AC Grayling has caricatured British universities.

No wonder they’re fuming

The New College of Humanities founder has exposed higher education as a luxury consumable for the middle classes

Simon Jenkins

This has been a purple week for red rage. The hirsute philosopher, AC Grayling, may call himself a "pinko" but his embryo London humanities university in Bedford Square has induced apoplexy in the old left. He and 13 high-octane scholars are having their lectures "targeted". The Guardian is in ideological meltdown. Foyles has been hit by a smoke bomb. The Kropotkin of our age, Terry Eagleton, claims to be fit to vomit. Bloomsbury has not been so excited since semen was spotted on Vanessa Bell’s dress.

Satoshi Kambayashi 10/06/2011 Illustration by Satoshi Kambayashi

Britain’s professors, lecturers and student trade unionists appear to be united in arms against what they most hate and fear: academic celebrity, student fees, profit and loss, one-to-one tutorials and America. Grayling’s New College of the Humanities may be no more than an egotists’ lecture agency, better located at Heathrow Terminal 5, but the rage it has evoked is fascinating.

What Grayling has done is caricature the British university. He has cartooned it as no longer an academic community but a high-end luxury consumable for the middle classes, operating roughly half a year, with dons coming and going at will, handing down wisdom in between television and book tours. Just when state universities have been freed by the coalition to triple their income per student (initially at public expense) to £9,000, Grayling has mischievously doubled that to £18,000.

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