The University

Is LIS legit?

Yes. We went through two regulatory processes, one with the UK Government, Office for Students, and one with the Quality Assurance Agency, the independent regulator for higher education. We are the first university in about 40 years (since Warwick University) to be granted our own ‘degree awarding powers’ at our inception. This speaks to the quality of our academic mission, our teaching and learning, our faculty, our student support services, our administrative processes, etc.

Why have you started a new university?

The founders of LIS, the faculty members (teachers and academics) and the whole team, believe that much of the university sector has not moved with the times. Courses, assessment and teaching approaches are much the same as they were 20 or even 50 years ago, while a great deal has changed outside universities in that time.

Who are the founders?

LIS was founded by Ed Fidoe, and Chris Persson. Prof Carl Gombrich and Dr Michael Englard joined soon after.

Who are your main financial backers?

LIS is backed by a range of different organisations and individuals, including charitable foundations, the UK government, some of Europe’s leading entrepreneurs and one of France’s leading business schools, the grand ecole emlyon.

Why are these people backing LIS?

Our backers want to support innovation in higher education. In the case of emlyon, they are interested in our innovative interdisciplinary curriculum and learning and teaching ideas.

So what’s different about your university?

Our curriculum is radically new and different. We teach about real-world problems, and we teach methods to tackle those problems. Our admission process is also different. We have a holistic admissions approach here at LIS, where we value interdisciplinary thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration (see below for more info.)

The BASc degree and curriculum

What does ‘BASc’ stand for?

BASc stands for ‘Bachelor of Arts and Sciences’. This is the type of degree you get at LIS. We use this title because you study a range of arts and sciences subjects and methods, unlike a single-honours science degree (a BSc) or a single-honours humanities degree (a BA). There are other BASc degrees in the UK at UCL, Warwick and Brunel.

What degree will I get if I graduate from the BASc at LIS?

You get a bachelor's degree, a BASc in Interdisciplinary Problems and Methods

Are you a liberal arts degree?

We have much in common with liberal arts and sciences degrees (but note the science component!). You study a wide range of subjects and get a lot of choice on the programme. However, we are different to almost all liberal arts degrees because we focus the curriculum on real-world problems, not just academic subjects.

I’ve heard you don’t teach any subjects on the degree. What does this mean?

We teach material from many different subjects but only if it’s relevant to tackling a real-world problem like climate change, migration, AI and ethics, sustainability, education, urban development, etc. So, for example, if we are studying how to tackle inequality, you may learn about the economics of inequality, but also perspectives from psychology or philosophy if they are relevant to tackling inequality.

We focus education on real-world problems, not just academic subjects because we believe these are the important issues to address in our times, and education should reflect this. We also know that employers like graduate students who are better equipped to deal with real-world issues.

What real-world problems do you focus on?

We scope out some large ‘problem areas’ and then students get to work on a narrower problem of choice within that area. For example, our current main problem areas are Inequality, Sustainability, Tech and Ethics, and Urban Futures. Within these areas, a student might work on such diverse problems as ‘Inequality of mental health treatments between different ethnic communities’ or ‘Inequality within the fintech sector’ or, in the Sustainability module, the range of problems could be from ‘Creating sustainable waste products from a start-up micro-brewery’ to ‘How should we introduce sustainable supply chains in the financial sector of the City of London?’

Will there be other problems to work on at LIS?

Yes. We will refresh the problem areas regularly. The current problem areas are listed above. At the end of each year, you also get to work on a problem entirely of your choice (see below).

Can I work on my own problems at LIS?

Yes. At the end of years 1 and 2, you do your own, 7-week project on a problem of your choice, using the methods you have learnt throughout the year. Then, throughout your final year, you do a ‘capstone’ project on a problem of interest to you.

What are the actual methods that you teach?

We teach a wide range of methods from data science and mathematical modelling - at the science end of the spectrum - to visual methods, video-making and graphics at the arts/humanities end of the spectrum. We also teach many methods from the social sciences: survey design, ethnography, running focus groups, etc. A full list is here. [link to current working list on Notion - ask @James E to forward - or just list as a bulleted list]

What other options do I have on the degree?

In year 2 you choose 3 electives from a roster of about 9 and in year 3 you choose 5 electives from a roster of about 13 (exact numbers depend on demand each year). This allows you to specialise more in your methods of choice (e.g. data science, natural language processing, ethnography, ecological methods, visual methods, design thinking, etc) while still keeping a sufficiently broad spectrum to be interdisciplinary.

Why do you teach methods, not subjects?

By learning different methods, you are then able to read up on or get information about a wide range of subjects, i.e. an understanding of methods gives you the possibility to go wider and more deeply in your search for reliable and useful knowledge. The instant availability of information today - and the rise of AI - means you do not need to follow set readings at school or university in the way that was required previously. However, you do need to have sufficient knowledge to understand the quality of the information you are reading. This means you need to be able to e.g. analyse the data presented in an article about COVID, understand how a survey about political intentions was designed and used (in case it is biased), or how a piece of media was created and edited to highlight aspects of a conflict, etc. A knowledge of methods empowers you in this way.