Professor AC Grayling, a philosopher, has founded a College to teach the humanities to “gifted” undergraduates.
The college will be situated in Bloomsbury, just by the British Museum. It has already selected a “Professoriate” who will supposedly give over 100 lectures a year, notwithstanding almost all of them are academics at foreign universities.
In my view, almost everything about this College is an affront to the critical thinking and evidence-based approach that such an establishment should promote.
It is, in short, a sham.
First, it is not even a College in any meaningful sense.
Its students will be enrolled on University of London degrees which, it seems, they will have to apply for directly.
However, instead of the £1,000 to £2,000 a year they would expect to be charged for a University of London external degree, the “gifted” student will be expected to pay £18,000.
Who will these “gifted” students be taught by?
Reading the biographies of the “Professoriate” would suggest that few students will get much contact time with such academic celebrities.
In history, for example, the three named professors all teach mainly at American universities and have numerous other responsibilities.
In law, the two listed professors are not even authorities in any of the seven core LLB courses.
Although it would be wonderful to be taught jurisprudence (the philosophy of law) by Professor Dworkin and civil procedure by Professor Zuckerman, this will not help the student seeking tuition in contract or criminal law.
One suspects that the actual teachers of the courses are not yet even appointed.
And what does it mean to be “gifted”?
No doubt it will require a special kind of gift to want to pay £18,000 for a course which costs substantially less elsewhere in London by absentee professors who will be on television more than they will be in Bloomsbury.
However, the College’s PR advisors tell me “gifted” means:
"that, like every university, we are selective and will select students whose achievements and potential show that they can make the most of the high-quality, intensive educational experience at NCH".
An alternative view is that “gifted” simply means privileged.
This will accord with the view of Boris Johnson that this is an “Oxbridge” for those who cannot get into Oxford or Cambridge.
And it is not even clear if the College is a business or a charity.
Perhaps they do not know themselves.
This is not a College but a branding exercise: the use of big academic names to gloss straightforward London University degrees and charge the courses out at five times the cost using the same facilities.
Almost all the contentions made on the College’s website are misconceived, or do not seem to be substantiated.
All this is clear with the application of the critical thinking and an evidence-based approach which the humanities should actually promote and celebrate.
This College is not any academic breakthrough.
This College does nothing real to help the humanities in this country.
It is instead AC Grayling’s Folly.
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