A new British college aiming to rival Oxford and Cambridge has been launched by leading academics.
New College of the Humanities will give a high-quality education to "gifted" undergraduates and a degree from the University of London, creators say.
The privately-owned London-based college will open in September 2012 and is planning to charge fees of £18,000.
The 14 professors involved include biologist Richard Dawkins and historian Sir David Cannadine.
Based in Bloomsbury, central London, the new college will offer eight undergraduate humanities degrees taught by some of the world's most prominent intellectuals, officials said.
Degrees cover five subject areas - law, economics, history, English literature and philosophy.
Students will also take three "intellectual skills" modules in science literacy, logic and critical thinking and applied ethics - which will result in them being awarded a Diploma of New College in addition to a University of London degree, making a combined award of BA Hons (London) DNC.
Professor AC Grayling, the philosopher who will be the college's first Master, secured millions of pounds of funding from investors to set up the institution.
The college said its selection process will not be computerised, with each application considered "individually, personally and on its merits".
It also has scholarships and "exhibition schemes" to "ensure that finance should not be a barrier to any talented UK student".
But the University and College Union (UCU) said the launch of the new college - and state funding cuts for arts, humanities and social sciences - would result in the subjects becoming the preserve of a "select few".
UCU general secretary Sally Hunt said: "While many would love the opportunity to be taught by the likes of AC Grayling and Richard Dawkins, at £18,000 a go it seems it won't be the very brightest but those with the deepest pockets who are afforded the chance.
"The launch of this college highlights the government's failure to protect art and humanities and is further proof that its university funding plans will entrench inequality within higher education," she said.
Atheist responses have been mixed, to say the least.
Great idea and subject content, except for English Literature. Sorry but this seems to be totally misplaced in what seems to be a forward thinking and highly worthwhile program. In my opinion a course in International relations- how to deal with people from other cultures would be more useful and appropriate in today's world. jcw
This will be amazing and certainly is something worthy to commit yourself to. Congratulations.
Congratulations Professor Dawkins and others for this excellent idea. I hope you're able to set up some kind of foundation or trust where profits and donations can go into the pot to invest in creating more humanities colleges and build a kind of momentum. Hopefully, if enough people are able to donate, the charges will come down. Also, I hope that such colleges retain a high reputation which will attract more high quality academics and thus more students and funds in future.
I've been a "fan" of Richard's work since the Growing Up In The Universe lectures. I've read all his books, attended many lectures.
How dare he - how dare he - bemoan the role of religion as a force for keeping down the poor and segregating society and then get involved in such a tacky, ill-conceived and downright disgraceful venture as this? Dawkins doesn't need the money. He could be, and should be, involved in attracting the brightest students into education regardless of cost.
Dawkins on evolution - Survival of the Richest.
It sends out the message that Dawkins is plutocratic
Which is priceless ammo for the religious when they set up schools to give the best education they possibly can to the poorest in society.