Academics launch £18,000 college in London

Richard Dawkins The 14 professors behind the project include evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins

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A private college in England aiming to rival Oxford and Cambridge is being launched by leading academics.

The New College of the Humanities says it will teach "gifted" undergraduates and prepare them for degrees from the University of London.

The privately-owned London-based college will open in September 2012 and is planning to charge fees of £18,000.

The 14 professors involved include biologist Richard Dawkins and historian Sir David Cannadine.

Professor Dawkins is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford, as well as being the author of The God Delusion, and Sir David is a professor at Princeton University in the United States.

Based in Bloomsbury, central London, the new college says it will offer eight undergraduate courses in the humanities taught by some of the world's most prominent academics.

Degrees cover five subject areas - law, economics, history, English literature and philosophy.

Students will also take three "intellectual skills" modules in science literacy, logic and critical thinking and applied ethics.

The college will award its own Diploma and students will take University of London degrees, making a combined award of BA Hons (London) DNC.

'New model'

Professor AC Grayling, the philosopher who will be the college's first Master, secured millions of pounds of funding from investors to set up the institution.

He said: "Our priorities at the college will be excellent teaching quality, excellent ratios of teachers to students, and a strongly supportive and responsive learning environment.

"Our students will be challenged to develop as skilled, informed and reflective thinkers, and will receive an education to match that aspiration."

Prof Grayling is a professor of philosophy at Birkbeck College, University of London, and a fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford.

The college claims to offer a "new model of higher education for the humanities in the UK".

Students can apply immediately and assisted places will be offered to 20% of the first year's intake.

Applicants need to meet the University of London minimum entrance requirements and be fully competent in English.

'Entrench inequality'

The college will not be part of the UCAS applications process, with each application considered "individually, personally and on its merits".

It also has scholarships and "exhibition schemes" to "ensure that finance should not be a barrier to any talented UK student".

But the University and College Union (UCU) said the launch of the new college - and state funding cuts for arts, humanities and social sciences - would result in the subjects becoming the preserve of a "select few".

UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: "While many would love the opportunity to be taught by the likes of AC Grayling and Richard Dawkins, at £18,000 a go it seems it won't be the very brightest but those with the deepest pockets who are afforded the chance.

"The launch of this college highlights the government's failure to protect art and humanities and is further proof that its university funding plans will entrench inequality within higher education," she said.

The government has set fees in England's public universities at a maximum of £9,000 from September next year.

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