Chalk Talk: Too many famous lecturers – and not enough time for checking out gigs


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The Independent Online

It will be interesting to see how Professor AC Grayling's New College for the Humanities (NCH) beds down when it opens its doors to students for the first time this autumn – particularly over the "celebrity" lectures it puts on for them.

The college has signed up a glittering array of talent – including the television historian Niall Ferguson and Professor Richard Dawkins. Between them, around 30 visiting lecturers will be giving a total of 80 guest lectures in the first year, going up to 110 thereafter. At a press briefing to launch its first tranche of admissions to the college, there was optimistic talk that some of its keen-as-mustard students might want to attend all the lectures to broaden their horizons.

That would be one way of ensuring a good audience for them all, as the number of students is expected to be limited to between 180 to 200 in the first year.

Small wonder then – if the NCH is right about its students' commitments – that they have also taken steps to make sure they are offered advice on any gigs they may want to attend during their studies.

After all, as was said at the press briefing, they may not have time to to find out the information for themselves.

A familiar face will be returning to the centre stage in higher education debates later this summer.

The former Labour Higher Education minister Bill Rammell is to become the new vice-chancellor of Bedfordshire University this August.

He succeeds Professor Les Ebdon, whose appointment as head of the Office for Fair Access – the university access watchdog – seems to have so upset the Conservative party. It is likely that they will not be hoisting up the bunting again at the prospect of one of their sharper Labour opponents returning to a top university job.

For the record, though, Bill Rammell has experience on his side. He is currently deputy vice-chancellor at Plymouth University – a post he took up after serving 13 years in the Commons as the Labour MP for Harlow.

His appointment may ensure that the university keeps itself in the limelight.