Last month I wrote about a discussion which showed what a useful part of the public sphere the blogosphere has become. Now comes another example — in this case a calm explication by my colleague Doug Clow of the background to Britain’s Bloomsbury-based New College of the Humanities. The initiative has attracted an extraordinary amount of hostility and ridicule in the newspapers, which leads Doug to observe, mildly, that he is “shocked, shocked to discover that the accounts presented in the mainstream media are not perfectly in accord with the situation as I understand it.”
That’s putting it mildly. Doug then goes on usefully to clarify a number of important points: that NCH is in reality just another organisation preparing students for degrees awarded by the University of London International Programmes; that it isn’t a ‘university’ or even a ‘university college’ because in the UK university status can only be bestowed by the Privy Council (though I guess that that would be forthcoming if the government decided to award it); and that it’s a for-profit company with a charitable arm.
The OpEd firestorm that A.C. Grayling and his fellow-adventurers have generated is interesting because, among other things, it shows how resistant some establishments are to change. The truth is that NCH is not the end of civilisation as we know it, but the first appearance on British shores of a phenomenon that’s an established feature of the US scene, namely an expensive Liberal Arts school mainly aimed at the offspring of the wealthy. I wouldn’t want my own kids to go to it (and not just because of the fees), but there are plenty of parents in London who spend more than £18k a year on lunch, and to whom Grayling College will look like an excellent finishing school for their offspring.