Today we learned of the launch of the New College of Humanities founded by 14 leading academics and to be headed up by AC Grayling who is the first master of NCH. From looking at the website, it appears that this landmark in higher education has been very much driven by the silver-maned philosopher as much of the publicity and some of the staff appear to come from Birkbeck. The roll call of the professorate is very impressive and I am amazed that this was organized without any hints or rumours reaching the rest of academia. They include
- Prof. A C Grayling – Master of the College
- Prof. Simon Blackburn – Philosophy
- Prof. Sir David Cannadine – History
- Prof. Linda Colley CBE – History
- Prof. Sir Partha Dasgupta – Economics
- Prof. Richard Dawkins – Evolutionary Biology
and Science Literacy
- Prof. Ronald Dworkin QC – Law
- Prof. Niall Ferguson – Economics
and Economic History (visiting professor)
- Prof. Steve Jones – Biological Sciences
and Science Literacy
- Prof. Lawrence M Krauss – Cosmology and
- Prof. Steven Pinker – Philosophy
and Psychology (visiting professor)
- Prof. Sir Christopher Ricks – Literature
- Prof. Peter Singer – Applied Ethics
- Prof. Adrian Zuckerman – Law
It is a shame that there was not a stronger diversity and representation of female academics. It also seems that despite the claims that their student staff ratio is going to very low for tutorial-based teaching, I could only find three teaching staff (2/3 are female). From what I can understand, most of the superstar academic professorial positions are honorary but Dawkins for example will be delivering some of the lectures. In what is a very convincing video summary, AC Grayling explains that the degree (affiliated with the University of London) will be built around three core units, 1. Logic 2. Scientific Literacy & 3. Ethics. Each student will have to pass an entrance interview and the expectation is that these are going to be the best of the best.
Of course, what really grabbed the headlines in the press today is that the NCH will charge £18,000 per year – double the current cap on University fees. How is the UK government going to respond? What about the rest of the Russell group of British Universities? Maybe NCH can get away with this initiative as its running costs are going to be comparatively low as it does not require the infrastructure of traditional universities that teach very expensive science courses.
In any event, this appears to be a very clear finger in the eye for the higher education policy makers and a challenge to capping tuition fees. I will be watching this space very closely.