The University of Wollongong’s mission to create a new generation of critical thinkers achieved a prime milestone in 2020. At the close of that eventful year, the inaugural cohort of scholars studying the Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation completed their first year of study. A $50 million, eight-year gift from the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation, established by late Australian businessman Paul Ramsay AO, endowed scholarships worth $30,000 for up to five years to support that first cohort of 30 students from various backgrounds, which included giving them access to approved domestic and international study experiences.
Led by its primary architect, Senior Professor Daniel D. Hutto from the School of Liberal Arts, the course aims to reinvigorate the study of liberal arts and foster interest in exploring the masterworks of Western civilisation. Encouraged to think and speak freely and critically, students have closely examined classic works of art, literature, religion, science and philosophy. They have become participants in abiding conversations, discussions and debates that hone their analytic and dialectical abilities and thus equip them to think critically and creatively when addressing future challenges and complexities.
Three Ramsay Scholars shared personal reflections of their first year studying a double degree in Western Civilisation and Laws.
Bangor, NSW – Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation/Bachelor of Laws
“One thing I wanted to share was the importance of the aspects of the degree, which goes beyond [getting to grips] with the ideas of, say, Kant or Aristotle. The skills and abilities that the degree imparts – problem solving, critical thinking – allow you to grow within yourself. The ability to deeply analyse things is of value not only in the study of philosophy, history and literature; it can be applied to all of the challenges we face in the modern world. I know already, through the study of this degree, I’ve been able to look at things
I thought I knew in life and to have new ideas about those topics and to question what I used to think. I know with more study my mind will only expand and grow. It’s important not just develop and use these abilities for study at university, but to apply them to one’s life as a whole.
The Ramsay Scholarship has allowed me to not only live on campus, but live comfortably and to give me time, where I would otherwise be working, to devote to my studies, to my assessments and to properly dive into the great texts. I’m able to study unencumbered, where a lot of my friends who study here have to balance their studies with two or three jobs off campus.”
Shellharbour, NSW – Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation/Bachelor of Laws
“I would explain the core of this degree as conversing with the greatest and most influential ideas and masterpieces in human history, trying to understand them and how they shape us.
I think the best part is when I’m listening to a lecturer or reading a book and have those ‘ah-ha’ moments. You go “Wow” this is something I’ve really been thinking about and it just speaks to you on a deeper level. Applying those insights in my own life has been awesome.
Having this scholarship means that I can put my full energy and attention into engaging with these classic books because I think, whether you’re studying this course or not, to engage with the great books of the world has immense value and means a lot to me. It also means that, once I graduate, I’ll be not only equipped with the skills of arguments and expressing those arguments, but financially more stable, which will also help my parents to pay for my brother’s last year of uni. This scholarship also means a lot because of the connections that come with it. It’s great that I have world-leading academics in reach, supporting this degree and me in my endeavours.”
Deakin, ACT – Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation/Bachelor of Laws
“I like to be in front of things. I like to challenge things because I think, if you leave them how they are, nothing ever changes. Being part of a degree that challenges the way we think and how we see arts and humanities – how we see history and philosophy – is really important to me. I didn’t want a stock standard degree, I wanted to be a part of something.
Being able to discuss sophisticated ideas and have deep conversations at such a young age with people who have so much knowledge is an opportunity that makes you, not re-evaluate everything, but rather re-evaluate how you see yourself in the world. I think that helps you grow as a person and find your place in the world.
This scholarship is a huge responsibility. You’re one of 30 people, and you’re an ambassador in a way because you’re one of the first students to have it [the scholarship]. For me, it’s an opportunity to live my university life to the best that I can.”