New College of the Humanities

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Template:Infobox university 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.<ref name=BoothJune82011/> Since September 2012 it has been offering tuition<ref name=BBCJune52011 /> 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.<ref name=RaiJune62011>Rai, Binda. "New College of the Humanities", University of London press release, June 6, 2011.</ref><ref name=Graylingvideo /><ref name=DiplomaOfNCH>Template:Cite web</ref> 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.<ref name=VasagarJune62011>Vasagar, Jeevan. "Doubts raised over the financial model of AC Grayling's private university", The Guardian, June 6, 2011.</ref><ref name=BoothJune62011/>

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.<ref name=LipscombJune92011/><ref name=NCHscholarships>Template:Cite web</ref> In addition to Grayling, 13 senior academics have been named as partners, including the biologist Richard Dawkins.<ref name=MalikJune92011>Malik, Shiv. "AC Grayling complains of abuse over creation of elite New College", The Guardian, June 9, 2011: "All these people are partners in the enterprise. ... They are people whose advice and expertise and experience will be provided to us because they are actual shareholders in the institution."

  • For the list of partners and staff, see "Who we are", New College of the Humanities, accessed June 10, 2011.</ref> 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.<ref name="Advisory Board">"Advisory Board", New College of the Humanities, accessed June 7, 2011.</ref>

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.<ref name=BakerJune92011/>

In January 2012, the UK's Intellectual Property Office objected to the proposed college name apparently over possible confusion with New College, Oxford.<ref name ="BBC 2012 01 23">Private college faces objection in trade mark bid BBC News 23 January 2012 accessed 23 January 2012</ref> This has however been rejected and the name of the college remains the same.



File:AC Grayling 2.jpg
A.C. Grayling, professor of philosophy at Birkbeck College until June 2011, secured NCH's funding.

The college models itself on liberal arts colleges in the United States, such as Amherst College.<ref name=GrimstonJune52011>Grimston, Jack. "Top dons create new Oxbridge," The Sunday Times, June 5, 2011.</ref> Initial reports said it aimed to offer an education to rival that of Oxford and Cambridge,<ref name=TelegraphJune52011>"New university to rival Oxbridge will charge £18,000 a year", The Sunday Telegraph, June 5, 2011.</ref> but Grayling said this had been blown out of proportion by press hyperbole.<ref name=MalikJune92011/> 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.<ref name=JohnsonJune62011>Johnson, Boris. "At last, an Oxbridge for those who can’t get into Oxbridge", The Daily Telegraph, June 6, 2011.</ref> 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.<ref name=JohnsonJune62011/> 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.<ref name=GrimstonJune122011/> 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.<ref name=BoothJune82011>Booth, Robert. "Oxford tries to throw book at new arts college set up by AC Grayling", The Guardian, June 8, 2011.</ref>

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.<ref name="VasagarJune62011"/> 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.<ref name=MalikJune92011/> 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. <ref name=BoothJune52011>Booth, Robert. "New university gathers top academics to teach £18,000-a-year degrees", The Guardian, June 5, 2011.

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.<ref name=BoothJune52011/>

The 14 academic partners, also referred to as The Professoriate, were announced as:<ref name=faculty-staff>"Faculty & Staff", New College of the Humanities, accessed June 10, 2011.</ref>

  • 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.<ref name=trust>"New College of the Humanities Trust", New College of the Humanities, accessed June 8, 2011.</ref> There is also a 25-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.

First cohort

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.

College structure

Facilities and fees

File:Bedford Square 2.jpg
The Registry, Bedford Square

The college has a building called The Registry in Bedford Square where the one-to-one and small group tutorials take place. The Registry also contains rooms for most lectures. Facilities have also been arranged at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies in Russell Square. In addition, as the college's students to register for University of London degrees as external students under the University of London International Programmes, the students have access to the University's facilities, including the Senate House Library, and, upon payment of the appropriate fees, can become associate members of University of London Union.<ref name=KyddJune82011>Kydd, Jonathan. "University of London's independent stance", letter from the dean of University of London International Programmes, The Guardian, June 8, 2011.</ref> <ref name=VasagarJune62011/> It block-books rooms for its first-year students with a student accommodation provider in Tufnell Park and Holloway Road.

NCH has offered classes since October 2012,<ref name=BBCJune52011 /> 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.<ref name=THSJune62011>"Top names, top whack: new humanities-focused institution to charge £18K fees", Times Higher Education, June 6, 2011.

  • For the U.S., see U.K. profs to launch university to challenge Oxford, Cambridge", MSNBC, June 6, 2011.</ref> Over 30% of the first cohort are paying either no fees or fees that are subsidised to substantially below £9,000. The NCH Trust provides 100 per cent means-tested scholarships, and exhibitions where the student pays £7,200 a year. The aim for future years is to have more than 30 per cent of its students receiving grants.<ref name=LipscombJune92011/> 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.<ref name=BakerJune92011>Baker, Simon. "Grayling's plans for tutorials with the stars receive poor notices from disgruntled critics", Times Higher Education, June 9, 2011.</ref>


The college offers tuition for six degree subjects: an LLB in Law, BScs in Economics and Politics & International Relations, and BAs in English, History or Philosophy. In addition, students study four modules in another discipline (either one of the other degree subjects, Art History or Classical Studies), plus three core modules —logic and critical thinking, science literacy, and applied ethics—and complete a professional skills course.<ref name=courses>"Courses", New College of the Humanities, accessed January 3, 2014.</ref> The science literacy course includes as its teachers, Richard Dawkins teaching evolution, Lawrence Krauss teaching cosmology and particle physics, Steven Pinker lecturing about the brain, and Daniel C Dennett lecturing on consciousness. 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.<ref name=Graylingvideo>Grayling, A.C. "Video introduction", New College of the Humanities, accessed June 5, 2011.</ref> They will then be awarded, for example, a BA Hons (London) DNC.<ref name=BBCJune52011>"British academics launch £18,000 college in London", BBC News, June 5, 2011.</ref>

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.<ref name=BoothJune62011/> 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".<ref name=GuttenplanJune132011>Guttenplan, D.D. "Plans to Found Pricey New College Raise Eyebrows", The New York Times, June 13, 2011.</ref>

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.<ref name=RaiJune62011/> 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.<ref name=BoothJune62011>Booth, Richard. "AC Grayling's private university accused of copying syllabuses", The Guardian, June 6, 2011.

  • "University of London statement regarding New College of the Humanities", University of London, June 6, 2011.</ref> 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."<ref name=BakerJune92011/>


NCH offers a 10:1 student-teacher ratio.<ref name=TelegraphJune52011/> 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.<ref name=LipscombJune92011>Lipscomb, Suzannah. "Why I chose to join AC Grayling's private university", The Guardian, June 9, 2011.

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.<ref name=GreenJune72011>Green, David Allen. "Grayling's Folly is falling down", New Statesman, June 7, 2011.

  • "The professoriate", New College of the Humanities, accessed June 7, 2011.</ref> 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.<ref name=BakerJune92011/> 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.<ref name=VasagarBoothJune72011/> 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.<ref name=GrimstonJune122011>Grimston, Jack. "Minister encouraged launch of elite college," The Sunday Times, June 12, 2011.</ref> 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.<ref name=VasagarBoothJune72011>Vasagar, Jeevan and Booth, Robert. "AC Grayling's private university accused of copying syllabuses", The Guardian, June 7, 2011.</ref> 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.<ref name=BoothJune82011/>

On 10 January 2013, the college announced that Sir Trevor Nunn had been appointed Visiting Professor of Drama in the English faculty.


Grayling said he had received 900 expressions of interest from potential students and 80 job applications in the first week.<ref name=GrimstonJune122011/> Britain's former prime minister, Tony Blair, endorsed it;<ref name=LongJune122011>Long, Camilla. "AC Grayling: Is it safe to come out now?", The Sunday Times, June 12, 2011.</ref> 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."<ref name=JohnsonJune62011/> 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."<ref name=EconomistJune92011>"One very New College, at a price", The Economist, June 9, 2011.</ref> 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."<ref name=GrimstonJune122011/>

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.<ref name=MalikJune92011/> 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."<ref name=GreenJune72011/> 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."<ref name=VasagarBoothJune72011/> 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."<ref name="NewHumanist">Template:Cite journal</ref>

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.<ref name=GrimstonJune122011/>

See also

  • University of Buckingham, the first private university in the UK, and the only one with a Royal Charter.
  • BPP University College of Professional Studies
  • Education in England
  • Higher Education Act 2004
  • Regent's College



Further reading

Template:Universities and colleges in London