State schools fare poorly in inaugural class, but calibre delights Grayling

Only one in five offers by the New College of Humanities has gone to a person from a state school so far, according to A.C. Grayling, the master of the new institution.

April 26, 2012

The private college, which will charge tuition fees of £18,000 a year when it opens in September, has made 91 offers to potential undergraduates after receiving more than 350 applications.

But only 20 of the offers (22 per cent) went to sixth-formers from the maintained sector while 66 per cent went to those from private schools. A further 8 per cent are entering from other universities, and 4 per cent are mature students, it was announced at a briefing for journalists on 21 April. Of the offers to state pupils, 47 per cent went to those from grammar schools.

Seven full scholarships have been offered to students from families with an annual income of less than £25,000, while 37 individuals were offered exhibitions that reduce fees to £7,200 a year, the college confirmed.

Professor Grayling said that he was "delighted with the calibre of students" applying, who were generally predicted to achieve straight As at A level and AAB at the lowest. "We have set the benchmark very high because we are looking for people with the legitimate aspiration to [enter the universities of] Oxford and Cambridge - and that is what we are getting."

Tutors had been highly selective to ensure that students would be able to cope with a one-on-one tutorial system, which "preserved the very best of the [Oxbridge] tutorial model", he added.

Students would enjoy at least 12 "serious contact hours" a week, with access to up to 80 lectures in a year.

Professor Grayling said he had no reason to be disappointed with the number of applications, having envisaged only 180 to 200 students entering the college in its first year, with an eventual maximum of 1,000 students at the Bloomsbury site.

"We always wanted to start very small and go slowly," he insisted.

Professor Grayling confirmed that New College students were ineligible for funds from the publicly subsidised Student Loans Company to help them with tuition fees or maintenance. He said he was speaking to banks about the possibility of creating a loan system. He was also talking to the Student Loans Company about opening access to funding, but "we are not banking on them coming up with anything soon", he said.

The college has recruited about 25 full- and part-time academic staff. It has also secured a building in Bloomsbury but was unable to reveal its precise location. Undergraduates will live in private accommodation blocks used by students from the London School of Economics.

jack.grove@tsleducation.com

Robin Hood of Bloomsbury: Despite lure of Asia and lack of government support, founders stuck with the UK

The founders of the New College of Humanities seriously considered setting the institution up in Asia rather than in the UK, one of its non-executive directors has revealed.

Matthew Batstone, the institution's convener for professional skills, said the disadvantages of trying to innovate in the UK - including its "tall-poppy syndrome" - had led them to think about going elsewhere.

Mr Batstone, who was formerly director of marketing and strategy at the Economist Group, explained the ethos of New College at Inside Government's conference The Future of Higher Education Provision: Improving Choice, Flexibility and Quality, in London on 17 April.

He said that students at many universities could go for three years without ever speaking at lectures or seminars if they wished. "With us that won't be possible," he said, adding that New College students could expect twice as much work as at conventional universities.

But he also complained: "It would seem bizarre that despite the fact that we'll offer this really fantastic experience, we won't have degree-awarding powers."

He added: "The government could do more to support innovation in this sector, which, if nothing else, is an important foreign currency earner. It could do more to allow people with a spirit of innovation to compete on a level playing field."

Mr Batstone said that the scholarships and exhibitions on offer gave the institution's business model a "Robin Hood" element.

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