New College of the Humanities
|New College of the Humanities|
|Established||Incorporated 2010; announced 2011; offering tuition from September 2012|
|Officer in charge||Jeremy Gibbs (CEO)|
|Master||A. C. Grayling|
|Students||First intake Sep. 2012|
|Ownership||New College of the Humanities Ltd (formerly Grayling Hall)|
|Affiliations||Independent (Students registered as International Programme Students with the University of London)|
New College of the Humanities (NCH) is a private undergraduate college in London, England, founded by the philosopher A.C. Grayling, who became its first Master. Since September 2012 it has been offering tuition in economics, English, history, law and philosophy for undergraduate degrees with the University of London International Programmes. In addition, it requires all students to work toward a "Diploma of New College of the Humanities" by completing courses in politics or drawn from one of the other degree subjects, and also in applied ethics, logic and critical thinking, science literacy and professional skills. The college uses its own building, The Registry, and some of the University of London's teaching and student facilities, including Senate House Library and the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, all in the Bloomsbury district of London.
NCH charges students annual fees of £18,000, twice the maximum fee publicly funded universities in England may charge domestic students from 2012, with its charitable trust aiming to provide "almost 30%" of NCH students assisted places in the first year. In addition to Grayling, 13 senior academics have been named as partners, including the biologist Richard Dawkins. The college's advisory board includes Zeinab Badawi of the BBC, Ian Rumfitt of Birkbeck College, and the heads of one state and four independent schools.
The announcement attracted a substantial response in the UK, and a significant amount of adverse publicity, where most higher education institutions are publicly funded. London's mayor, Boris Johnson, welcomed it as a bold experiment, while The Times argued that higher education has been a closed shop in the UK for too long. There was an angry reaction from sections of the academic community. Complaints included that NCH had copied the course descriptions of the University of London's international programmes on its website; was offering the same syllabus with a significantly higher price tag; and that the senior academics involved with the project would in fact do very little of the teaching.
In January 2012, the UK's Intellectual Property Office objected to the proposed college name apparently over possible confusion with New College, Oxford. This has however been rejected and the name of the college remains the same.
The college has said it will model itself on liberal arts colleges in the United States, such as Amherst College. Initial reports said it aimed to offer an education to rival that of Oxford and Cambridge, but Grayling said this had been blown out of proportion by press hyperbole. He said he had the idea for the college years ago when he was admissions tutor for an Oxbridge college, and was turning down 12 good applicants for every successful one. Grayling himself completed his first degree in philosophy in the 1970s as a University of London external student, after registering with the University of Sussex but finding them not specialist enough. He argues that there is not enough elite university provision in the UK, leading thousands of British students to study in the United States instead. He told The Independent that the headmaster of Winchester College, an independent secondary school, had said many of his best students failed to get into Oxbridge because of government pressure to increase the number of students from state schools. Grayling has criticized English state examinations, arguing that A-levels do not measure ability adequately.
Grayling said David Willetts, the universities minister, was told of the project in 2010, and appeared enthusiastic. NCH was first named Grayling Hall, incorporated in July 2010 and registered at an address in Peckham, south London. The name was changed to New College of the Humanities in February 2011. The warden of New College, Oxford, who asked Grayling to change the name again to prevent confusion with the Oxford college, said other names Grayling had previously considered were Bloomsbury College and Erasmus College.
Funding and governance
Initial "seed capital" of £200,000 for the project was provided, according to British newspaper The Guardian, by the financier Peter Hall.
Ten million pounds in private equity funding was subsequently raised to cover costs for two years, with the expectation that NCH would break even by the third. One third of the enterprise is owned by 14 senior academics, including Grayling, and the rest by private investors, including a couple from Switzerland and three British businessmen—Jeremy Gibbs, Matthew Batstone and Roy W. Brown. Cavendish Corporate Finance LLP were the corporate financiers hired by NCH Ltd and raised this 10 million pounds from a range of private investors including a number of prominent individuals from the world of business and finance.
Gibbs, former chairman of Futuretalk plc, deputy chairman of Scientific Digital Imaging plc and director of Cambridge Venture Management (2000) Ltd, was registered as the CEO, while Charles Watson, chairman of the PR firm Financial Dynamics, was named as non-executive chairman. 
Batstone and Brown are non-executive directors; Batstone is the former marketing chief of the Economist Group and a trustee of Bedales, an independent secondary school, and Brown is the founder of Metier Management Systems. The rest of the management team consists of Jane Phelps, director of external relations, currently head of higher education and careers at Rugby School, and Rosalind Barrs, the registrar, formerly a senior administrator in the philosophy department at Birkbeck.
The 14 academic partners, also referred to as The Professoriate, were announced as:
- philosophers A.C. Grayling, Simon Blackburn and Peter Singer
- historians David Cannadine, Linda Colley, and Niall Ferguson
- economist Partha Dasgupta
- scientists Richard Dawkins (will be Professor of Evolutionary Biology), Steve Jones (was to have been Professor of Biological Sciences), Lawrence M. Krauss (will be Professor of Science), and Steven Pinker
- legal scholars Ronald Dworkin and Adrian Zuckerman
- literary critic Christopher Ricks.
A charitable trust was established, the New College of the Humanities Trust, consisting of Grayling, Gibbs, Batstone, Watson, and Brown. There is also an 11-member advisory board that includes BBC news presenter Zeinab Badawi; Ian Rumfitt chair of the philosophy department at Birkbeck; William Swainson of Bloomsbury Publishing; John Gordon, founder of IQ2, a global forum for live debate; James Lambert, founder of the charity Into University; Barbara Schwepcke, Founder and CEO of Haus Publishing; and the heads of four independent schools, City of London School for Girls, St Paul's Girls' School, Rugby, and Wellington; and the head of one state school, Walworth Academy.
The first cohort of students consists of around 60 students, primarily from independent schools; one in five of the college's offers have gone to state-school students. College staff made 130 visits to schools (21 to state schools) to attract applications.
Facilities and fees
The college has a building called The Registry in Bedford Square where the one-to-one and small group tutorials will take place. The Registry also contains rooms for some of the larger classes. Facilities have also been arranged at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in Russell Square. In addition, as the college plans for its students to register for University of London degrees as external students under the University of London International Programmes, the students should, upon payment of the appropriate fees, have access to the University's facilities, including the Senate House Library and University of London Union. NCH plans to lease a building in Bloomsbury and rent lecture theatres from the university. It said it had block-booked rooms for its first-year students with a student accommodation provider in or near Bloomsbury. The master of Birkbeck College said on 6 June that there was no agreement between NCH and Birkbeck—whose main campus is in Bloomsbury and which is affiliated with the University of London—to share facilities.
NCH has offered classes since October 2012, with annual fees of £18,000, twice the maximum fee public universities in England may charge domestic students from 2012, and similar to those for private universities in the United States. The New College of the Humanities Trust aims to provide 50 assisted places in the first year, out of 200 places overall. The grants will consist of 100 per cent means-tested scholarships, and exhibitions where the student will pay £7,200 a year. The aim for future years is to have more than 30 per cent of its students receiving grants. The college plans eventually to recruit 375 students each year, with no more than one third from outside the UK. Overseas and domestic students will pay the same fees.
The college will offer tuition for five degree subjects: an LLB in Law, BSc in Economics, and BAs in English, History or Philosophy. In addition, students will study three core subjects—logic and critical thinking, science literacy, and applied ethics—and complete a professional skills course. The science literacy course will include as its teachers, Richard Dawkins (Professor of Evolutionary Biology NCH), Steve Jones (Professor of Biological Sciences NCH) lecturing on genetics, biodiversity and climate change and Lawrence Krauss (Professor of Science NCH) teaching cosmology and particle physics. Graduates will receive a University of London degree for completing the degree course, and a Diploma of New College for completing the four compulsory courses. They will then be awarded, for example, a BA Hons (London) DNC.
The Guardian writes that the same degree courses are available from Birkbeck, Goldsmiths, and Royal Holloway colleges for £9,000 or less. Academics complained that the syllabuses had been copied from the University of London's website, and had simply been repackaged. Amanda Vickery, an historian at Queen Mary, University of London, posted on Twitter: "Perplexed to see my own course 'Experience, Culture & Identity: Women's lives in England 1688-1850' available from NCH".
The University of London said it had no formal agreement with NCH concerning academic matters, and that NCH had not yet applied for recognition as an "Independent Teaching Institution" associated with the university's external programme, which would normally require a track record. It said it was legitimate for NCH to provide tuition to students pursuing its international programmes, as other colleges do in the UK and elsewhere, for a fee in most cases of under £1,500 per annum. Grayling told Times Higher Education that NCH's higher fees reflected tuition costs, including the cost of the additional courses required for the Diploma of New College. He said: "What's important about a degree is how it is taught and who it is taught by."
NCH offers a 10:1 student-teacher ratio. Subject-area convenors—including historian Suzannah Lipscomb of the University of East Anglia, and philosophers Ken Gemes from Birkbeck and Naomi Goulder from Bristol University—will recruit and lead the teaching staff. Lipscomb wrote that the college offers students 12–13 contact hours a week, including two tutorials, one of them one-to-one.
The 14 academics named as partners will do some teaching, though most hold full-time jobs elsewhere, several in the United States. The NCH website refers to them as its professoriate, which led to criticism that it will be a largely absent one. Grayling responded that at least one well-known academic would deliver a lecture every day of the academic year, though most of the teaching will be done by others. The Guardian wrote that Dawkins, Krauss, and Jones will deliver two lectures a week in scientific literacy between them, over two terms, and Blackburn 10–20 lectures a year. Krauss, a physics professor at Arizona State University, said he would visit for a month during the first year, and would give 10-15 lectures. Zuckerman will teach up to 20 hours; he said the pay was comparable to fees for visiting professors in the United States. Colley and Cannadine—married to each other and employed by Princeton University—will teach at NCH for one hour each in the first academic year. Singer, already employed by both Princeton and the University of Melbourne, agreed to give one lecture in the first year, but told The Guardian he might do more.
Grayling said he had received 900 expressions of interest from potential students and 80 job applications in the first week. Britain's former prime minister, Tony Blair, endorsed it; and London's mayor, Boris Johnson, called it the boldest experiment in higher education in the UK since the foundation in 1983 of the University of Buckingham, the UK's first private university; he wrote that it showed the way ahead for academics demoralized by government interference with admissions procedures and "scapegoated for the weaknesses of the schools." The Times argued that higher education has been a closed shop in the UK for too long, that all over the world there are excellent universities run independently of the state, and that in its conception NCH is teaching by example. The Economist wrote that there is a market for the idea because of the increasing number of qualified British students who fail to get into their university of choice, in part because of pressure on the top universities from the Office for Fair Access to increase the number of students from state schools; they added that "a 'toffs’ college' of well-heeled Oxbridge near-misses is a provocative concept." The Harvard historian Niall Ferguson, one of the college's partners, said he had read the criticism of NCH with incredulity: "Anyone who cares about the humanities will be cheering Anthony Grayling."
The news triggered accusations of elitism. Literary critic Terry Eagleton called the college "odious," arguing that it was taking advantage of a crumbling university system to make money; Grayling responded that Eagleton himself teaches a few weeks a year at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, a private - though non-profit - university. Lawyer David Allen Green, writing in the New Statesman, described NCH as a "sham" and a "branding exercise with purchased celebrity endorsements and a PR-driven website." Several academics complained in a letter to The Guardian that its creation was a setback for the campaign against the current government's policy of commercializing education, and were joined by 34 of Grayling's former colleagues at Birkbeck, who questioned how much teaching the college's 14 academic partners would actually do. Terence Kealey suggested it was dangerous to have a university funded by private equity, citing the possible collapse in 2011 of Southern Cross private nursing homes.
Toby Young argued in The Daily Telegraph that the reaction was part of a left-wing campaign to retain state control over education, involving, he wrote, public sector unions, university lecturers, and the Socialist Workers Party. Simon Jenkins wrote that the country's professors, lecturers and student trade unionists were "united in arms against what they most hate and fear: academic celebrity, student fees, profit and loss, one-to-one tutorials and America."
Grayling responded to the criticism by arguing that NCH is trying to keep humanities teaching alive. He said he felt persecuted by the negative reaction: "My whole record, everything I have written, is turned on its head. Now I am a bastard capitalist. It is really upsetting. ... Education is a public good and we should be spending more on it and it shouldn't be necessary to do this, but standing on the sidelines moaning and wailing is not an option." In an 2012 interview, Grayling also responded to claims that the college was "elitist": "There is nothing wrong with being elite as long as you are not exclusive. You want your surgeon or airline pilot to have been trained at an elite institution."
A dozen protesters heckled him at Foyles bookshop in London on 7 June 2011 during a debate about cuts to arts funding, one of them shouting that Grayling had "no right to speak." A protester let off a smoke bomb, and 100 people were evacuated from the store. Later in the week police removed protesters from a British Humanist Association talk by Richard Dawkins at the Institute of Education.
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