The New College of the Humanities, the £18,000-a-year private institution set up by the philosopher A. C. Grayling, is to offer degrees validated by Southampton Solent University, while its students will now be able to access publicly funded loans to fund part of their fees.
Reaching a validation agreement with a university opens up the prospect for NCH to recruit overseas students this coming academic year or the next. It is also a step towards its goals of gaining its own degree-awarding powers and, ultimately, university status.
NCH, a subsidiary of a for-profit parent company, opened in 2012. Since then, students have studied for degrees examined and awarded by the University of London.
But for students starting in September, the college will offer the choice of its own degrees validated by Southampton Solent or the University of London degrees. From 2016, only Southampton Solent-validated degrees will be offered.
Students at NCH, which has advertised itself as offering an Oxbridge-style education, will receive degree certificates bearing the name of both NCH and Southampton Solent, the college confirmed. Students at NCH will pay £18,000 a year for their degrees, while Southampton Solent students pay £9,000.
Although NCH is small – students are likely to number around 150 for the coming year – it is regarded by some in government as a key institution in the drive to encourage private providers and create more competition for universities.
“The only route to university status and degree-awarding powers is via validation, so it was necessary for us to transition from the University of London International Programmes, where validation is not available to us, to a validated degree,” said Jeremy Gibbs, chief executive of NCH.
By our own design
In an announcement on its website, NCH says that it will now “teach its own degree programmes”. The announcement does not mention Southampton Solent. But Mr Gibbs told Times Higher Education that degrees would be validated by the institution.
He said the new degrees will be “designed and taught by our own very distinguished professors and faculty”, as well as being examined by them.
The new course range, of American liberal arts-style combined honours degrees, takes the college’s number of degrees from six to 23. The college, which will continue to offer a University of London law degree, will also offer four postgraduate diplomas and a University of London postgraduate law degree from September.
NCH students will be eligible for fee and maintenance loans from the Student Loans Company as of September, after the college’s courses were designated by the government. Students at private providers are limited to claiming £6,000 a year in SLC fee loans – so NCH students will have to fill the gap to the £18,000 full fee unless they receive one of the bursaries offered by the college.
Attracting overseas students would be another major boost for the college. “With validated degrees we can apply for Tier 4 visa licensing,” said Mr Gibbs, referring to the government’s route for sponsoring student visas. “We do hope to have a probationary Tier 4 visa licence in the near future.”
He added that NCH may be able to get Tier 4 visa licensing in time for it to get “a very small number of [overseas] students for 2015 entry”, but “2016 is when that becomes a significant part of what we do”.
Mr Gibbs said the “brakes on our growth” up to this point have included “our inability to recruit students who need visas”, as well as the absence of “government finance”.
THE reported last year that NCH had sought £10 million of investment from potential corporate investors, which could have amounted to a change of control.
The moves on designation for public loans and potential steps towards recruiting overseas students would be likely to make NCH more attractive to investors.
A spokeswoman for Southampton Solent confirmed that it had “entered into an agreement with the New College of the Humanities to validate their programmes. Those that are agreed to be of an appropriate standard and quality will lead to the award of a Southampton Solent University qualification.”