Is this not every academic’s dream? A keen, engaged audience (likely because you are providing interesting, dynamic and interactive content):

It is 3.55pm on a dark winter’s afternoon, but the philosophy seminar on “Radical democracy and Rousseau” shows no sign of flagging.

Eager, earnest students are still desperate to make their final points before the hour is up, awaiting that split-second pause that will let them jump back into the debate.

Close your eyes and you might well think you were listening to a typical undergraduate tutorial, complete with idealistic, left-wing students keen to challenge their classmates, the lecturer and society in general – that is until you hear the sound of the No 76 bus to Waterloo thunder past just a few yards away.

This is actually Tent City University, the centrepiece of the Occupy London camp outside St Paul’s Cathedral, a “pop-up” seat of learning spinning off from the anti-capitalist protest movement.

The flimsy plastic sides of the makeshift marquee are the only thing that separates visitors from the freezing elements and the din of central London traffic, but Tent City University has become one of the camp’s big success stories.

Thousands of people have sat down here to listen to academics, writers and political activists hold forth on a variety of subjects since the camp was set up on 15 October last year.

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