OF THE JOHN LOCKE INSTITUTE
Places on our courses are awarded by competitive application. Students are assessed, by means of a written application and an admissions interview, to identify the most intelligent and the most motivated students we can find. The peer groups we bring together are of the very highest quality.
'Diversity' has become a mantra, and universities aim for a mixture of ethnicities and skin colours. True diversity, though, is about a variety of experiences, opinions, perspectives, cultures and circumstances. We would be concerned if all our students looked alike (and happily they do not), but more concerned if they all thought alike.
We therefore bring together students who, by their differences, are able to challenge one another. We invite our students to consider unfamiliar points of view and to think of their own position as one among many possible alternatives, not as a fixed and secure reference point from which to criticise everyone else.
We insist that every student, teacher and staff-member should address every other person with kindness and sensitivity but there is no refuge for unexamined beliefs. Every participant in every course is encouraged to welcome robust challenges, and sometimes to expect passionate disagreement, in the context of a courteous, civilised and respectful exchange of views.
We think it is possible to be tough with ideas, but gentle with people.
Places on most of our courses are awarded by competitive application. Students are assessed, by means of a written application and an admissions interview, to identify the most intelligent and the most motivated students we can find. The environments we create are therefore stimulating and intellectually charged.
We emphasise subjects, such as philosophy, politics, economics, psychology, law and history. Many of the questions in these fields cannot be settled by looking in a textbook or asking a professor. A focus on contestable concepts forces our students to arbitrate between conflicting arguments and interpret ambiguous evidence. In doing so, you can become a more generous listener, learning to examine critically any new argument or claim, irrespective of how unlikely (or unfashionable) it might seem at first glance.
Reading books, watching podcasts and attending lectures are all worthwhile, but something special happens when learning takes place in the context of a relationship. With one-on-one tutorials and small-group seminars, our students and our teachers really get to know one another.
More than simply delivering an educational service, the Institute is growing a community of highly educated, effective people. Once you have attended one of our courses you will be a Life Member of the John Locke Institute Alumni Association, welcome at events of various kinds throughout the year.
Our alumni are eager to help those who are following in their footsteps, with university admissions advice, career guidance, or introductions to interesting and helpful people.
The greatest barriers to the application of reason are often the large number of insidious and pernicious psychological biases, self-deceptions and popular fallacies.
We help our students to recognise (in themselves and others) decision-making, belief, behavioural and attributional biases, and memory effects. By learning from psychologists and behavioural economists about how we really form our beliefs and choose our actions, we can arm ourselves against these distortions of rationality.
Much of what happens in schools today has not changed radically in over a century. This may be because tried and tested methods deserve to endure, but it may instead be because schools are some of the most risk averse institutions in modern society, unwilling to experiment or implement the valuable insights of contemporary educational psychologists and other academics in the field of education.
The John Locke Institute relies heavily on Oxford-style individual tutorials, which have been a defining characteristic of Oxford and Cambridge since the Nineteenth Century. But we also teach using more adventurous techniques, engaging more actively with cognition and memory.
Part of the reason for innovative techniques is to make learning quicker and more effective, but another reason is to nurture intellectual curiosity and academic motivation. We want them to think of the acquisition of knowledge, skills and understanding as an exciting privilege, not a dull chore. We also want our students to take away with them happy memories, cultural appreciation and lifelong friendships.
We try to develop in our students an intellectual humility and we cultivate kindness and compassion alongside their intellectual gifts.
We have succeeded if our students have a hard head and a soft heart!