Angry UK students campaign against new 'private university'

Ben Riley-Smith

In a protest against Professor AC Grayling's controversial 'private university', hundreds of students have pledged to deluge the staff with bogus online submissions.

The New College of the Humanities is the brainchild of the Oxford don and boasts a faculty that includes Niall Ferguson and Richard Dawkins.

It has been widely criticised this week after it was revealed the college will charge £18,000 tuition fees a year. In the past 48 hours, more than 1,500 people have joined a Facebook event urging immediate direct action.

"It's incredibly easy to apply for a place because it's outside UCAS, so it's a separate pool of applications," said Nicki Kindersley, a 25-year-old PhD student at Durham University who submitted a fake form following the Facebook link. "The idea is just to bombard them," she said. "The staff are going to get deluged with applications."

The Facebook page, created by Oxford students Rachel Elizabeth Fraser and Eloise Stonborough, urges people to "apply to the new college of humanities as if you were a rich idiot!" The blurb continues: "The application form asks how you plan on paying them £54k - tell them you plan on laying golden eggs, extorting leprechaun gold, selling the organs of small children."

Despite the satirical content in many of the applications, Oxford English student Harry Tuffs says the protest is seriously motivated. "The aim is to register students' disapproval against the fact that this University is being set up," he told online journal The First Post. "In the economic climate where humanities are being really drastically cut, it's almost like they're profiteering off it and entrenching the elitist standpoint the government has already made about tuition fees."

Sending fake applications is just one example in a wave of student direct action in opposition to New College. Grayling was forced to abandon a public talk on Tuesday after a smoke bomb was let off in a lecture hall, while Oxford students are planning to demonstrate outside his next public appearance at St Andrew's College tomorrow.

"One of the things that have got people riled up is the hypocrisy of Grayling himself," explained Edd Mustill, a recent Cambridge graduate who supports the student protests. "He's made quite a few speeches in the last few months defending public education and criticising the government. But obviously at the same time he's been planning this venture with some of his celebrity academic mates. A lot of people are pretty pissed off."

The decision to try and flood New College with false submissions has received support from NUS president Aaron Porter. He said: "Peaceful direct action like this is a good way of highlighting opposition to a return to an elitist higher education system."