The importance of critical thinking in the digital age

“I’m enough of an artist to draw freely on my imagination, which I think is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” Albert Einstein

The arts and humanities are all too often scoffed at in the digital age. The world needs engineers, tech-buffs and scientists, not artists, historians and linguists – right?

That is where society is wrong. Humanities and the arts are just as important now as they ever have been. Notably, the critical thinking aspect of these courses is invaluable in 21st century life.

“Art gives meaning to the data science provides,” Dr Mitchell B. Reiss told The Huffington Post.

Through humanities and the arts, we can make sense of human experience. They help us to think and question the world. The skills gained through these courses – analytical thinking, creativity, application of information and the ability to form critical arguments, to name just a few – can be applied in a variety of ways. These skills are timeless and universal, while graduates leave prepared to welcome change in the world, digital or otherwise.

Students of the International Studies in The Hague, The Netherlands

Students of the International Studies in The Hague, The Netherlands

There is a notion that in the not-so-far-off future that the majority jobs will become obsolete, as robots take over the workforce. But it is, after all, our arts and humanities graduates who still hold a valuable place in this world.

The artists and humanists will thrive, knowing how to analyse the world from a different perspective. These people are able to compare and evaluate different viewpoints and form their own critical appraisal of society. A robot cannot do that.

Studies and research in the field are multidisciplinary, allowing graduates to explore different avenues which are of interest them.

Not keen to sacrifice yourself to total robot takeover? We have compiled a list of five of the best university faculties for arts and humanities in the world.


Both Bachelor’s and Master’s graduates leave this faculty instilled with the critical thinking skills needed to survive in the modern job market.

The Master’s programmes at Helsinki are renowned and particularly well-received; including the interdisciplinary Master’s programmes in Russian Studies and Intercultural Encounters, plus the linguistic and literary offerings in English Studies, and the comprehensive Linguistic Diversity in the Digital Age.

The Russian Studies Master’s gives students an in-depth knowledge of Russia, its society, culture, and history. Expertise gained on the programme provide a solid base for critical thinking, readying students to face challenges in many professional environments.

Russian Studies at the University of Helsinki

The MA in English Studies advances student knowledge of the English language and prepares students for a variety of jobs. The skills acquired, like so many programmes in the field, are diverse and applicable in a multitude of situations. The programme is led by many accomplished researchers and teachers.

The Linguistic Diversity in the Digital Age Master’s programme grants students a knowledge and deep understanding of the diversity of human language. The course is perfect for those interested in languages but torn on which one they want to study. The programme is flexible, offering several fields of specialisation.

Whatever your interests, there is bound to be a course that’s for you.


Founded in 1575, Leiden University has since earned a reputation as one of Europe’s most influential international research universities. Here, students get set for a long and rewarding future, driven by the elite learning culture at this prominent higher education provider.

Since the late 1990s, students here have reaped the benefits of two diverse campus settings – one in the historic centre of Leiden; the other in the North Sea coast city of The Hague. As one of the university’s many world-class departments, the Faculty of Humanities makes its presence known in both of these respected, global, urban powerhouses.

Ranked in the Top 25 worldwide by the Times Higher Education University rankings, this specialised school provides teaching and research of the highest quality, granting students access to a comprehensive, industry-informed curriculum which is among the most extensive, not just in the Netherlands but across the European continent.

Students of the International Studies in The Hague, The Netherlands

Students of the International Studies in The Hague, The Netherlands

One of the university’s most sought-after programmes – (BA) International Studies – features solely at The Hague; a city known as the international hub for peace and justice. This three-year, English-taught degree considers the regional effects of globalisation, instilling students with a detailed understanding of culture, history, politics and economics, while taking an in-depth look at how these concepts interact.

From September 2018, a new humanities BA discipline will be launching at The Hague. Together with Leiden’s high-ranked Master programmes in Linguistics, History, International Relations, and other humanities disciplines expected to draw the best and brightest minds from all corners of the globe.


KU Leuven is one of Europe’s highest-ranked universities. It has pioneering researchers and an internationally-recognised academic reputation. The university has campuses in Antwerp, Leuven, Brussels and Kortrijk. The Faculty of Arts has regional bases in three of these campuses.

The streets of these major Belgian cities are bursting with students. The cities live on student time; frenzied weeks, busy with the new year’s intake of students at the beginning of term, then an air of serenity when term time ends.

There are currently around 3,400 students enrolled across the faculty’s various academic programmes. Courses here are diverse, from more traditional courses such as Master of Linguistics and Literature to Certificate in Korean Studies.

The Faculty’s research efforts are spread across many disciplines. Their universal focus is on the study of languages and cultures throughout history.

The faculty offers programmes in English, French, Spanish and Dutch.


Studying an arts or humanities-based discipline in one of the world’s most cultural cities, globally-renowned for its famous arts festivals and rich history, is a logical move.

Looking over Edinburgh

Looking over Edinburgh

The college works with the community, encouraging networking for creativity and collaboration. The teaching staff and personal tutors are on hand to support students with academic and personal struggles.

Courses can be taught on-campus or online, with the online courses promising to “bring the Edinburgh experience to you”. On-campus, students are taught through both traditional and digital means, and have access to the university’s and Edinburgh’s revered libraries, museums and collections.

You can expect a range of experiences at the college, including one-to-one tutorials, group critiques and field trips, mixed with more traditional seminars and lectures.

The college hosts ‘Friday Talks’ in which leading artists and thinkers inspire students. There are also regular guest workshops and external projects. Students are encouraged to use the studios frequently and are moulded into skilled researchers.


You will find this college nestled at the heart of Ireland’s lively capital. The university boasts a great location and academic prestige. This stunning campus is situated within easy reach of the buzzing cultural world of Dublin – a city famed for its “artistic and creative energy”.

Students at University College Dublin

Students at University College Dublin

The college is made up of a world-leading community of award-winning professors who are limitlessly passionate about their field. The college has received recognition for its outstanding research, as well as external funding and grants.

UCD College of Arts and Humanities has seven academic schools, plus associated research centres and institutes. These cover a wide range of both key and specialist Arts and Humanities disciplines.

The research conducted in the college is ranked in the world’s top 100 by QS World University Rankings. Its internationally-recognised research has been hailed as innovative and makes an intellectual and cultural contribution to the college, the city, Ireland and globally. The college is proud of its global impact, collaborating with both national and international partners to keep giving to the world of arts and humanities outside of its buildings.

*Some of the institutions in this article are commercial partners of Study International

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