new college of the humanities: boycott

This article originally appeared on Infinite Thought by Nina Power

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Everything that’s wrong with the future of HE in Britain

[Will update/edit this post as and when I find out more about the thing]

While no one should be surprised at the announcement that there is to be such a thing as the New College of the Humanities, which will offer degrees in Philosophy, Literature, Economics, History and Law, taught in an Oxbridge style at a cost of £18,000 a year, it is imperative that we recognise what this College represents, and what it tells us about the direction that HE is heading in.

Those of us that work at post-92s have been told repeatedly that Humanities subjects are under threat, that they are unsustainable in such institutions and that subjects such as Philosophy in particular are not part of the vision of the university. We see patterns of closure and attempted closure of the subject across post-92s (Greenwich, London Met, Middlesex…at Roehampton we are currently being asked to work out between the four of us, who work the equivalent of three full-time positions, how to remove half a position. If we don’t work it out among ourselves, the university will simply take .5 from one of us on the basis of our competing self-assessments – a sorry version of the Prisoner’s Dilemma if ever there were one).

But we know, just as well as management does, that subjects such as Philosophy are highly desired and in strong demand from students. The New College of the Humanities bears this insight out – AC Grayling, Simon Blackburn, Peter Singer are all part of the ‘Professoriate’ while Ken Gemes and Naomi Goulder turn up in ‘other teaching staff’ (by the way, I suggest an immediate boycott of all members of staff involved in the college, who have clearly abandoned any sense of working for the common good in favour of money). Prospective students of the college are assured that they ‘won’t be just a number’ and that they’ll get weekly one-on-one tutorials. Students of the new college will apparently ‘use many of the resources of the University of London: the exceptional library in Senate House, the University of London Union with its many societies and sports activities’ – how is this even remotely allowed? If you’re going to set up a private college, at least have the decency to buy your own fucking resources. I suggest that current students at the University of London find a way of protesting in the strongest sense against the private use of their resources. And where will the college itself be based? Parasitic-like on the existing buildings of the UoL, paying top dollar for room rental, perhaps?

Although the New College will award degrees through existing UoL structures, the private nature of the institution presumably indicates that degree-awarding powers are to be deregulated, allowing any private university to offer whatever they like at whatever cost (following BPP ). While it may be tempting to imagine setting up radical universities and teaching our own degrees, we know very well who and what the government will give degree-awarding powers to – and it’s unlikely to be the kind of places where we would ever want to work at.

The ‘New College’ represents a worrying stage in the closing off of HE. On this model – a bad, cheapish version of the American one, without the scholarships and new buildings, universities will become ever more the preserve of the ultra-rich, and subjects such as Philosophy will remain in the hands of those who somehow feel they have a ‘natural’ right to own them.

I am sure there will be many people ready to fight against the ‘New College’ and everything it stands for. Will post more on this shortly, I’m sure. If anyone has any inside info on the college please email me infinitethought[at]hotmail.co.uk.

UPDATE: Priya found details of the status of the college here. It’s a PLC, with charitable status:

Name & Registered Office:
NEW COLLEGE OF THE HUMANITIES LIMITED
15 GLENGALL ROAD
LONDON
SE15 6NJ
Company No. 07317195

Amusing to note that the College’s previous name was GRAYLING HALL LIMITED….more soon…

UPDATE: The Guardian runs the story with the chilling line ‘The Oxbridge-style university college aims to educate a new British elite’….

UPDATE: It should be noted, as David Shariatmadari does on Twitter that NCH has a spectacular dearth of women and anyone who isn’t white.

NCH have their own Twitter account , and are already desperately trying to fend off various attacks: ‘More than 20% of our students in the first year will be on scholarships or exhibitions. NCH Trust in place for additional support.’ Hmmm….

UPDATE: Andrew is looking at the restrictions that come with having charitable status:

‘Charitable AIMs:TO PROMOTE TEACHING AND RESEARCH IN HUMANITIES HIGHER EDUCATION BY:
(1) AWARDING SCHOLARSHIPS, EXHIBITIONS, BURSARIES AND/OR MAINTENANCE ALLOWANCES TO STUDENTS WHO WISH TO UNDERTAKE A HIGHER EDUCATION PROGRAMME AT NEW COLLEGE OF THE HUMANITIES AND WHO ARE IN NEED OF FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE;
(2) AWARDING PRIZES FOR ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE TO STUDENTS ENROLLED AT NEW COLLEGE OF THE HUMANITIES;
(3) RELIEVING HARDSHIP AMONG STUDENTS ENROLLED AT NEW COLLEGE OF THE HUMANITIES;
(4) AWARDING TRAVEL SCHOLARSHIPS TO STUDENTS ENROLLED AT NEW COLLEGE OF THE HUMANITIES;
(5) OTHERWISE IN FURTHERING THE HIGHER EDUCATION OF STUDENTS WHO ARE IN NEED OF FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE.’

The Guardian article suggests that ‘It will offer some scholarships, with assisted places being granted to one in five of the first 200 students.’ One in five of the first 200 students? Does charitable status amount only to this?

Andrew adds that there may be conflict of interest as Grayling is listed as trustee, which might prevent him from teaching or paying himself any money.

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