New College of Humanities Set to Put the Cat Amongst the Pigeons

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

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.


Filed under General Thoughts, In the News

7 responses to “New College of Humanities Set to Put the Cat Amongst the Pigeons

  1. Rox

    AC Grayling has already written a book to replace the Holy Bible, so this is no great surprise.

    (“The Good Book”, A Secular Bible. Made by AC Grayling. Published by Bloomsbury. It deliberately imitates the Holy Bible, being divided into chapters and verses within books such as Genesis, Epistles ,and Acts ).

  2. brucehood

    What is a great surprise is resigning from Birkbeck to start a new college with about £10m of city support. What makes this so difficult is that I am sure that they will be using much of Birkbeck’s infrastructure as well as access to the library. How does this add up having a private institution operating within the realms of a state-supported university?

  3. Geoffrey Thomas

    If the new college uses Birkbeck’s infrastructure, it will surely pay for it. This will provide income for a cash-strapped public institution.

    • brucehood

      Yes, I am sure they will pay for it but it will be a fraction of the cost of running such a service. This is effectively the privatization of state-supported resources because the Government will increasingly ask the Universities to start selling off services. Sound familiar?

  4. jacarandamimosifolia

    I agree, this is really interesting. Not entirely surprisingly, there is to be an emergency meeting of the ‘Education Activist Network’ tomorrow evening because: “We need to fight to stop this privatisation of the University of London.”…which is sort of your point…
    Being not stupid, Grayling an Co must have anticipated such a response, so I wonder what their tactics will be. Fascinating.

  5. Rox

    I sent an email to this New College via their website asking :
    “Where is it ?”

    It seems that my straightforward grammar and simplistic view of the world was somehow not in tune with their philosophies, because I got a very prompt reply:
    “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand your message. Could you explain, and I’ll try to help.”

    I tried harder to make myself clear to the academic mind:
    “In what location is the New College of the Humanities situated ? What is its address ? In what street of London is it to be found ?”

    This they instantly understood.
    “We are currently negotiating a lease in Bloomsbury. As you probably know, this is the university district of London. When this has been concluded, we will be able to announce the precise location.”

    • brucehood

      Hilarious!.. This reception by the press and colleagues does not bode well for the future of the NCH. As I have said, my main concern is how to allow the NCH to operate within the state-funded environment of the University of London. On the other hand, I think that this initiative has thrown a spotlight on the crisis we are facing in the UK HE system which is starting to unravel.

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