Frank Furedi welcomes the debate initiated by A.C. Grayling's plans for the New College of the Humanities, arguing that academics need greater autonomy.
He suggests establishing a liberal-arts model for the humanities, but offers no practical advice as to how this might be done. He criticises academics for their grumbling over new initiatives but does nothing but grumble himself.
While media attention has focused on New College, there are a number of alternatives being developed to the privatised model of higher education, such as the Social Science Centre in Lincoln.
The centre will provide a cooperative experience for students and academics. All courses will be taught and assessed at the same level as mainstream UK universities. It will be run as a not-for-profit worker-student cooperative and managed on non-hierarchical democratic principles: all students and staff will have equal involvement in how it operates.
The cooperative principles on which the management of the centre is based will extend to the way courses are taught. All classes will be participative and collaborative, so as to utilise the experience and knowledge of students as intrinsic parts of what is taught. They will have the chance to design courses with professors and lecturers, as well as deliver some teaching themselves with support from other students and the teaching staff.
Students will be able to work with academics on research projects as well as publish their own writing. A core principle of the centre is that teachers and students have much to learn from each other.
The institution is designed to be entirely self-funded. All members will pay a subscription based on their salary level. Staff will donate their time and expertise freely and will not receive payment.
It is envisaged that the centre will have about 20 students at any one time, and a pool of about 20 lecturers. Graduates will leave with an award that is the equivalent of a university degree.
Joss Winn and Mike Neary Lincoln