Home > General Politics, Miscellaneous > The hypocrisy of A. C. Grayling

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 MasakaUganda. 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.

  1. Matthew Feldman
    June 5, 2011 at 8:05 pm

    I guess that means the old Christian tenet ‘do unto others’ didn’t make it into his secular Bible!

  2. paulinlancs
    June 5, 2011 at 8:13 pm

    Surely the most important thing to find out what the decision-making process was for the University of london to offer up its Taught Degree Awarding Powers (which the QAA awards on behalf of the Privy council) to this new college, if indeed it has done so.

  3. Agog
    June 6, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Gareth Thomas, Labour’s universities spokesman, commended Grayling for his initiative


  4. June 6, 2011 at 11:13 am

    Unfortuneately Grayling and Dawkins have always given athiests a bad name. So what they are up to now should not surprise us. They are both writers acting as money-making machines.

    • June 6, 2011 at 11:53 am

      I agree entirely with you Harry, I’m left wondering why people feel they’ve been betrayed by the likes of Dawkins; he wasn’t once a card carrying member of the free education for all society, he’s an elitist. Peter Singer and Ronald Dworkin on the other hand, there’s good reason why people are aggravated.

  5. June 6, 2011 at 11:58 am

    Please delete me from whatever your system thinks I clicked into.

  6. Manuela
    June 6, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    I agree with the sentiment of this post, but it should be noted that the college was *not* set up by Richard Dawkins. Dawkins just accepted to teach there http://richarddawkins.net/comments/634394

    One could argue that agreeing to teach there is a type of endorsement, but it should be clear that this was not his idea.

  7. Vm
    June 6, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    I can’t imagine “The Professoriate” will be doing much “hand holding” anyway. The website makes it pretty clear that there’s a strong division of labour between the turbo-profs and the rest of the teaching staff (with comparatively little brand recognition).

    “Each subject area will be in the charge of a member of the Professoriate with day-to-day management by a subject area convener who will also have teaching responsibilities … Three exceptional subject area conveners, Professor Ken Gemes, Dr Naomi Goulder and Dr Suzannah Lipscomb, have already agreed to join New College. … Others to be announced soon”

    Even the fact that they recruited the big names before they even bothered to recruit enough proles to make the place run properly says something.

    I would *love* to see the contract that Dawkins and the others signed.

    • June 6, 2011 at 9:13 pm

      So someone else will be doing the hand holding, which will inevitably – and in the words of A C Grayling – give students “less time … to read, think and write, these being the three crucial elements of higher study.”

  8. June 6, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    “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.”

    This is entirely consistent with charging £18,000 per year for NCH, especially when you look at it in context with the comment from Boris Johnson, who calls it “a new Oxbridge for those who can’t get into Oxbridge”.

    Those who cannot get into Oxbridge are presumably those who are not “suitably qualified” and hence their rich parents pay for the privilege instead. The Grayling quote above is for those students with ability (and I agree with it).

    Actually, I am quite meh about this. If the point is simply to get money off the rich kids who cannot get good enough A levels to go to Oxbridge then it serves a social purpose because it keeps them out of the other universities where the rest of us study (or studied). It will be well known as the university where rich thick kids go and the “degrees” will be treated as such (perhaps good qualification to get a job in Goldman Sachs or Morgan Stanley, but not for jobs that do something useful). After a few years (depending on how deep the pockets are of the financial backers, but let’s say ten years) it will close through lack of customers willing to buy their degrees.

  9. Duncan
  10. Liz
    June 7, 2011 at 7:41 pm

    Yeah: well said this site: Grayling et al are disgusting and scandalous. But I’ve got just one question: *has the notorious Black Bloc been notified: are they all aware of this latest phase of the class war, and have they been in evidence at any of these protests?* (sans masks, possibly?) We may need them for this latest struggle! I jest not. (Tory HQ treatment.):)

  11. Liz
    June 7, 2011 at 7:47 pm

    Don’t comments come out on this site without moderation? It doesn’t say..

  12. paulinlancs
    June 7, 2011 at 7:54 pm


    First timer comments are moderated just to stop automatic spam. After that we’re pretty free and easy with the usual parameters as per comments policy.

  1. June 5, 2011 at 8:57 pm
  2. June 6, 2011 at 1:02 am
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  6. June 8, 2011 at 9:34 pm
  7. April 4, 2012 at 1:06 pm

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