College is failing us. So goes the continual refrain. Here in the US this means questioning its value, whether students learn anything, and the growth of the for profit school as an alternate model. In the UK, it has meant going in a new direction — charging more and more for school, and now, creating a “New College” with academic superstars! For the select few, you can attend a new kind of school (associated with UCL). Imagine being taught by AC Grayling! Or Peter Singer! Or Ronald Dworkin, or Steven Pinker, or Richard Dawkins, or Niall Ferguson all at one small, elite college! (Well, let’s pretend that last one isn’t on the list).
But wait a minute, when you look at this super-star faculty you might notice two things: 13/14 are men. And 13/14 are white (h/t to Kieran Healy for pointing this out). Hmmm… I guess for Mr. Grayling and others, creating a top-notch college means selecting the best — and if that means that the “New College” is one so tremendously old-fashioned as to exclude women and non-white faculty, so be it.
The model for such a “new” British school is the American Ivy League. British intellectuals have denounced such a move, arguing that at present, “UK investment in higher education seems to be yielding almost three times the return [than the more privatized US system].”
The New College represents some of the worst of this move. It is admittedly elitist. They write, “Every university is elitist, because of selection based on ability and potential. But we’re determined not to be exclusive.” They will provide financial aid, but at levels far lower than comparable US universities. They claim that “more than a fifth” of students will receive aid. That’s presumably less than a quarter. The tuition alone is $30,000 (18,000 pounds). That’s less than Columbia’s $41K. But not that much. And Columbia provides aid for more than half its students.
It seems to me that the “New College” provides the worst kind of education — massively increasing costs, accessible only to the very few, a nearly all white all male faculty, and the claim that they are saving us from the bad educations provided elsewhere with their “quality”.