Dissatisfaction over undergraduate education seems to be persistent and has been jeopardized by the boost in research performance as fuelled by global rankings. Yet it will continue to be the cornerstone and a key mission of higher education. Hence the tide is shifting and the global debate on “the world-class university” is increasingly inclusive towards excellence in teaching and learning. A renewed focus on liberal arts education is part of this global debate on redefining excellence. This article aims to explain why liberal arts education, as it is (re)emerging in different regions, seems to be an adequate response to the search for excellence in the 21st century. It explores the drivers for liberal arts education from an epistemological, economic and a social-moral point of view. The role of interdisciplinarity, generic skills, and citizenship in different regional context are discussed, and also an admission that a liberal arts education is no panacea—that various limitations should be overcome and a truly global perspective is needed.