Atheist (humanist) capitalism: it follows. or “AC Grayling’s private university is odious”(via Guardian)

So. is this what was all about? Eagleton at the guardian co.uk

“A group of well-known academics are setting up a private college in London which will charge students £18,000 a year in tuition fees. There will, as usual, be scholarships for the deserving poor. As a kind of Oxbridge by the Thames, the New College of the Humanities will offer students weekly one-on-one tutorials. For that kind of money, I would demand a team of live-in, round-the-clock tutors, ready to fill me in about Renaissance art or logical positivism at the snap of a finger. I would also expect them to iron my socks and polish my boots. There will, however, be teaching from 14 “star” professors as well, including Linda Colley, Christopher Ricks, Richard Dawkins, Niall Ferguson and David Cannadine. Somehow it’s hard to imagine these guys rolling in at 9am and teaching for 12 to 15 hours a week, which is what you do in the real Oxbridge. Prospective students should talk to these professors’ travel agents and insist on obtaining photocopies of their diaries. Students can, however, be fairly relaxed about the prospect of being kicked out. It would be like JK Rowling being kicked out by her publishers. The master of the college will be public sage and identikit Islington Man, AC Grayling. Many observers, he comments, will be surprised to see a group of “almost pinko” academics pitching in to the project. If Dawkins, Colley, Ricks and Ferguson are pinko, I’m a deep shade of indigo. Anyway, why should anyone be surprised at the prospect of academics signing on for a cushy job at 25% more than the average university salary, with shares in the enterprise to boot? What would prevent most of us from doing so is the nausea which wells to the throat at the thought of this disgustingly elitist outfit. British universities, plundered of resources by the bankers and financiers they educated, are not best served by a bunch of prima donnas jumping ship and creaming off the bright and loaded. It is as though a group of medics in a hard-pressed public hospital were to down scalpels and slink off to start a lucrative private clinic. Grayling and his friends are taking advantage of a crumbling university system to rake off money from the rich. As such, they are betraying all those academics who have been fighting the cuts for the sake of their students”

Today in guardian letters section

“It is with some dismay that we register the launch of the New College of the Humanities (Report, 6 June). In 1538, Thomas Cromwell, on behalf of Henry VIII, began the dissolution of the monasteries. First in a marginal way, then as a total assault, the process destroyed libraries and learning, while further enriching those of the gentry who acquired the assets. Four and a half centuries later, we are seeing comparable vandalism: the dissolution of the universities as public institutions of research, scholarship and the dissemination of knowledge. However well-intentioned may have been the motivation of the instigators of the New College, this initiative is mistaken. As a private institution of higher education, its creation is a setback for the campaign against this government’s policy – a policy of commercialisation of education through fees, as a precursor to the bankrupting, and then the asset-stripping or sale, of public provision.  The exasperation of the academy at the systematic underfunding of education by successive governments is understandable, but privatisation of teaching and research is not the answer. It will distort course provision and the focus of investigation. It will foster an instrumental attitude to learning among students, who will increasingly measure the value of their degrees against the private returns from possible future employment that might allow them to repay their debts. Most significantly, the US model for higher education will encourage the commercial narrowing of the ambit of provision until all but those universities in the Ivy League are forced to give up that title. It will foreclose access to higher education for all whose bank accounts are not overly provided, or who are not from backgrounds sufficiently impoverished to qualify them for bursaries”

Tom Hickey University of Brighton, and UCU national executive, Professor Geoff Eley University of Michigan, Professor Esther Leslie Birkbeck, University of London, Professor Louise Morley University of Sussex, Professor Catherine Hall University College London, Professor James Ladyman Bristol University, Professor Alex Callinicos King’s College London, Professor Cora Kaplan University of Southampton, Professor Bob Brecher University of Brighton, Professor Kees van der Pijl University of Sussex, Professor Malcolm Povey University of Leeds, Professor Luke Martell University of Sussex, Professor Richard Norman University of Kent, Professor Tom Claes Ghent University, Professor Raf Salkie University of Brighton, Professor Jonathan Woodham University of Brighton, Professor Matthew Cornford University of Brighton, Professor John Hutnyk Goldsmiths, University of London, Professor Valerie Hey University of Sussex, Professor Alison Assiter University of the West of England”

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