The hypocrisy of A. C. Grayling
A new elite university, set up by such academic stars as A. C. Grayling and Richard Dawkins, to compete with Oxbridge universities will be set up to offer more ‘direct teaching’ to students.
The New College of the Humanities, which will be based in Bloomsbury, aims to “make a profit”, according to the Guardian, and charge a whopping £18,000 in fees.
Before last year this might have conflicted with Dawkins’ party commitments, being a long time Liberal Democrat supporter, but now it seems rather coherent. As for Grayling, things are rather different.
In a piece about university contact hours in November 2009, Professor Grayling commented, against the plans of Lord Manelson at the time, that university should not be about “spoon-feeding and hand-holding”‘ students, but about “autonomy in thinking, reading and writing”.
Neha-Tamara Patel, in a Guardian piece in 2010, disagreed with Grayling at the time, saying: “University lecturers are experts in their fields, so the more contact there is with students, the richer their degree experience will be.”
It would seem that Grayling has come round to this thinking, as his “college aims to educate a new British elite with compulsory teaching in science literacy, critical thinking, ethics and professional skills on top of degree subjects taught in one-to-one tutorials.”
Fair enough, but he’ll have to face up to the consequences. In the same piece Grayling noted that: “The more contact hours imposed on students, the less time they have to read, think and write, these being the three crucial elements of higher study.”
Perhaps he doesn’t believe in the best for elite students!
But that isn’t the real scandal.
In a piece for the New Statesman in October 2010, expressing concern for the cuts to arts and humanities subsidies, Professor Grayling said:
increases in tuition fees will not only fail to compensate fully for the cuts but will act as a brake on student recruitment, too, and the net impending effect will be a shrinkage in higher education, with the greatest shrinkage in the humanities.
Does Grayling mean fee rises will have negative effects on student recruitment? It would seem so, and it ties in with other noises he has made on this subject. In the same piece on contact hours Grayling stated:
University education should be provided free of charge to all those suitably qualified for it, as a national investment that goes far beyond its benefit to the offices and factories of the land.
How on earth does this justify charging £18,000 for direct higher university education?
Furthermore still, on October 4, 2007, Professor Grayling gave a lecture to the North East Humanists (NEH) on its 50th anniversary. The NEH became a registered charity in February 2006 and supports the Isaac Newton High School at Kateera Village near Masaka, Uganda. According to its wikipedia page, a ‘major aim of the school is to help disadvantaged children who cannot afford to pay fees for secondary education’ and by ‘2006 the school had over 80 pupils, of whom only half could afford tuition fees.’ The NEH does this in accordance with the principles “of the philosophy of humanism”. Is Grayling forgetting his own humanist principles?
Only in deed does A. C. Grayling support free education, but in practice, so it appears, for the elite the charge of great sums will suffice.
There is an emergency meeting on Monday June 6, located at room B111, Brunei Gallery, SOAS, to oppose the new college. You can visit the Facebook page here.