New College of the Humanities

New College of the Humanities
New College of the Humanities
Established Incorporated 2010; announced 2011; aims to offer tuition from October 2012
Type Private, for-profit, undergraduate
Officer in charge Jeremy Gibbs (CEO)
Chairman Charles Watson
Master A. C. Grayling
Students First intake proposed for Oct. 2012
Undergraduates Target of 375 students/year
Location London, England
51°31′15″N 0°7′19″W / 51.52083°N 0.12194°W / 51.52083; -0.12194Coordinates: 51°31′15″N 0°7′19″W / 51.52083°N 0.12194°W / 51.52083; -0.12194
Ownership New College of the Humanities Ltd (formerly Grayling Hall)
Affiliations Independent (but students will register as International Programme Students with the University of London)

New College of the Humanities (NCH) is a proposed new private for-profit undergraduate college in London, England, the creation of which was announced in June 2011 by the philosopher A.C. Grayling, its founder and first master.[1] It is offering tuition from October 2012[2] in economics, English, history, law and philosophy for undergraduate degrees with the University of London International Programmes.[3] In addition, it will require all students to work toward a "Diploma of New College" by completing courses in critical thinking, practical ethics, science literacy, and professional skills.[4] The college announced plans to use the University of London's teaching and student facilities in and around Bloomsbury but has no formal agreements as yet to do so.[5][6]

NCH will charge domestic and overseas 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 50 assisted places in the first year, out of 200 overall.[7] In addition to Grayling, 13 senior academics have been named as partners, including the biologist Richard Dawkins.[8] 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.[9]

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.[10] 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.[11]




A.C. Grayling, professor of philosophy at Birkbeck College until June 2011, secured NCH's funding.

The college has said it will model itself on liberal arts colleges in the United States, such as Amherst College.[12] Initial reports said it aimed to offer an education to rival that of Oxford and Cambridge,[13] but Grayling said this had been blown out of proportion by press hyperbole.[8] 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.[14] 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.[15] 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.[14] 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.[16] Grayling has criticized English state examinations, arguing that A-levels do not measure ability adequately.[17]

Grayling said David Willetts, the universities minister, was told of the project in 2010, and appeared enthusiastic.[18] 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.[19] 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.[1]

Funding and governance

Intial "seed capital" of £200,000 for the project was provided, according to the Guardian, by the financier Peter Hall.[20]

Ten million pounds in private equity funding was subsqeuntly raised to cover costs for two years, with the expectation that NCH would break even by the third.[5] 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.[8]

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,[21] while Charles Watson, chairman of the PR firm Financial Dynamics, was named as non-executive chairman. [22]

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.[22] 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.[23]

The 14 academic partners, who are also referred to as The Professoriate, are:[23]

A charitable trust was established, the New College of the Humanities Trust, consisting of Grayling, Gibbs, Batstone, Watson, and Brown.[24] 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.[25]

College structure

Facilities and fees

NCH students will have access to the University of London's Senate House library as University of London external students, upon payment of the appropriate fees.[26]

The college has as yet no facilities of its own. It plans for its students to register for University of London degrees as external students under the University of London International Programmes, and as such, their 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.[26] NCH plans to lease a building in Bloomsbury and rent lecture theatres from the university.[5] It said it had block-booked rooms for its first-year students with a student accommodation provider in or near Bloomsbury.[27] The master of Birkbeck College said on June 6 that there was no agreement between NCH and Birkbeck—which is based in Bloomsbury and affiliated with the University of London—to share facilities.[6]

NCH plans to offer classes from October 2012[2], 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.[28] 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 percent 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 percent of its students receiving grants.[7] 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.[11]


The college will offer tuition for eight degree courses in five subject areas: an LLB (law), BSc in economics, and six joint honours BAs in combinations of literature, history and philosophy. In addition, students will study three core subjects—logic and critical thinking, science literacy, and applied ethics—and complete a professional skills course.[29] 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.[23] 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.[4] They will then be awarded, for example, a BA Hons (London) DNC.[2]

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.[6] 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".[30]

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.[3] 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.[6] 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."[11]


NCH says it will offer a 10:1 student-teacher ratio.[13] 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 plans to offer students 12–13 contact hours a week, including two tutorials, one of them one-to-one.[7]

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.[31] 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.[11] 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.[32] 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.[18] 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.[32] Singer, also employed by Princeton, agreed to give one lecture in the first year, but told The Guardian he might do more.[1]


Grayling said he had received 900 expressions of interest from potential students and 80 job applications in the first week.[18] Britain's former prime minister, Tony Blair, endorsed it;[33] 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."[14] 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.[34] 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."[35] 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."[18]

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;[36] 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.[8] 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."[31] 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.[37] 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.[38]

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.[39] 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."[40]

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."[32] A dozen protesters heckled him at Foyles book shop in London on June 7 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.[41] Later in the week police removed protesters from a British Humanist Association talk by Richard Dawkins.[18]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Booth, Robert. "Oxford tries to throw book at new arts college set up by AC Grayling", The Guardian, June 8, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c "British academics launch £18,000 college in London", BBC News, June 5, 2011.
  3. ^ a b Rai, Binda. "New College of the Humanities", University of London press release, June 6, 2011.
  4. ^ a b Grayling, A.C. "Video introduction", New College of the Humanities, accessed June 5, 2011.
  5. ^ a b c Vasagar, Jeevan. "Doubts raised over the financial model of AC Grayling's private university", The Guardian, June 6, 2011.
  6. ^ a b c d Booth, Richard. "AC Grayling's private university accused of copying syllabuses", The Guardian, June 6, 2011.
  7. ^ a b c Lipscomb, Suzannah. "Why I chose to join AC Grayling's private university", The Guardian, June 9, 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d 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.
  9. ^ "Advisory Board", New College of the Humanities, accessed June 7, 2011.
  10. ^ Johnson, Boris. "At last, an Oxbridge for those who can’t get into Oxbridge", The Daily Telegraph, June 6, 2011.
    • "Experiments in Teaching," The Times, June 8, 2011.
  11. ^ a b c d Baker, Simon. "Grayling's plans for tutorials with the stars receive poor notices from disgruntled critics", Times Higher Education, June 9, 2011.
  12. ^ Grimston, Jack. "Top dons create new Oxbridge," The Sunday Times, June 5, 2011.
  13. ^ a b "New university to rival Oxbridge will charge £18,000 a year", The Sunday Telegraph, June 5, 2011.
  14. ^ a b c Johnson, Boris. "At last, an Oxbridge for those who can’t get into Oxbridge", The Daily Telegraph, June 6, 2011.
  15. ^ Lacey, Hester. "The Inventory: Anthony Grayling", The Financial Times, June 10, 2011.
  16. ^ Lawson, Dominic. "A private sector Oxbridge? Not exactly", The Independent, June 7, 2011.
  17. ^ Hurst, Greg; Sugden, Joanna; Sylvester, Rachel; and Thomson, Alice. "New university founder condemns A levels," The Sunday Times, June 11, 2011.
  18. ^ a b c d e Grimston, Jack. "Minister encouraged launch of elite college," The Sunday Times, June 12, 2011.
  19. ^ For registration and change of name, see "New College of the Humanities Limited", Jordan's Business Information Services, accessed June 8, 2011.
  20. ^ Hughes, Solomon., Evans, Robert and Shepherd, Jessica. Tory party donor Peter Hall funded Anthony Grayling's university: Financier with radical Conservative libertarian views says he provided £200,000 to 'breathe life into the idea' The Guardian, Thursday 16 June, 2011, accessed Nov 2011.
  21. ^ "Jeremy Stephen Gibbs", LevelBusiness, accessed June 8, 2011.
  22. ^ a b Booth, Robert. "New university gathers top academics to teach £18,000-a-year degrees", The Guardian, June 5, 2011.
  23. ^ a b c "Who we are", New College of the Humanities, accessed June 10, 2011.
  24. ^ "New College of the Humanities Trust", New College of the Humanities, accessed June 8, 2011.
  25. ^ "Advisory Board", New College of the Humanities, accessed June 7, 2011.
  26. ^ a b Kydd, Jonathan. "University of London's independent stance", letter from the dean of University of London International Programmes, The Guardian, June 8, 2011.
  27. ^ "Where will I live?", New College of the Humanities, accessed June 7, 2011.
  28. ^ "Top names, top whack: new humanities-focused institution to charge £18K fees", Times Higher Education, June 6, 2011.
  29. ^ "Courses" and "Quality", New College of the Humanities, accessed June 5, 2011.
  30. ^ Guttenplan, D.D. "Plans to Found Pricey New College Raise Eyebrows", The New York Times, June 13, 2011.
  31. ^ a b Green, David Allen. "Grayling's Folly is falling down", New Statesman, June 7, 2011.
  32. ^ a b c Vasagar, Jeevan and Booth, Robert. "AC Grayling's private university accused of copying syllabuses", The Guardian, June 7, 2011.
  33. ^ Long, Camilla. "AC Grayling: Is it safe to come out now?", The Sunday Times, June 12, 2011.
  34. ^ "Experiments in Teaching," The Times, June 8, 2011.
  35. ^ "One very New College, at a price", The Economist, June 9, 2011.
  36. ^ Eagleton, Terry. "AC Grayling's New Private University is Odious", The Guardian, June 6, 2011.
  37. ^ For the letter, see "The shame of this 'gated intellectual community'", Letters to the editor, The Guardian, June 7, 2011.
  38. ^ Kealey, Terence. "Don't call these people Ivy League pioneers", The Times, June 7, 2011.
  39. ^ "Welcome to the fight, Professor Grayling", The Daily Telegraph, June 8, 2011.
  40. ^ Jenkins, Simon. "AC Grayling has caricatured British universities. No wonder they're fuming", The Guardian, June 9, 2011.
  41. ^ Hough, Andrew. "AC Grayling forced to flee smoke bomb protest at Foyles debate on private university", The Daily Telegraph, June 7, 2011.

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