On the verge of liberal arts education: The case of MISH in Poland

Daniel Kontowski


The following article analyses MISH college, a liberal education program at the University of Warsaw (UW). The article is based on a critique of existing research on the issue, and proposes an inductive approach to defining liberal education. Reconstructing the coherent idea behind MISH contributes to both understanding of European liberal education and related methodological debate.

In 1993 MISH offered a small group of selected candidates an opportunity to develop cross-disciplinary, individual curricula and work with an academic tutor. The model spread to 9 Polish research universities, as well as 6 other institutions in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. Despite subsequent creation of a separate degree-granting program in Kolegium Artes Liberales UW in 2008, MISH continues to operate as a self-identifying liberal education program.

The Author claims that in the case of MISH, the aim (active, engaged and trusting academic community) and principles (critical thinking, communal thinking, and operational independence) are related to values (opposition, republicanism, autonomy). Organization of MISH complicates its classification, while its idea bears marks of a unique “variation on the theme” of liberal education in Europe. The article advocates for greater emphasis on diverse ideas of liberal education in the pluralist European higher education landscape.

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