classes that involve mainly small classes; the idea of “Ren” can be appreciated when one is erudite and dedicated, and is eager to ask and think.

(5)A very abundant organized extra-curriculum classes: a large number of student societies, various social practice activities and scientific research projects in which students participate, occupying a very important position in their learning process, and unity of knowledge and action.

The first two mentioned above are the purpose and the last three are measures. For the last four points, universities in the UK are doing quite well.

Since having been the chancellor of the University of Nottingham in the UK for 12 years, and especially 10 years as the president of University of Nottingham Ningbo China (hereinafter referring as UNNC), I have studied and pondered higher education, especially liberal arts education, along the process. UNNC was the first university in China with the attribute of Sino-foreign cooperative education. Ten-year school practice proved that students in universities that implemented liberal arts education could be inspired greater potential and had outstanding performance in consciousness, creativity, teamwork, and social responsibility, which gave me more confidence in practicing liberal arts education in China.

In Chapter 1, this book will introduce the reader to the history of liberal arts education. It is divided into two parts: liberal arts education in the West and liberal arts education in China.

Latin expression for Liberal Arts is Artes Liberales. The term liberal arts education can be traced back to the ancient Greek period. By the time of ancient Rome and the Renaissance, liberal arts education was further developed.

The Yale Report of 1828 was published in the 19th century, which was the first historical document of liberal arts education. Next was Newman’s “The Idea of a University,” published in 1873. It was a classic work on higher education, advocating liberal arts education in university.


XX, 182
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (April)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2021. XX, 182 pp., 13. b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Fujia Yang (Author)

Yang Fujia (post-doctor, Niels Bohr Institute) is Professor at Fudan University (1980-present) and also President of The University of Nottingham Ningbo China (since 2004). His publications include Modern Atomic and Nuclear Physics (with Joseph Hamilton) and Atomic Physics. Jiarui Zhang (post-doctor, University of Melbourne) is Vice Dean and Professor at Southwestern University of Finance and Economics of China. He is the translator of The Education of an Accidental CEO: Lessons Learned from the Trailer Park to the Corner Office.


Title: Liberal Arts Education