New College of Humanities: elitist or exclusive?

It has been announced that of those who received offers of admission to the UK’s newest private university, the New College of Humanities (NCH), just one in five were state school pupils. Does this make the institution elitist or just exclusive?

Whilst the majority of future freshers will be accumulating £9,000 a year of debt for their tuition fees alone, NCH, which awards University of London degrees, is charging an eye-watering £18,000 a year for tuition. In return, the institution claims students will receive Oxbridge-style 1:1 tutorials, twelve contact hours a week and modules enhancing ‘intellectual’ and ‘professional’ skills.

Despite the astonishingly steep price tag, the College does make some attempt to brand itself as non-elitist. It boasts that some students will pay no tuition fees if their household income is under £25,000 and they are predicted at least one A* at A-level. It also offers a number of merit-based scholarships which reduces the tuition fee to £7,200 a year, which it points out is lower than the majority of UK universities.

Their model is similar to what is found on the other side of the Atlantic. Harvard University, often cited as the best university in the world, is charging next year’s cohort of undergraduates $40,866 (£25,000) a year for tuition. However, its students can qualify for up to $54,450 (£33,500) a year of financial aid, which covers its fees and includes a sizeable contribution to living expenses. Yet NCH does not offer financial support for living costs to any of its students, despite being based in central London and its own calculations that living costs would be up to £330 a week.

As much as moaning about tuition fees has practically become an extra-curricular activity for most undergraduates, as the majority will qualify for a tuition fee loan, it does not realistically function as a barrier from attending university. A more immediate concern is how to to finance living costs, which for most, is through a maintenance loan from the Students Loan Company. Currently, students attending NCH do not qualify for any government-backed loan, whether that be for maintenance or tuition fees for those without a full scholarship.

I would not be surprised if the only applicants who could realistically attend are those who live within commuting distance from central London, which even then may require a part-time job to finance, or of course, those from unspeakably wealthy families. As such, this makes NCH an extraordinarily elitist institution, which essentially offers its students an incredibly overpriced degree from the University of London.

This article was originally published in the ‘Comments’ section in the University of Sheffield student newspaper, Forge Press.

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