An introduction to the UK’s newest university

2:22 pm Blogroll, UK Education

Fourteen of the world’s top academics have banded together to set up a new university in London: the New College of the Humanities. The founding fathers (and mothers) include such famous names as A.C. Grayling, Richard Dawkins, Niall Ferguson, and Steven Pinker. The New College is a privately-funded institution set up to teach arts and humanities subjects at undergraduate level. Professor Grayling, the Master of the College, says  “Our priorities at the college will be excellent teaching quality, excellent ratios of teachers to students, and a strongly supportive and responsive learning environment.”

Students  apply directly to the New College, rather than through UCAS. This will be of great benefit to students who may be unwilling or unable to apply to universities via the UCAS system. The college is to accept  students of eighteen years of age and upwards. Entry requirements are relatively flexible, although minimum English language proficiency standard and University of London minimum entrance requirements  need to be met.

The starting fees are £18,000 per annum. This is double the level of fees that state-funded universities are allowed to charge  UK students and about £5,500 more than an overseas student can typically expect to pay for an arts or humanities course. However, the New College is to have scholarship and exhibition schemes that give around 20% of students partial or full payment of their fees. These schemes are to be competitive and ‘based on academic ability and potential’.

The New College is to initially offer the following courses:

  • LLB in Law
  • BSc in Economics
  • BA in Literature with History
  • BA in Philosophy with Literature
  • BA in History with Literature
  • BA in History with Philosophy
  • BA in Philosophy with Literature
  • BA in Philosophy with History

As well as studying their core course, students have to take ‘intellectual skills’ modules in science literacy, logic and critical thinking, and applied ethics.

Degrees are to be granted by the University of London and will therefore be equivalent to degrees from established institutions, such as King’s College, the London School of Economics, and University College. However, it will inevitably take some time before the New College establishes a reputation equal to the existing colleges.

The college’s first intake  comprises 200 students who begin their studies in Autumn 2012. The fourteen Professors of the New College will advise on curricula and quality and give lectures to students, but will not be responsible for day-to-day teaching. This is to be conducted by the permanent staff of the college. The institution’s website promises lecturer to student ratios of 1:10, complemented by a system of one-to-one tutorials.

Some commentators have expressed concern that the founding professors  have less involvement in teaching than they would at more established institution and that the narrow focus of the college is going to result in a less vibrant academic environment than can be found at mainstream universities. It will be interesting to see how this new university develops both in size and reputation over the coming years.

Matt Wisbey

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