Professor Martina Möllering is the Executive Dean, Faculty of Arts at Macquarie University, having previously served as Macquarie’s Head of Department of European Languages and Head of the Department of International Studies. As an expert of international standing in Language Studies and Linguistics, her research outputs have covered different areas of second language acquisition, pragmatics and intercultural learning as well as computer-assisted language learning. She has presented a substantial number of papers in these fields at national and international conferences and her research has been published in sole-authored and co-edited books, as well as in numerous book chapters and internationally recognized journals. In an exclusive interaction with the Higher Education Digest, Prof. Martina Möllering talks about the rising popularity of Liberal Arts/Humanities education, MQ’s new double degree program, and many more.
- What is your opinion about the Indian Liberal Arts/Humanities education ecosystem and talent available here?
I believe that there is an enormous amount of talent in the Liberal Arts/Humanities sector of the Indian education ecosystem, based on my experience with receiving Indian exchange students into our Liberal Arts and Humanities programs at Macquarie University. Students come to us with a sound humanities educational background and great enthusiasm for exploring a wide range of issues across the liberal arts.
- You published a research paper titled ‘The value of Humanities’ recently. Do you believe Liberal Arts/Humanities stream is seeing a rise in popularity globally again? What is the major reason behind it?
I absolutely believe that there is a rise in popularity for programs in Liberal Arts/Humanities. The demands of the modern workforce, and the future of work in more general terms, are changing due to increasing globalization and rapid technological developments. It is well recognized that students enrolled in a Humanities degree develop an extensive set of capabilities (such as critical thinking and problem solving) through their study of ideas, movements and theories in culture, society, history, language, reasoning and more. Their in-depth engagement with their respective discipline allows them to form a broad understanding of the world around them and the ways in which humans connect and interact. Humanities degrees involve many technical skills including quantitative analysis skills, policy development, software use and foreign language skills. Employers have identified gaps between the demand and supply of transferable skills, in particular communication skills, and due to changes in the labour market these skills will be increasingly sought after, as the proportion of the work force with transferable-skill-intensive employment is forecast to steeply increase over the next decade.
- Why the popular perception in India that Arts stream does not offer great career opportunities for students is not accurate?
According to recent employability reports such as the one released by the Foundation for Young Australians in 2017, employers are increasingly looking for graduates who are able to articulate which highly transferable skills they have developed during their studies, and who are able to communicate and demonstrate these. Reports such as the Australian ‘Social Sciences Shape the Nation’ report, also released in 2017, articulate the complexity of the issues graduates will need to solve in ever changing national and global landscapes and the capabilities they need to activate to meaningfully contribute as employees and engaged citizens. Students studying humanities and Social Sciences subjects are acquiring high levels of literacy, as well as digital, cultural and interpersonal skills, which equip them to face the challenges our increasingly complex societies pose.
- As the Executive Dean, Faculty of Arts, Macquarie University, what is your take on the major differences between Indian liberal arts education system and global studies? What should be the focus of Indian educators to reach the global standards of liberal arts education?
One of the core values that a Humanities degree instils is the ability to recognise, critically analyse and communicate different points of view – a core skill in today’s increasingly complex global settings that forms the basis for mutual understanding. Humanities studies have a major contribution to make in understanding how our society and economy can adapt to conditions of rapid change due to globalisation, rapid technological development (e.g. Artificial Intelligence) and changes to economic structures. Humanities students will be well equipped to face these challenges with a critical mindset and a well-developed ethical compass that enable them to make a contribution in a wide range of national as well as global professional settings. Often, though, students in the Humanities are not fully aware of the skills and abilities they acquire during their studies and education systems around the world should focus more on making the acquisition of these skills a salient feature of a degree in the Liberal Arts/Humanities.
- With ever more business seeking to expand their operations across the borders, there is a rising demand for professionals with global mindset. Why Indian students should consider getting a degree in International Relations?
A degree in International Relations is one effective way of qualifying for the increasingly global context of business. The Faculty of Arts at Macquarie University is committed to the notion that a broad humanities-based educational offering, combined with appropriate transformative learning experiences in an applied context, is a crucial element in providing outstanding employment outcomes for graduates globally. Macquarie University is well positioned to capitalise on this opportunity because of its focus on humanities education throughout its history. Further, the strong performance of the Faculty of Arts over many years up to the present moment (currently #100 in Times Higher Education) and the disciplinary breadth offered by the University, in the form of more than 70 qualifying Majors is an excellent base to produce graduates with an adaptable set of capabilities that renders them attractive to a wide range of employers globally.
- Many Indian students go abroad each year for higher education in various educational institutes all over the world. Can you share us an integral know-how on a student’s life abroad, especially in Australia? What are the pros and cons?
Indian students coming to Australia for their higher education generally find the experience to be a very positive one. They find Australian society to be inclusive and safe, and many reports that it is easy to make new friends on campus and beyond. At Macquarie University, this is helped by our strong focus on collaborative learning, where students often work in teams and support one another.
- What are the biggest concerns you hear from students while opting for studies abroad? At the Macquarie University, how do you help them overcome that?
One concern for students opting to study abroad is how they will fit in to the Australian higher education context and whether they will be able to successfully complete their program of study. Our experience with students coming to us from India is that they are well prepared to take up higher education in Australia and that they generally do well or even very well in their Liberal Arts/Humanities programs. At Macquarie University, we place a lot of emphasis on the student experience – for our domestic as well as international students – which means that we support our students through orientation programs and offer opportunities for them to meet other students right at the start of their study program. The new BA program introduced at Macquarie University in 2020 has a strong focus on building a coherent cohort of Humanities students, where collaborative work is the norm rather than an exception.
- Tell us about the various program offered by MQ’s Faculty of Arts – which are seeing growing interest from Indian students?
Macquarie University’s Faculty of Arts offers a very wide range of programs, ranging from Law, Security Studies and Criminology, across the Social Sciences, such as Sociology and Anthropology to the whole range of Humanities subjects, such as Ancient and Modern Languages, Ancient and Modern History, Philosophy and Literature Studies. We also offer programs in Media and Communication Studies which have proven to be particularly popular with international students across the globe.
- Tell us more about the New double degree program being launched by MQ in 2020 (Master of Creative Industries and Master of Marketing, Master of Creative Industries and Master of Media and Communications and Master of Marketing and Master of Media and communications).
Our Media and Communications programs have proven to be very popular with international students as they equip students with an understanding of emerging media and industry practices, as well as traditional communications. At Macquarie University students learn from award-winning experts, using professional-standard facilities to gain the expert insights and the practical skills needed to succeed in the creative industries of the present and future. Our courses explore the cultural, social, international and linguistic contexts of the evolving world of communications and develop skills across print, online and multimedia and students study communications from a diverse array of perspectives to prepare themselves for living and working in our globalised world. With the relevant entry qualifications, our double degrees can be completed over a period of two years.
- What is your advice to the India students who wish to study Liberal Arts and International Relations abroad?
My advice would be to contact the institutions abroad and to explore their websites in depth to gain an understanding of the programs offered. Macquarie University has a number of staff on the ground in India who are always willing to talk to students about the programs we offer and to advise on entry criteria and other formalities.