Although the New College of Humanities’ plans to charge £18,000 per year fees were mentioned almost a year ago in the Daily Telegraph, (and reported on this blog) it appears that it was only recently that geneticist Steve Jones discovered this. This led the Aberystwyth-born snails enthusiast to distance himself from the unborn institution with which he had been associated. These fees, he said, mean that ‘it can now no longer really claim to be about public education’. He then went on, through a deft classical allusion, to compare the New College of Humanities to a toilet. While other universities plan to charge fees of around £9,000, the OU will charge even less.
Education is a subject on which Jones has strong views. On 13 January 2009 he told listeners to BBC Radio 5 Live: Breakfast that private schools were a ‘cancer on the education system’.
The history of the the HE sector suggests that quickfix private solutions to the problems of higher education provision have rarely been successful but, even if Grayling’s scheme ends up face down in the Thames, it will have performed tasks which the govenment appears to value: putting private colleges back on the agenda and making the loans scheme appear more acceptable.
Research by Harvard University academics shows students at for-profits have lower success rates - including employment outcomes – than their counterparts at public and not-for-profit colleges. Sally Hunt, general secretary of the UK’s University and College Union, said that many of the for-profits identified in the report “are now circling UK higher education”.