Cover your eyes – another frightening course emerges from the crypt

Seriously scary

Have posted before about some rather leftfield programmes, including a zombie course at the University of Baltimore and, more recently, a course covering Lady Gaga. Also 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. But now, not for the faint-hearted, there is a new MA in horror and transgression at Derby.

Bit of a shocker?

BBC News reports that students will learn about the history of horror on screen and in books while the transgression part of the course will focus on “films and literature with disturbing and taboo themes”:


Students at the University of Derby are being offered a taste of the dark side with a new degree in horror.

Ghosts, serial killers and vampires will all feature in the university’s new postgraduate MA in horror and transgression.

The one-year course, which is aimed at would-be film-makers and writers, will examine all aspects of the genre.

British horror author and director Clive Barker has given the degree his backing and hopes to take a class.

It’s a novel proposition in an area that does seem under-explored. The university has had pretty widespread media coverage for this. Let’s hope it doesn’t scare away prospective students (sorry).

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MP challenges ‘free’ MA degrees

Proposal to eliminate the ‘free’ Oxbridge MA

Entertaining attempt this by Chris Leslie (my local MP). He recently introduced a short ‘ten minute rule Bill’ in the Commons (the Master’s Degree (Minimum Standards) Bill). The Bill seeks to prohibit Oxford and Cambridge Universities from automatically awarding a ‘free’ postgraduate Master’s degree to anyone who left with a BA(Hons), whereas anyone else who wants an MA must actually study for a full year, sit exams and pay rather more in fees than is required for the Oxbridge award.

The Hansard exchanges give a flavour of a good natured but, you fear, sadly doomed proposition:

Eleven years ago, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education said:

    “The Masters title causes much misunderstanding… most employers think it always represents an award for postgraduate study.”

There is no logical or justifiable defence of that historical anachronism, which grew out of ancient circumstances that have long been irrelevant to modern academic practice. To preserve the MA’s academic integrity, it is time to discontinue Oxbridge colleges’ ability to award unearned qualifications that can so easily cause confusion. That is why my short Bill would prohibit granting master’s degrees unless certain minimum academic standards are attained.

So, a worthy effort by Chris Leslie. Whilst it would be unfortunate if Parliament were to think it was appropriate to legislate for or against particular autonomous institutions’ awards, this should serve as a reminder that this really should be sorted out.

Magical mystery tour? A new MA in the Beatles

Guardian carries some news about a new course at Liverpool Hope: The long and winding road to an MA in Beatles songs.

Just the kind of stuff to get the IUSS Select Committee going:beatles

The masters degree in The Beatles, Popular Music and Society is being billed by Liverpool Hope University as the first such course in the UK and “probably the world”. Among the topics covered on the course, which comprises four 12-week modules and a dissertation, are the postwar music industry, subcultures, and the importance of authenticity and locality.

Mike Brocken, senior lecturer in popular music at the university, said it was time the band were put under an academic microscope. “There have been over 8,000 books about the Beatles but there has never been serious academic study and that is what we are going to address,” he said. “The Beatles influenced so much of society, not just with their music, but also with fashion, from their collar-less jackets to their psychedelic clothes.”

As well as investigating different ways of studying popular music, the MA will look at the studio sound and compositions of the Beatles and examine Liverpudlian life from the 1930s to see how events helped to shape the music emerging in the city.

It’s a decent enough pitch and given that you can get a Master’s in just about anything, there’s no reason not to do the Beatles. WhiIst I think he could be a bit more confident about its unique status in the world, it is a bit misleading to suggest there has been no serious academic study. Not all of the 8,000 books are trivia.