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← [Update - comments by AC Grayling] British academics launch £18,000 college in London

[Update - comments by AC Grayling] British academics launch £18,000 college in London - Comments

kaiserkriss's Avatar Comment 1 by kaiserkriss

Great idea and subject content, except for English Literature. Sorry but this seems to be totally misplaced in what seems to be a forward thinking and highly worthwhile program. In my opinion a course in International relations- how to deal with people from other cultures would be more useful and appropriate in today's world. jcw

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 15:55:21 UTC | #634260

sirmailbox's Avatar Comment 2 by sirmailbox

Wow, where did this come from? In any case, congratulations Richard. Establishing an institution of higher education is a highly worthwhile pursuit. I only urge one word of caution. The article says that finances will not be a barrier to any talented UK student. PLEASE ensure that this is truly the case--I do not know how it is across the ocean, but in the States this is often just rhetoric, and scholarships can be extremely hard to come by, even for students with very high achievements. That said, congratulations again!

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 15:59:48 UTC | #634261

William33's Avatar Comment 3 by William33

This will be amazing and certainly is something worthy to commit yourself to. Congratulations.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 16:05:05 UTC | #634266

gordon's Avatar Comment 4 by gordon

At those prices we will have an elite of horrible rich kids at the expense of any gifted children. I am very disappointed. Any further education establishment motivated by profit will not get my vote nor approval. Maybe it is more than that. I hope so. Seems like more division of society into those who have and those who don't. Tagging one poor kid onto the four who have rich parents does not seem to me the way forward. Maybe I've read it wrong.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 16:12:49 UTC | #634269

AtheistEgbert's Avatar Comment 5 by AtheistEgbert

Congratulations Professor Dawkins and others for this excellent idea. I hope you're able to set up some kind of foundation or trust where profits and donations can go into the pot to invest in creating more humanities colleges and build a kind of momentum. Hopefully, if enough people are able to donate, the charges will come down. Also, I hope that such colleges retain a high reputation which will attract more high quality academics and thus more students and funds in future.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 16:15:59 UTC | #634270

Wilkinson's Avatar Comment 6 by Wilkinson

To be honest, I'm against universities.

If you're serious about learning, then read some books and surf the Web. If you prefer the lecture format, then you can even watch lectures on Youtube. Purely at your own pace, and increasingly you get the best lecturers in the world.

Nowadays most university academics are little better than con artists. They trick employers into valuing degrees as the be-all-and-end-all, even though a cheap and simple aptitude test is better for measuring...well, aptitude. They trick students into paying exorbitant sums of money for lectures which are usually inferior to the material in books, and certainly inferior to the "model lectures" which are rapidly appearing on Youtube.

If Dawkins wants to make real progress, he should be trying to shut the universities down, not opening some more.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 16:34:06 UTC | #634273

drumdaddy's Avatar Comment 7 by drumdaddy

For the first time in my life I want to go back to school!

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 16:35:48 UTC | #634275

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 8 by Cartomancer

I find I cannot treat this development with anything but disappointment and sadness. I have always been, and remain, a staunch opponent of privatised, plutocratically segregated, education in any form. I think it debauches and prostitutes learning to make it something that the wealthy can access more of than those of lesser means. It is an inherently unfair concept through and through, and one of the greatest contributory factors to social inequality and the perpetuation and widening of the wealth gap between the haves and the have-nots. We should be working towards making top-class education available to everyone, free of charge, and placing the costs on the shoulders of the richest (especially the corporate sector) through much higher taxation on those who can afford it. Like they do in Scandinavia.

And having 20% of the places financially assisted does not adequately address this. That simply creates a two-tier system where the vast majority of applicants, who don't have a spare £100k lying around to pay for three years of tuition and living in London, must fight it out tooth and nail for a fifth of the places, while their filthy rich contemporaries can just get into the remaining 80% anyway. The poorer ones have to fight five times as hard to secure the same thing.

Sure, each application will be considered on merit and the intention will be to only admit the brightest, but that aim is utterly incompatible with charging huge fees and only putting aside 20% of the places for financial assistance. It would only be a fair system if academic ability correlated with parental wealth (which it so obviously doesn't that the mere suggestion it would is actually quite offensive) such that there was a 5:1 ratio of people whose parents could afford the massive fees to people who couldn't within the top-performing academic bracket. In actual fact academic ability is entirely unrelated to parental wealth, and spread evenly across the wealth spectrum.

The mean salary in Britain today is something like £20k. It would be utterly impossible to pay such fees for one's children on that. Even those earning 40k a year (for which it would still be a massive struggle) are in the top 10%. The discrepancy is vast, and very disappointing. Which actually skews the figures even more, since 90% of the applicants will be fighting for 20% of the places, while the wealthiest 10% have free access to the other 80%. That essentially means that someone in the bottom 90% of the national wealth distribution will have to fight 36 times harder for a place than someone in the top 10%.

A project to emphasise good teaching practise is laudable, and I have no problems with the curriculum. But tying it to the sordid, unjust, socially enervating world of private education I find deeply misguided.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 16:41:24 UTC | #634277

Cosmicshore's Avatar Comment 9 by Cosmicshore

Lawrence M Krauss is one of the academics - nice! :) It sounds like a good idea, but again, seems very elitist and intimidating. I hope the college records the lectures and uploads to iTunes or maybe that nice looking website. All the best with it Richard.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 16:44:54 UTC | #634278

weesam's Avatar Comment 10 by weesam

I would go further than Cartomancer.

This is a disgrace.

What price an education?

What price to keep the poor uneducated?

Dawkins, you should be utterly be ashamed of yourself. If you consider this a positive, progressive evolution in teaching then you are a disgrace to the teaching profession.

Please reconsider.

Or maybe try teaching some poor kids in inner city schools as well.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 17:00:04 UTC | #634282

Ivan The Not So Bad's Avatar Comment 11 by Ivan The Not So Bad

And here in the Guardian

Comment 8 by Cartomancer

We are better paid than you think but not so much as to invalidate your argument.

On a brighter note, I think the aim of making sure that those studying humanities have a grounding in critical thinking and an appreciation of science and the scientific method is an excellent one. After all, if you look at the make up of Parliament, it's the damn lawyers who are taking over.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 17:04:35 UTC | #634284

Wilkinson's Avatar Comment 12 by Wilkinson

£18,000 a year is pretty funny. You can watch Leonard Susskind's lectures on Youtube for FREE!

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 17:05:21 UTC | #634285

Daman345's Avatar Comment 13 by Daman345

I have to agree with other commenters here who can't agree with this based on its cost. The idea behind it is great, but the costs are far too exclusive.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 17:09:16 UTC | #634287

weesam's Avatar Comment 14 by weesam

I've been a "fan" of Richard's work since the Growing Up In The Universe lectures. I've read all his books, attended many lectures.

How dare he - how dare he - bemoan the role of religion as a force for keeping down the poor and segregating society and then get involved in such a tacky, ill-conceived and downright disgraceful venture as this? Dawkins doesn't need the money. He could be, and should be, involved in attracting the brightest students into education regardless of cost.

Dawkins on evolution - Survival of the Richest.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 17:11:28 UTC | #634289

Cartomancer's Avatar Comment 15 by Cartomancer

There are two arguments I could just about entertain as to why this project might have some positive value in social and educational terms. I consider it only good practise to rehearse them, given that my heartfelt opposition stems as much from emotional as rational considerations.

First, there's the "working with what we have" argument. It may be terribly naive of me to presume that anything like my preferred, fair, just, socially equal, higher education system will occur in Britain in the next hundred years, and certainly not while those evil Tory bastards still have their suppurating paws on the levers of power. In such a climate, one might argue, is it not better to work with the grain and do some good, rather than spitting into the wind and hoping for reforms that will clearly never happen? Surely the top 10% of the wealth bracket has its share of very bright students, and even if they do have to fight 36 times as hard, so does the bottom 90%. Surely offering at least some of them the chance to experience this newly formulated curriculum, imperfect and unjust though the selection and funding system must necessarily be in the current economic climate, is doing some good in the world? Surely giving at least some section of the population a high quality education where they might not have got it before is better than doing nothing at all?

Which brings us on to the second "trojan horse" type argument, which is to say that this new style humanities curriculum is what the project is really all about, and rather than being an end in itself the New College of the Humanities is merely a test-bed that will hopefully become a beacon to prove that this new way of doing things has tremendous benefits. In ten years, perhaps professor Grayling will be able to point to what has happened there and make a serious case that this kind of teaching should be adopted far more widely. Perhaps a new institution is the only way this could have been effected? Perhaps trying to do it at Oxford or Cambridge or UCL or York or somewhere would have been too difficult, given their already entrenched curricula and institutional frameworks?

I can respect such arguments and the people who make them, although I personally do not see how these proposed benefits could make up for the further entrenchment of plutocratic segregation in our society and the slow creep of corporatised financialism into the education sector. Then again I am very left-wing in my political leanings, and have picked up a considerable personal animus against the British public (i.e. fee-paying) school system and its products from my time at Oxford. So I am undoubtedly biased.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 17:16:00 UTC | #634290

Wilkinson's Avatar Comment 16 by Wilkinson

You can put lectures on Youtube for free. Then they're available to everyone. Widest possible circulation, widest possible good being achieved.

Dawkins has no excuse in this.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 17:17:36 UTC | #634291

Steve Zara's Avatar Comment 17 by Steve Zara

I am completely in agreement with Cartomancer, both in his political position and in everything he says here.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 17:20:33 UTC | #634293

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 18 by Stevehill

I really can't agree with the posters above who say why bother with a degree when you can watch YouTube... is Britain really that dumbed down now?

This college is not subsidised, and seems to be charging a fair rate in the circumstances. The fact that a state-funded university is not allowed to charge more than £9,000 a year (to UK students) does not mean that the provision of some courses doesn't cost several times that. Do you want it good or do you want it cheap?

Given the public sector cuts and the general dumbing down of Britain's universities, with arse-end fifth-rate polyversities like Hatfield Polytechnic (as was) now calling themselves the University of Hertfordshire, it is inevitable that some places are going to take a stand for better standards, and that has to be in the private sector.

You are free of course to sit with your head in a bucket and argue that all higher education should, "morally" be free, and until it is you aren't playing. And it's your right to remain uneducated as a result.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 17:24:28 UTC | #634294

weesam's Avatar Comment 19 by weesam

I am attending a Dawkins lecture on the 9th June.

I hope I get the chance to raise a question on this.

Cartomancer the "you've got to piss with the prick you are given" argument must never be used.

We should be building a better world. This venture is unacceptable.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 17:26:32 UTC | #634295

weesam's Avatar Comment 20 by weesam

Comment 18 by Stevehill : Do you want it good or do you want it cheap?

fallacy. (You sound like some penny-pinching accontant from a Dickens novel).

I want it excellent and free at the point of use.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 17:29:01 UTC | #634297

ajn1983's Avatar Comment 21 by ajn1983

This is very disappointing. I am absolutely 100% in favour of discriminating on the basis of intellect in these matters. However, discrimination on the basis of wealth in this fashion is very bad form. I sincerely hope that any profit made by this enterprise is put to good use, perhaps to sponsor poor children from a young age to progress to a quality university.

It would be interesting to hear what Richard has to say about this. Even if there is some pragmatic explanation and benefit will ultimately be done to people who are not rich, I think being involved in this sort of thing sends out a very clear message. What do others think?

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 17:31:39 UTC | #634298

AnthropicConstance's Avatar Comment 22 by AnthropicConstance

Now, now Wilkinson. We will see what good comes out of this that we can access. First it's got to be paid for though.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 17:32:01 UTC | #634299

weesam's Avatar Comment 23 by weesam

It sends out the message that Dawkins is plutocratic

Which is priceless ammo for the religious when they set up schools to give the best education they possibly can to the poorest in society.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 17:35:37 UTC | #634301

William33's Avatar Comment 24 by William33

I personally do not see what the issue is. I agree that education should be free but this is not a realistic option in the current climate in England. I am from Scotland, where university education is free and I consider that the jewel of Scotland.The USA has NASA, South Africa has wild safaris but free education is what I want to be remembered when people think of Scotland.

However, it's certainly not cheap and costs an eye watering amount. The money must come from somewhere either directly from students or through taxes.

I would also say that watching youtube lectures and reading books is a good way to learn. However attending some type of classroom will help ensure that individuals actually manage to learn what they are suppose to. People learn differently, some prefer reading, working alone or going out in the world to see the art for themselves or to actually experiment with whatever. University is just another method of learning.

This is reality. How many of you paid for your own education?

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 17:54:21 UTC | #634306

robaylesbury's Avatar Comment 25 by robaylesbury

Speaking as a working class lad who left school with no qualifications, and coming from a family where my late father was a painter and decorator and my mother a cleaner, I just don't have a problem with this college. I accept that most of it's patrons will be from the upper echelons and I accept that this is just the way the world is. To be taught be these phenomenal thinkers is likely to make anybody a better rounded, clear thinking individual.

Now I'm off the clean the ferrets.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 17:59:51 UTC | #634309

Wilkinson's Avatar Comment 26 by Wilkinson

Comment 18 by Stevehill :

I really can't agree with the posters above who say why bother with a degree when you can watch YouTube... is Britain really that dumbed down now?

If you think I'm dumbed down because I learn string theory from Leonard Susskind's Youtube lectures, and learn quantum field theory out of books instead of expensive university classes, then sure. In that case I'm happy to be part of a new, dumbed down Britain.

How do you propose that watching lectures on Youtube is somehow conceptually different from watching lectures in person? Magic?

Well, Your avatar is Harry Potter, isn't it?

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 18:08:19 UTC | #634311

weesam's Avatar Comment 27 by weesam

Comment 24 by William33 :

Speaking as a working class lad who left school with no qualifications, and coming from a family where my late father was a painter and decorator and my mother a cleaner, I just don't have a problem with this college. I accept that most of it's patrons will be from the upper echelons and I accept that this is just the way the world is.

spoken like a true serf, "I know my place guvnor"

never mind the ferret, where's the flat cap to doff to the rich boys?

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 18:09:50 UTC | #634313

Peter Grant's Avatar Comment 28 by Peter Grant

This is great news, the Humanities could do with a little more selective pressure.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 18:17:23 UTC | #634314

kaiserkriss's Avatar Comment 29 by kaiserkriss

I agree in Utopia, everything should be free, but unfortunately we don't live in Utopia and won't for a very long time. The problem with living in Utopia, is that it's inhabitants would ALL also share a similar value system and be motivated by being net contributors to society ( welcome to the bee hive or ant colony), but then I suspect we all realize as individuals such a static situation in unlikely to occur and runs counter to our biologically selected attributes that have brought us to where we are now.

So who should pay for tall this free education- surely not the bankrupt state as some suggest.There are enough hangers on who refuse to contribute to society, yet have every opportunity to do so right now. Be pragmatic for a change, recognize Richard and Co are raising the bar in educational standards by offering a course for which there is dire need in today's society that is currently not available elsewhere.

As Cartomancer points out #15, the current established Universities with their entrenched curricula and framework would have little interest in offering something that represents "out of the box" thinking. BY definition such institutions survive on tradition,conformity and the status quo. Throughout the past real changes have come from the "elite" of society. Hopefully this venture will succeed and grow from its humble beginnings financed by the elite to something that will better the lot of all man kind. jcw

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 18:19:18 UTC | #634317

weesam's Avatar Comment 30 by weesam

there is what can only be described as a long streak of unctuous obsequiousness.

If such a venture was undertaken by the church there would be outrage.

It's time for some people to quit the Dawkins fawning. It's embarrassing.

Yes, he is one of our brightest public intellectuals. Yes, he has done much for science.

But in this, he is wrong.

Sun, 05 Jun 2011 18:22:57 UTC | #634318