...with his mates, Richard Dawkins and Niall Ferguson.
A group of well-known academics are setting up a private college in London which will charge students £18,000 a year in tuition fees. There will, as usual, be scholarships for the deserving poor. As a kind of Oxbridge by the Thames, the New College of the Humanities will offer students weekly one-on-one tutorials. For that kind of money, I would demand a team of live-in, round-the-clock tutors, ready to fill me in about Renaissance art or logical positivism at the snap of a finger. I would also expect them to iron my socks and polish my boots.
There will, however, be teaching from 14 "star" professors as well, including Linda Colley, Christopher Ricks, Richard Dawkins, Niall Ferguson and David Cannadine. Somehow it's hard to imagine these guys rolling in at 9am and teaching for 12 to 15 hours a week, which is what you do in the real Oxbridge. Prospective students should talk to these professors' travel agents and insist on obtaining photocopies of their diaries. Students can, however, be fairly relaxed about the prospect of being kicked out. It would be like JK Rowling being kicked out by her publishers.
The master of the college will be public sage and identikit Islington Man, AC Grayling. Many observers, he comments, will be surprised to see a group of "almost pinko" academics pitching in to the project. If Dawkins, Colley, Ricks and Ferguson are pinko, I'm a deep shade of indigo. Anyway, why should anyone be surprised at the prospect of academics signing on for a cushy job at 25% more than the average university salary, with shares in the enterprise to boot?
While no one should be surprised at the announcement that there is to be such a thing as theNew 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?