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


Hilary WainwrightHilary Wainwright is a member of Red Pepper's editorial collective and a fellow of the Transnational Institute. @hilarypepper


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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.


Hilary WainwrightHilary Wainwright is a member of Red Pepper's editorial collective and a fellow of the Transnational Institute. @hilarypepper