What can we learn from Liberal Arts and Sciences alumni?

By Victoria Mai

A recent study on Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) alumni, conducted by the University College Deans Network in cooperation with ROA, revealed interesting trends. In this text, I will summarise the most important findings of this study and will ideally help students appreciate the LAS education more by providing an insight into what the future holds for a University College graduate.

Skills of LAS:

LAS programs are known for their depth and width, their focus on academics meanwhile facilitating community involvement and allowing students to develop their diverse interests. Three main aspects which alumni value the most are the interdisciplinarity, the level of the academic program and its quality. In fact, 90% of the alumni were so satisfied with the LAS education that, in retrospect, if they were given the opportunity to have completed another bachelor’s degree, they would not. LAS prepares us for further education through the challenging workload and provides us with essential skills. Alumni have stated that excellent academic skills and intellectual curiosity, reflexivity and an open mind were the key two skills they have taken away from their education and used most often in their current workspace. This goes to show that current students should value this program and the possibility to gain deep knowledge in diverse subjects more.

During the LAS education students are exposed to different backgrounds and nationalities enabling people to engage with one another and learn while doing so. Through this, 74% of alumni established a valuable network during their studies, mostly benefitting from it socially but partly also professionally. Taking this as an indication, it would be advisable to start socializing and networking as your fellow pupils will specialize in many different topics, meaning that you will have contacts in a plethora of academic disciplines.

Bachelor-Master Transition:

After having completed the LAS bachelor, 89% of alumni continued their education by completing a master. Astonishingly, less than one third indicated that a University College helped them (to a very large extent) in finding a suitable master. However, we can notice that University Colleges are trying to better themselves in this sector by providing information sessions in partnership with companies and other universities. Nonetheless, a majority of alumni have attended or are attending highly ranked universities, but interestingly enough, alumni that have finished their master’s education already, compared to those that are still studying, have attended a larger amount of the top 100 universities (ranked by the Times Higher Education). Compared to this difference, a common trend that has arisen over the years is that specializations are beginning to spread out and cover a wider range of fields, but the top three interests for further education still lie with law, psychology and international relations.

However the process of getting into a master’s degree can be tricky for some. Meanwhile most of the LAS alumni get directly accepted to their educational program, some have to fulfill certain prerequisites. For example, currently 9% of alumni are completing a pre-master program and 25% of alumni were asked to take an extra course. In this case, it would be interesting to see if there is a field which predominantly expects students to take a pre-master or additional course, as this information might affect current LAS students and their decision-making when considering future master programs. Furthermore, it is common knowledge that most alumni find such courses “easy,” which indicates that the University Colleges and we as the UCSRN need to work on the recognition of our degree, as evidently students would not need such a pre-course.

Employment after LAS:

The majority of alumni (93%) are currently working for an employer, as a freelancer, own their own company or have a Ph.D. contract. Most of them have spread around the country and the globe, as a majority of alumni can be found in the Netherlands, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S.. Those employees, which makes up the largest sum of our alumni, are employed in the research related sector or hold an advisory position. Maybe some of the current LAS students now feel inspired to take additional statistics and research method related courses. This might be further motivated when we address the issue of income: when entering the job market most alumni make less than 2.000€ a month, but there is hope. Alumni who have graduated more than five years ago, at present, receive a monthly income of at least 4.000€.

Ultimately, as an LAS student our future looks fruitful and exciting. We built our own paths, created a network of international scholars and pupils, and got to develop invaluable skills needed to have a bright future.