More on Beyoncé and Ghostbusting courses

The Telegraph seems to have a bit of a thing about courses featuring popular music and musicians. Especialy Beyoncé.
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Recently they published this story about Beyoncé and Miley Cyrus studies being offered at US colleges:

It will focus on the growth of the star’s media empire, with an emphasis on her roles as a “black icon” and sex symbol while managing a successful marriage, to rapper Jay-Z, and motherhood.As part of the programme, students will tackle literature by black, feminist writers such as bell hooks and the abolitionist Sojourner Truth.Also this week, Skidmore College, a liberal arts institution in Saratoga Springs, upstate New York, will offer a course on “The Sociology of Miley Cyrus,” focusing on the former child star turned pop temptress.

I posted here about this at the beginning of 2012 and made reference to a number of other seemingly bonkers courses too:

A post last year summarised the latest position in the provision of bonkers degrees and earlier items covered similar ground including a zombie course at the University of Baltimore and a course covering Lady Gaga. Also we previously looked here at the launch of an MA in Beatles Studies and the offer of a degree in Northern Studies as well as offering a podcast on “bonkers or niche” degrees. Most recently there was, shockingly, an MA in horror and transgression at Derby.

Meanwhile, the Telegraph has another piece on Beyoncé studies etc (described as ‘nonsense’ courses) which also includes this one featuring the paranormal:

Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters_logoCoventry University apparently. Psychology lecturer Tony Lawrence set up a Psychology of Exceptional Human Experiences course to teach students how to chase poltergeists, talk to the dead and understand telepathy.

All useful skills indeed, and students have the added bonus of being able to re-watch Ghostbusters films as part of their curriculum.

And, to prove that none of this is actually nonsense, the Telegraph also refers to a Robin Hood themed offering at the University of Nottingham.

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5,000 ‘soft degree courses axed’

‘Staggering’ reduction in numbers of degree courses

Everyone’s favourite source of educational critique, Mail Online, conflates several stories and comes up with some earth-shattering news. Some universities are responding to changes in student demand by discontinuing some courses:

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Universities have axed 5,000 degree courses in preparation for cuts in state funding and the trebling of tuition fees, due to take effect in 2012.

Figures show there are 38,147 courses on offer through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service for entry in 2012, down a staggering 12 per cent, from 43,360.

Vice-chancellors have targeted their least popular non-academic courses – ‘soft subjects’ that offer poor employment prospects such as Caribbean Studies – because they are loss-making.

Some universities, such as London Metropolitan, have slashed more than 60 per cent of their courses, including philosophy, performing arts and history.

The University of East Anglia has announced the closure of its music school, which was opened in the 1960s with the help of Benjamin Britten.

The figures, from Supporting Professionalism in Admissions, come as universities fear applications for so-called ‘Mickey Mouse courses’ will reduce to a trickle when students face the prospect of £9,000 a year fees.

So, universities behave as you would expect them to in response to changes in student preferences. And there really is no case to be made that music, philosophy, performing arts, history and Caribbean Studies are either ‘soft’ or only appropriate for study by diminutive cartoon characters.

Higher education as food labelling

Food labelling for university courses

From the BBC website:

School leavers applying to English universities will get more data about courses under government plans to treat them more like consumers. A food labelling-style system will flag up teaching hours, career prospects and seminar frequency, says the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills.

On Tuesday, it will announce a new framework for higher education. The plan aims to set out priorities for universities ahead of a review of the way students fund their education. Tuition fees were introduced in 1998 and Business Secretary Lord Mandelson believes this entitles students to act more like consumers.

He has said government and industry must scrutinise and monitor courses on behalf of students, encouraging “a greater degree of competition between institutions” to drive improvement in courses. His department already publishes statistics on employability after six months and three-and-a-half years, but the latest plans would put information in one place. This could include graduates’ typical future earnings, contact hours with tutors, assessment methods and frequency of tests.

So instead of detailed descriptions of each course in prospectuses, via ucas, on university websites and the detail of league table subject comparisons, we are going to have something like this:

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It really isn’t at all clear how this is going to be in any way an improvement or of real value to prospective students. Consolidating small pieces of information into one place in this way suggests that a much more superficial assessment of quality is the aim here. And how is it going to be decided what is red and what is green?

Let’s hope that the real proposals are a bit better than this implies.