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Ready for the challenge… VIEW


THE ACADEMIC’S


What should higher education for the 21st century be like? To answer that question, one must answer a closely related one: What should 21st century higher education be for? For scientifi c and vocational


studies the answer is clear enough. For large tracts of the service economies of the developed world, however, a broader educational background is required. Most of the talent that goes into law, journalism, the civil service, politics, fi nancial services, the creative industries, publishing, education, and much besides, is drawn from people who have studied the


humanities. Our question therefore becomes: What should a higher education in the humanities be like in the 21st century? The only thing we


know with certainty


about the 21st century is that it will be a time of unpredictable change. Most of the jobs that today’s school pupils will do have not yet even been invented. The technological and economic transformations of the last few decades, which have carried us into new territories of experience – which we are still trying to cope with – will intensify. If we have to run faster today to keep up with change and its demands, our successors will have to run faster still. Emphatically, therefore, a 21st century higher education should


“ ”


be one that prepares people to be adaptable, fl exible, retrainable, always ready to confront and master new developments, equipped with the one great skill that meets every eventuality: the ability to think. And to talk of an ability to think is not mere cliché. It means an ability to get to the nub of a problem, to see it clearly, to ask sharp questions about it, to have a variety of resources for sorting it out and working it through. It means an ability to put things into perspective, to grasp their signifi cance and their true value. It means being proportional, conceptually well organised, with a steady nerve, alert to good arguments and evidence on which to base sound judgments. Higher education is about extending and maturing


the breadth of the best liberal arts model is combined with the depth of the best essay-based one-to-one tutorial model. The four strands are (1) study for a University of London degree, combined with (2) contextual courses that broaden and enrich that course; (3) a core set of required modules that all students take, namely: logic and critical thinking, science literacy, and applied ethics; and fi nally, alongside these main courses of study (4) supplementary professional skills courses in basic fi nancial literacy and an understanding of the world of work. This is everything from how to read a balance sheet to how to negotiate, from entrepreneurship to an understanding of employer- employee relationships,


To think is not mere cliché…it means an ability to get to the nub of a problem, to see it clearly…


knowledge of a more specialist kind than is studied at school, in the process providing this core intellectual skill of thinking clearly, sharply and accurately. School should have provided the basis of knowledge; university is where that knowledge is evaluated, where the ability to put it to work is fi nely exercised, with the acquisition of the thinking skill being honed in the process. T. S. Eliot said, “The only method is to be intelligent,” and he meant this in the sense at stake here. Our New College of the


Friedrich Nietzsche, 19th century German philosopher


Humanties (NCH) sets out to off er a fresh model of higher education in which the needs of the unpredictable future really will be met by training minds in just this way. NCH asks its students to undertake a demanding four-stranded programme of study in which


designed to give students a head start in seeking successful careers after graduation. Because the course of study is


much richer and more demanding than a normal undergraduate education, which consists of a degree course (standardly 12 modules in content) whereas NCH adds the contextual and core module courses and the professional skills units also (altogether equivalent to 18 modules in content, with many more contact hours for students), NCH off ers a dual award: a Degree and the NCH Diploma. An unpredictable century


requires minds better furnished and of greater readiness: that is NCH’s aim. Professor AC Grayling is President of the New College of The Humanities.


www.fi rstelevenmagazine.co.uk Autumn 2011 FirstEleven 43





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