Tuesday, 24 April 2012

New College of the Humanities Enters Clearing

Working in one of London's less-fashionable Universities, I am familiar with the kind of press releases institutions produce when they are going into Clearing. New College of the Humanities hasn't yet quite mastered the genre. There should be a reference to 'a few' places still being available, so the statement right at the end of the release

Both Scholarship and Exhibition places are still available for the College’s first cohort, and as the admission process is independent of UCAS, applications can be made until August 2012. 

is about right, but they haven't made the reference to future job prospects that we older hands would consider pretty much obligatory. 

The other thing they seem to have gotten wrong is the timing. With A-level results not out until August, there isn't much point getting your story in the press now. Of course NCH isn't tied to the UCAS timetable, but in practice the young Home/EU school leavers it is seeking to recruit will mostly also be in UCAS so it is highly unlikely that there are significant numbers of them who have not yet gotten around to making University applications. 

Given that the target was 200 students, just 355 applications and 91 offers must be considered disappointing. Applicants to NCH will almost certainly have made applications through UCAS too, so you would be expecting many of them also to be holding offers from better-established institutions. Nothing prevents them accepting both the NCH and the UCAS offer if they wish to do so. Given that NCH is so much more expensive than existing institutions, and that student loans are not even available to defer that cost, I would expect most students holding two offers to prefer to go to a public institution if they get the grades. The NCH offer will in effect be an additional Insurance place (where it is even accepted) and practice at my own institution is essentially to assume that approximately none of our Insurance accepts will actually turn up. 

So when the College says it is 'on track to deliver one of the best student-staff ratios in UK higher education.' I'd have to say this looks like (a) masterly understatement and (b) not the best news the project's financial backers have ever heard. The only hope for 2012 entry must now be the ABBs in Clearing. There is a distinct possibility that there will be applicants who just miss the AAB+ threshold in popular subjects (such as the arts, for instance) will find few doors still open to them at Clearing except at much less prestigious institutions which they may be too proud to attend. Middle-ranking universities may have already filled most of their sub-AAB places, and be holding what few they have left to fill less popular courses such as the sciences and engineering, which NCH does not teach. NCH will not technically be in the Clearing process, but I expect it will be a busy time for their admissions staff nonetheless. 

NCH has taken a decision to recruit full and part-time staff against anticipated student numbers rather than hire hourly-paid staff nearer the time. It will therefore be very difficult to match the student numbers recruited onto individual courses in Clearing to the staff numbers already recruited to do the teaching. I have no idea how deep the pockets backing NCH are, but it certainly looks to me as if they will be burning cash until October 2013 at the very least.


  1. "NCH has taken a decision to recruit full and part-time staff against anticipated student numbers"

    Despite my massive dislike of the NCH idea this, at least, is very positive news for academic staff. Let's hope that institutions compete for the best teaching and research staff via enhancements to working conditions and offering long contracts.

  2. David

    Thanks for your comment.

    It wasn't the main thrust of my post but I'd make 2 points on this issue: (1) that NCH is unlikely to be large enough to make a difference to employment practices in the sector as a whole and (2) that we already offer enhanced conditions and long contracts to those perceived as 'the best' academic staff. The poor deal is reserved for those who aren't perceived as 'good enough' to make it as academic staff, but are allowed to work on hourly-paid lecture contracts.

  3. Oh my, doesn't like the NCH is going well. It's a sham Oxbridge for toff failures. It makes no sense to choose it even over third tier universities like Bristol and Warwick, actually ANY reputable university; it's a cash cow for a few moonlighting academics and not even a real university.