One Takes It There Will Not Be A Theology Department image

One Takes It There Will Not Be A Theology Department

Terry Eagleton is rather cheesed off by A. C. Grayling’s new private university. There are several reasons for this, mostly to do with elitism, expense (£18,000 a year) and the commoditisation of higher education, but he is also rather nauseated by the narrow group of modernist liberals who will be guest lecturers, including Richard Dawkins, Linda Colley, David Cannadine and Christopher Ricks, not to mention ‘public sage and Identikit Islington Man’ Grayling. Writing in the Guardian last Monday, Eagleton concluded his hilarious piece like this:

The new college, staffed as it is by such notable liberals, will of course be open to all viewpoints. Well, sort of. One takes it there will not be a theology department. It is reasonable to suppose that Tariq Ali will not be appointed professor of politics. The teaching of history, if the work of Dawkins and Grayling is anything to judge by, will be of a distinctly Whiggish kind. Grayling peddles a Just So version of English history, breathtaking in its crudity and complacency, in which freedom has been on the rise for centuries and has only recently run into trouble. Dawkins touts a simple-minded, off-the-peg version of Enlightenment in which people in the west have all been getting nicer and nicer, and would have ended up as civilised as an Oxford high table were it not for a nasty bunch of religious fundamentalists. Who would pay £18,000 a year to listen to this outdated Victorian rationalism when they could buy themselves a second-hand copy of John Stuart Mill?
To mention Mill in the same breath as Grayling, however, is to do a great liberal a grave disservice. Mill refused to allow his passion for freedom to blind him to gross inequality. By contrast Grayling is the kind of liberal who is prepared to let equality go hang. Freedom from state intervention for him means freedom to charge students sky high fees. If this catches on, the current crisis in universities will escalate into educational apartheid of the kind that we already have at secondary school level. There will be a number of private unis where students are assigned fags and expect to stroll into the Foreign Office with a third-class degree, and a lot of other places which cannot afford to paint the walls. Just when the real Oxford and Cambridge have been dragging themselves inch by inch into the modern democratic world, an ultra-Oxbridge is being proposed which will probably have an even lower intake of working class students than Cambridge did when I was there in the 1960s. Grayling’s scheme is odious.

You can read the whole thing here.

← Prev article
Next article →