A group of academics is to launch a new for-profit college, charging fees of £18,000 a year.
The New College of the Humanities will offer students University of London degrees, taught by top academics including scientist Richard Dawkins and historian Niall Ferguson. Its first master will be the philosopher A. C. Grayling.
The college, partly inspired by the US liberal arts college model, will be based in the Bloomsbury area of central London. It will be a private company, and says it has raised “millions” in backing from investors.
The new college has drawn criticism for its high-fees, however.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and Colleges Union, said: "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."
She added that it was "further proof that its university funding plans will entrench inequality within higher education".
Grayling said that the decision to set up New College was partly triggered by the government's plans to cut subsidies for arts, humanities and social science subjects.
It will offer scholarships to a fifth of its students, rising to a third if a new charity associated with the venture is successful.
That still means the majority of its students will be charged fees three-times higher than the maximum student loan available to them, however – suggesting that the majority of students will be those who can pay up front.
New College will teach courses in subjects including English, philosophy, history and law. Students will also be taught modules in "intellectual skills", such as science literacy, logic and critical thinking, and applied ethics.
The college will have high entry requirements, of three As at A-level and above, and aims to replicate the Oxbridge one-to-one tutorial system.
It will open its doors to students in September 2012.
The company was first registered under the name "Grayling Hall", referring to two of its founders, in July last year.