Rachael McLellan and Lizzie Porter
Oxford dons have branded AC Grayling’s £18,000-a-year Oxbridge-style private New College of Humanities (NCH)as “appalling, frightening” and “a terrible idea”.
The private college is funded by a multi-millionaire couple from Switzerland and City bankers and will pay lecturers 25 percent more than the national average.
New College tutor Dr Rowan Tomlinson said: “My position is quite simple on this one: I think the proposed private college is both appalling and frightening!”
Fellow in Politics Karma Nabulsi added: “I think it is a terrible idea.”
New College Oxford bursar David Palfreyman said: “My personal view is that time will tell whether it can deliver on an Oxbridge basis/promise (eg who exactly gives the routine tutorials year-in-and-year-out, as opposed to fancy names parachuting in for the one-hour tele-don lecture…do its grads get over-paid jobs in the City/Law or (for the real losers) go into academe?)”
The Guardian reported on Wednesday that Richard Dawkins, physics professor Lawrence M Krauss and biologist Steve Jones will all deliver lectures, along with former Oxford Professor of Poetry Sir Christopher Hicks, historian Niall Ferguson and Princeton Professor Peter Singer.
However, Dawkins, Emeritus Fellow at New College Oxford, has distanced himself from the project. On Sunday, Dawkins told The Oxford Student: “This is the brainchild of A C Grayling, NOT me. Professor Grayling invited me to join the professoriate and give some lectures. I accepted the invitation, partly because I liked the idea of lecturing to non-scientists after reaching Oxford’s compulsory retiring age, partly out of respect for A C Grayling.”
When contacted later to clarify whether his commitments at NCH would change his relationship with Oxford, a spokesperson for Dawkins declined to comment.
Oxford Law professor Adrian Zuckerman said: “My involvement in NCH in no way interferes with my Oxford duties. I have retired from my tutorial fellowship at Univ, where I had a stint of 12 hours tutorial teaching per week, so I should be able to spare a maximum of 20 hours for NCH.”
Grayling claims the College will provide the one-to-one tuition he says is threatened by budget cuts at Oxford and Cambridge.
Zuckerman added: “Small group teaching and face to face tutorials have benefited students in Oxford. I see no reason why this should not be available beyond the confines of Oxford and Cambridge.”
However, some students expressed concern over the project. Wadham Student Union President Jacob Haddad said: “I have some serious doubts over the quality of any education delivered by a profit-driven institution with limited accountability.
“I don’t feel that Grayling’s venture could ever rival Oxford, or any of the Russell Group universities for that matter. Applications will be pretty self-selective and as a result I cannot imagine many of the intake will be that inspirational or fun to be around.
“My biggest concern is that NCH undermines all of the access efforts taking place at Oxford and other universities across the country. There is a very real danger that the elitism and societal divide that NCH represents will be associated with both Oxford and Cambridge.”
A spokesperson for NCH’s declined to comment.
Grayling did not respond to requests for comment, but told the BBC: “Our priorities at the college will be excellent teaching quality, excellent ratios of teachers to students, and a strongly supportive and responsive learning environment.”