Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/675/12231
The Socialist, Reader's comment:
To hell with for-profit education
Rising fees, scrapping EMA student payments and devastating cuts to further and higher education budgets will mean that working class young people have little to no chance of a decent education.
Britain's third private university will open in Bloomsbury, central London in the autumn, funded by private equity. The initiative has gained support from all those who defend the marketisation of education, including the Labour Party whose university spokesperson praised the university as a "private initiative to drive new investment in arts, humanities and social science courses".
Here Tom Rollins explains the situation.
New College of the Humanities (NCH), describing itself as a "new concept in university level education", is a private for-profit university. After the most controversial education policy in recent years - trebling fees to £9,000 - a group of "liberal" academics and businesspeople have decided to provide higher education for £18,000 a year.
Posing as a prospective student, I spoke to the college's Oxford-educated chief executive officer (CEO), Jeremy Gibbs. He has come from a specialist venture capital consultancy firm, where he was also CEO.
The college trust also includes former computing and consultancy CEOs, chairs and upper-class big wigs and dons. It all sounds like a neoliberal dream, where education is very big business.
"I should probably get out of sales mode", laughed Mr Gibbs at one point. He was telling me about the founding of the college, and its 'liberal' ethos. But what is NCH when it's not in sales mode?
"It's Anthony Grayling's brainchild", he says. Mr Gibbs describes Grayling, celebrity philosopher and academic, as "one of the foremost liberal public intellectuals in the country, as well as an extremely nice man". Nice enough, and liberal enough, to plan to offer the super-rich the 'best' education and ignore the rest.
Grayling's private university was launched on 5 June. It will open its doors in September 2012, but is taking applications now.
Naturally there has been a positive reaction from the rich. NCH will offer one-to-one tutoring from world-famous academics like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Ricks and Niall Ferguson; an "almost pinko" teaching board, apparently. Although the Guardian revealed that some of the 'stars' will only teach for an hour in the first year.
Pinker still, 20% of NCH first years will receive scholarships or "exhibitions". Scholarships offer free education, while those on exhibitions will pay £7,200 annual net fees.
I raised the issue of a 'less advantaged' 18 year old from Sheffield mixing with the very privileged. "Yes, there's going to be rich kids there - it's just a fact of life", Gibbs said. "They've had the money to pay fees at independent schools. Nevertheless we will be selecting bright kids".
Gibbs explained that at Oxbridge there are six applicants for each place so most students miss out. Meanwhile other universities are dogged by cuts to funding, students squeezed into bigger classes; with the looming threat of lay-offs. "It's not what we call high quality education", Gibbs says.
Where does the rest of the population stand? Others facing £9,000 fees do not seem to factor into the NCH scheme of things. They may not be getting an education at all. "I wish education could be free, but it can't", says Gibbs. To hell with the lot of them then!
Instead, we need a fully funded, publicly owned and democratically run education system, free to all from nursery to university.
In The Socialist 15 June 2011:
Fighting the cuts
NHS news & campaigning
National Shop Stewards Network
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis