Celebrity Dream Team Education: New College of the Humanities

The news that a group of well-known academics have set up their own private university in London that will charge £18k pa has met with a mixed reaction.

The idea of the philosopher and its first master A.C. Grayling, the New College of the Humanities will offer courses in law, economics, philosophy, history, and English literature, with one-on-one tutorials and a 10/1 student-teacher ratio.

The 13 other academics involved in the Dream Team are:

– David Cannadine at left-back,
– Richard Dawkins at centre-midfield,
– Ronald Dworkin is the centre forward,
– Christopher Ricks and Peter Singer are on the wings,
– Grayling is goalkeeper,
– Linda Colley and Simon Blackburn are the centre-backs,
– Partha Dasgupta is right-back,
– Steve Jones and Steven Pinker are the other midfielders
– Niall Ferguson, Adrian Zuckerman and Lawrence M Krauss are substitutes

One criticism that will seemingly grow is that NCH will be using the same facilities as the publicly-funded University of London. And will put added pressure there on already extremely scarce room availability. If there’s a room clash, who will win, we wonder.

NCH students will also get to use ULL’s library, union and halls which in especially in the case of the former are already heavily over-subscribed. And, again, who will be given preference?

At £18K and despite the availability of 40 scholarships, the degrees will only be a realistic choice of rich kids. This will take valuable cash away – in the form of fees and also future endowments – from the HE institutions that NCH will be competing with. Something that publicly-funded but increasingly cash-strapped Oxbridge, LSE, UCL and other Russell Group unis will not be too happy about. This unhappiness is all the more likely given the fact that the Dream Teamers are employed by these very same institutions that will lose out.

UCL and LSE, in particular, will not be happy with this up-start at their doorstep nicking their students, occupying their rooms etc.

We also wonder what these academics offer that others don’t. For one thing, NCH graduates will earn a UoL degree like other UoL students. NCH undergrads will have to study three core subjects – logic and critical thinking; science literacy; and applied ethics – and gain an NCH diploma. But is that diploma really worth an extra £27,000?

And what are the students getting from the NCH Dream Team that they can’t get somewhere else? All UK students taking history, economics, law etc. will be reading the same books and covering the same material. For example, philosophy is philosophy wherever you are, there are no new historical events that the Dream Team will have up their sleeves, the teachings of Adam Smith are no different at a non-Russell Group uni and UK law is no different at Leeds Uni or Bangor.

Therefore it would seem the extra £27k is for the personality and the privilege of sitting in the room with the ego that is Dawkins and the other team members. And the access to the network that links this professoriate, of course.

That’s a lot of money for a one-to-one tutorial and a name or two on your resumé.

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