Tuesday, June 07, 2011

University fees and the celebrity premium

For a university education, it is being suggested that it should be 100% more than those English universities who choose to go for the maximum possible under this government's new tuition fee regime.

I don't have too much to say about this except to point to one or two rather good pieces elsewhere in the blogosphere.

There's some perfectly calibrated contempt from David Osler:
"MOST reviewers considered ‘The Expendables’ to be a pretty mediocre film, as action flicks go. But there was no arguing with the box office pulling power of a cast that included Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren and Mickey Rourke.

I detect something of the same thinking at work when I read the names of the academic rock stars lined up to teach at the New College of the Humanities, which opens up in London next year. Students will benefit from one to one tutorials from the likes of AC Grayling, Richard Dawkins, Steven Pinker and Niall Ferguson.

Short of raising Ludwig Wittgenstein and Bertrand Russell back from the dead, it is hard to imagine how the founders could have assembled a more bunch of profs more attractive to a target demographic of extremely bright rich kids."
A small point of disagreement, though. Rich kids this project may appeal to. By definition, it can only appeal to rich kids - but could we really describe them as bright? (Or 'Brights', in Dawkins' deeply cringe-inducing epithet.) I take leave to doubt it, which brings me to Paul's comments on the subject:
"Big famous names are not the same as good, serious educators of university minds. If you go to TDU thinking you’ll get a good education just because some famous people are there, you’re a fool. "
A fool and his money are soon parted, indeed. But to strike an optimistic note, I'm wondering if it might turn out that there aren't so many of these as one might suppose. My father was an educational academic and used to talk contemptuously of private schools that were 'schools for thick rich-kids'. Now, the experience - in Scotland anyway - is that these schools have struggled to survive, many having suffered death by amalgamation. I'm wondering if the fate of this enterprise might not turn out to be something similar? They may find that there are simply not enough thick rich kids to go around? If I'm wrong, it would be a profoundly depressing development - this X-Factor meets academia.

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