The New School of the Anthropocene is a radical and affordable experiment in interdisciplinary higher education, which sets out to confront biopolitical crisis in collaborative association with October Gallery in London.
We are an ensemble of experienced academics from across the university world who, in the company of diverse artists and practitioners, wish to restore the principals of intellectual adventure, critical risk and creative desire to arts education in the UK.
The New School is run cooperatively as an agile, non-residential institution. It has been designated as a UNESCO Futures Literacy Lab and contributes to the Academia Biospherica Alliance, which offers on-site educational programmes across the five main earth biomes of mountains, oceans, forests, desert grasslands and cities.
Our curriculum is dedicated to addressing ecological recovery and social renewal through the arts. Learning takes the form of a blend of digital and in-person gatherings at October Gallery and flexes to accommodate the domestic and employment responsibilities of our students. We regard them as researchers from the start and they co-design their work with an emphasis on critical intervention fused with creative process.
The collaborative work of the body – learning, for example, about soil stewardship at Sitopia Community Farm in Greenwich and rainforest restoration in Puerto Rico – is assigned equal prominence to more conventional university-level activities such as textual analysis, philosophical discussion and filmmaking.
No degree is awarded: a means of countering an anxious culture of accreditation, which we differentiate from the principle of recognition. Our students are instead awarded the NSOTA Diploma in Environmental Humanities and carry forward a portfolio of their critical and creative work accomplished over the year as testament to their development.
While seeking to create a genuinely intergenerational student body, our recruitment prioritises applicants from those who have had no prior experience of university. Our pay-what-you-can-afford scheme means that no one with the aptitude and desire to participate need be excluded. We are especially keen to collaborate with members of the Necessity network and are also offering several free places to English-speaking refugees from the wars in Ukraine, Yemen and elsewhere.
We are keenly aware that today’s university system appears unfit for purpose, yoked to punishing systems of debt finance and managerial bureaucracy, and falling miserably short in its responsibility to nurture future generations as active participants within the complex universe in which we are all embedded. We intend to create a new self-organising model for higher education that could be replicated and rolled out regionally.
In proposing a genuinely affordable interdisciplinary alternative, the New School of the Anthropocene will, from September 2022, open its doors to students of all kinds who consider experimentation across the critical-creative seam to be the prerequisite to personal resilience and cultural renewal.