I first heard of the Free University of Brighton a couple of years ago when I went to Arianne Shahvisi’s lecture on Feminism, Gender and Sexuality at the Brighthelm Centre. It was fascinating and free to attend.
Among the 30 or so people in the room, I noticed that some were studiously taking notes. During the break I asked a couple of young women why they were there.
“We’re studying for a Social Science degree and this is part of the course. It’s brilliant and absolutely free.”
I was dubious so they introduced me to Ali Ghanimi, the founder of Free University Brighton (FUB).
“Anyone can study these courses,” she told me. “You don’t need A-levels, just an open mind, and a willingness to learn.”
She explained that the aim of FUB was to make education accessible to all; as its tagline states, this is “education for love, not money”.
I asked her how a university degree could possibly be free when universities are charging over £9,000 a year.
She explained that academics from universities across the country come to teach at Free University Brighton as volunteers. They are drawn to FUB because they believe in its ethos that education should be accessible to all and benefit society as a whole.
Free University Brighton offers validated degree-level courses in Social Science and Philosophy to people who live and work in Brighton and Hove. This year it will introduce a third degree-level course in Feminism, Gender and Sexuality.
Courses are designed to be accessible to everyone, even those who are working full time, are carers, or have other commitments.
The two- to three-hour sessions are typically held on weekday evenings or on Saturdays.
In your first year you can study a range of subjects including: Criminology; Feminism, Gender and Sexuality; Development Studies; Philosophy; Sociology and Political Economy. From then on you can build your own degree, choosing from a range of subjects offered or going into a particular subject in more depth.
All of the courses are designed to help you make sense of the world and often cover topical issues. For example, last year we had a module on Brexit.
I enrolled last September and have found the whole experience both fascinating and challenging. The lectures and discussions are captivating and draw in diverse students, teenagers to pensioners, from a variety of backgrounds.
To find out if this is for you, why not go to the open evening from 7pm to 9pm on Wednesday, July 11? It’s at the city council’s Learning Centre at the City Clean Depot in Upper Hollingdean Road, Brighton BN1 7GA. You will be able to chat to some of the current students and hear about the courses.
For more information about the Free University of Brighton, visit: www.freeuniversitybrighton.org or follow @FreeUniBrighton on Twitter.