The IF Project Summer School: a free experiment in alternative higher education

As the government attacks education, IF brings together those who want to teach and those who want to learn just for the love of it, writes Hilary Wainwright

May 15, 2015 · 3 min read

Next month, in various venues around London, the IF Project’s 2nd Free Humanities Summer School will get underway. Professors from top universities will give lectures at no charge, donors and well-wishers will provide free space, and post-graduate students will conduct seminars.

The IF Project is an experiment in alternative higher education, a positive statement that access to higher education is for every one, not just the rich. So, lectures are all free, and maximum use is made of free public culture, such as galleries and free cultural events. IF describes itself as a community of those who want to teach and those who want to learn just for the love of it.

A ruthless attack on education was one of the first acts of the 2010 coalition government. It hugely increased tuition fees and removed all – all – direct funding of humanities subjects. There was to be no government money for philosophy, history, literature, politics, economics, and so on. This second summer school coincides with a new Tory government who we should expect to take the ‘liberalisation’ of education even further.

Cameron’s plan for the 2010 generation was that students should take out loans to study subjects useful to the economy – science, technology, engineering and business studies (fine subjects for those who want to study them) and thus earn enough to pay back the loans. Those who wanted a liberal arts education would, in many cases, pay more than the cost of their degree for the privilege of graduating into a low-wage zero-hour contract economy.

But it is telling, is it not, that the top political ranks are still stuffed with highly educated men and women (mostly the former) who studied classics and history at school and went on to study philosophy, politics and economics? A humanities education is denied to the poor but is what the ruling classes choose for themselves!

The IF Project is dedicated to offering all who want it the chance to study the arts and humanities at no cost. This, it is worth reflecting, is the education that develops habits of critical analysis, the ability to argue and not be hoodwinked by politicians, and to understand history and therefore the politics of the day.

IF courses are all free and there are still some places for June. The Summer School is pitched at 18-30 year olds who have not already studied for an undergraduate degree. It takes only takes 5 minutes or so to apply online here on the IF website.


Another World is Possible

Election 2019: The end of neoliberalism in sight?

If elected, the next Labour government can finally depart from the neoliberal consensus and deliver a major shift in wealth and power, argues Adam Peggs

Small change

Simon Hedges shares his famous-on-Twitter analysis of the state of the left today

Scottish Independence and the England problem

The Scottish struggle for independence is one of several issues at the centre of debates over where power in the United Kingdom should be located, writes Isobel Lindsey


Election 2019: Transatlantic socialism rising

As Sanders and Corbyn head to the polls, Peter Gowan describes a new spirit of international collaboration on the left

Jeremy Corbyn and front bench holding copies of the 2019 manifesto

Election 2019: An ambitious, agenda-setting and credible manifesto

The 2017 Labour election manifesto was good but the 2019 version is the document we’ve really been waiting for, argues Mike Phipps

Brian Eno: Why I’m backing Labour in Kensington

In 2017, Labour won Kensington by just 20 votes. Brian Eno explains why he's backing Emma Dent Coad in the seat - and why voting Lib Dem is ‘voting Tory without admitting it’


Cartoonist from 1888 depicting John Bull (England) as the octopus of imperialism, grabbing land on every continent. Public Domain.

Election 2019: Education and Empire

Following Labour’s manifesto pledge to educate the public on the histories of empire, slavery, and migration, Kimberly McIntosh explains the dangers of colonial nostalgia in the national curriculum

Support our election writer’s fund

The stakes could not be higher during this election. Help us cover what's really happening

Review – This Is Not A Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook

Suki Ferguson reviews the XR guide to climate activism