Monday, June 6, 2011

New Private College of the Humanities in the UK

An interesting development in the face of the tremendous rise in tuition fees at public universities in the UK: "The New College of the Humanities. This will be a private college that is part of the University of London. It will grant London degrees and use their library facilities etc. There is star founding faculty of fourteen professors including well-known names like Richard Dawkins, Partha Dasgupta, Peter Singer, Niall Ferguson, Lawrence Krauss etc. I'm guessing that these guys though won't be doing a lot of the regular teaching, especially those based in the US... Fees are set at £18,000, which is double the UK public maximum of £9,000 but cheap by the standards of current US private university tuition. Students need to meet minimum University of London entry standards and will be interviewed.

The curriculum is broader than is traditional in the UK. This seems like a UK version of the American liberal arts college or what Oxford and Cambridge were once like with a focus on the humanities, one on one tutorials, and admission by interview.

Of course, a lot of people think this is a bad development. Part of the criticism seems to be based on the college using University of London facilities rather than creating their own. If the University isn't charging them market rates for their use then that is a problem. I suspect that they will make some good income out of this that will help fill the shortfall due to the government cuts. One difference with US models is that the college is a "for profit". A charitable trust is also being set up that will provide scholarships to 20% of the students in the first year.

Maybe I'm less shocked than some of these commentators because my experience of US higher education is entirely in the private sector both as a student and as a professor and public Australian universities charge these kinds of fees to graduate students (they waive fees to domestic PhD students). It's a different question whether it will be a good idea for students to get degrees from this place. It will be interesting to follow developments. For more comment see "Crooked Timber".

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