‘New Oxbridge’ Up And Already Under Fire

Celebrated academics have controversially founded a high-cost private uni offering Oxbridge-style humanities tuition. The Tab found that the idea isn’t too popular here.

A C Grayling Cambridge fees government cuts kieran corcoran Liberal Arts London New College niall ferguson private university Richard Dawkins supervisions tuition fees

A private for-profit university claiming to offer Oxbridge-style tuition in humanities has been founded in London.

The New College for the Humanities will act like liberal arts colleges in America, incorporating major and minor subjects, and providing Oxbridge-style individual supervisions for all its 375 students. Its fees are expected to reach £18 000 a year.

This focus on one-to-one teaching follows a review conducted by Cambridge, which advised the cutting of individual supervisions to save money, in response to government cuts.

But with the cost of living in London whacked on top of £18 000 fees, many have questioned why they are charging so much.

The programme has been slammed for effectively offering a University of London degree for double the cost.

CUSU President Rahul Mansigani told The Tab: “Fees of £18,000 a year at a private institution will almost certainly deter or exclude people on the basis of their ability to pay.

“UK universities may have something to learn from the mixed curricula and flexibility of US liberal arts colleges, but … this is a deeply unconstructive way of achieving this.”

A.C. Grayling, NCH’s Master, has been forced to defend the fees, stating: “[£18,000] is how much it really costs to provide a very very high-quality higher education.

“Top universities are desperate to maintain the model as much as they can, but it is under pressure because it is so expensive.”

James Mottram, a first year English student at Selwyn, agreed: “The UK system is under a lot of pressure simply because of the volume of applicants. Having more options, particularly at the more academic end of the scale, is only a good thing so far as I can see.”

The roster of top professors includes big-name academics like Richard Dawkins and Niall Ferguson, as well as two Cambridge professors: Simon Blackburn (Philosophy) and Sir Partha Dasgupta (Economics).

Dawkins (left) and Grayling (right) will teach NCH undergrads

Blackburn, professor and Fellow at Trinity, told The Tab: “The idea is to supply the excellence embedded in the [Oxbridge] system to more people. That system is only available to a small proportion of those who would like to benefit from it, and could benefit from it: Philosophy at Cambridge, for example, has an applicants to places ratio of around 5 to 1.”

Not all academics are on board though. On their Facebook page, the Cambridge Academics’ Campaign for Higher Education (CACHE) questioned the professorial line-up: “The academics headlining this will jet in for a few lectures a term … already it says ‘visiting’ next to quite a few of the stellar names.”

Students are equally dubious. St. John’s second year Caitlín Doherty blasted the project as “a vanity exercise by a group of self-involved TV ‘intellectuals’, keen to profit from the marketisation of education.”

She added: “If you’re that keen to have regressive forms of scholarship hammered down your throat by middle-aged men with blow-dried hair, watch 4od. It’s free.”

NCH will welcome its first cohort in 2012 and is accepting applications as of yesterday. Whether it will fill a hole in the market or just create holes in students’ pockets remains to be seen.