Collaborative No-fee Higher Education


IF is a ‘free university’: we run free, university-level arts and humanities short courses. How do we do it? We find academics willing to donate a small amount of time to teach, say, a single lecture in one course, and combine these offers to create co-ordinated courses.  We have a network of more than 50 volunteer lecturers.  We also draw on high-quality on-line content (but always with the possibility of debating with actual lecturers and teachers and we also make use of London’s public galleries, archives and museums).  

Thinking AFI Image 5 Large.jpg

what to expect

All our courses are degree-level and free. They introduce students to writers, historians, philosophers and artists and demonstrate how the humanities offer tools for analysing, interpreting, and understanding the forces that shape the world today. Courses are based on face-to-face teaching and peer learning among students. They are held in the evening. So far, IF courses have been held in London, but we wish to expand beyond London in future.

Anyone aged 18 or over can apply. Priority is given to those who have not studied for a degree or have been deterred or prevented from studying for cultural or financial reasons.


Our lecturers

Our lecturers are current teachers or former researchers and professors. They are all connected with established universities across the UK and Europe.

Additionally, an Academic Advisory Board advises on course content. This Board is chaired by Professor Martin McQuillan, former Dean of Arts and Social Sciences at Kingston University, London, and includes Professor Rosemary Ashton, Emeritus Quain Professor of English Language and Literature, Dr Richard Barnett, Wellcome Trust Engagement Fellow Emeritus, and Carl Gombrich, Director of the Arts and Sciences BASc degree course, University College London.


Thinking A Free Introduction 2016 Example Certificate.jpg

Alternative higher education

IF courses are designed to correspond to the level of first-year undergraduate study, but they are not formally accredited. An IF course is an opportunity to think and study at degree level. Students receive a record of their participation in IF courses. 

The IF Project is an alternative, collaborative education community, rather than a substitute for mainstream higher education. 



A place for everyday people to learn in an open, relaxed environment
— Keshav, IF Student


Not in the legal sense. As a charity with a remit to broaden access to a higher education in the humanities, IF is a free university - free in terms of cost to our students, and free as in independent, radical, innovative. IF strives to match the original ideal of a university as a community of learners and teachers. 

“This notion deserves serious attention and could, if successful, change the way we approach higher education”

Dave Eggers | Author (The Circle, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius), and founder and editor of McSweeney's