New degree blends arts and science

University of Otago student Tom Mottershead (22)  will graduate from the university today. Photo:...
University of Otago student Tom Mottershead (22) will graduate from the university today. Photo: Peter McIntosh
University of Otago student Tom Mottershead will today  become the first person to graduate from university with a new bachelor of arts and science degree, which aims to break down barriers between arts and science.

Mr Mottershead felt "proud and excited" to be gaining the new BASc degree, at the first of two University of Otago graduation ceremonies being held at the Dunedin Town Hall, at 1pm today.

He had begun studying mathematics and music for a BA in 2014, and when he later heard about the new degree being developed, he completed a further six papers this year, to gain the new qualification.

Some of the mathematics had been most academically challenging, and he had particularly enjoyed the chance to work with electronic music, through the music department, and would like to become a music producer.

It was "cool" to gain the new degree, which would also boost his employment chances, he said.

Another Otago student, Eirenei Taua'i , who has majored in neuroscience and Pacific Island studies, will on Saturday become the new degree programme’s second graduate.

Background information provided by Otago University about the new degree points out that most universities encourage students to specialise in either the sciences or the humanities.

"But the world in which we live needs people whose expertise spans this divide."

Modern science was "rapidly changing our lives", but careful thought was needed about the implications.

Prof Greg Dawes, of the university philosophy department, said the new degree  aimed partly at breaking down the barriers between arts and science, which had been referred to by English writer C. P. Snow’s well-known essay "The Two Cultures".

The world faced complex challenges, including climate change, and because there were no simple solutions, it was essential that graduates had an understanding not just of science and technology, but also of the opportunities and costs that scientific developments could bring, he indicated.

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