“Drop the ‘mickey mouse’ degrees”

“Drop the ‘mickey mouse’ degrees” says head of Royal Society of Chemistry

It’s silly season again. According to a blog post from Richard Pike of the RSC:

‘Mickey Mouse’ degree courses should be swept away, and priorities in university education and research should reflect the challenges facing the country over the forthcoming decades. No longer should the government be paying 18-year-olds to start courses on celebrity journalism, drama with waste management, or international football business management.

This seems to be prompted by new constraints in HE funding and suggests that not only is utilitarianism a primary consideration but that university autonomy is also secondary to the perceived national need. Anyway, whatever the philosophical basis of the approach it’s always fun to pick on bonkers degree courses. Which probably explains why the story was swiftly picked up by the Telegraph which quotes Dr Pike:

“We need a population with an enduring set of skills, such as an understanding of the physical world around us, literacy and communication, numeracy, how to function and continue to learn in a complex society, and above all creativity, rather than an ability to satisfy some ephemeral demand that in 10 years’ time will be viewed as a curiosity.”

Further analysis of the courses he lambasts is also offered by the paper:

Celebrity Journalism is a new three-year course to be offered at Staffordshire University from this autumn. It includes topics such as interviewing celebrities and understanding celebrity culture. International Football Business Management is offered by Bucks New University and covers coaching, government policy, and issues in sport and leisure, among others.

All highly entertaining stuff therefore and really nothing new as previous posts on the launch of an MA in Beatles Studies and the offer of a degree in Northern Studies show. For the really masochistic there is also a podcast on “bonkers or niche” degrees.

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University of Nottingham: Graduate Trainee Programme

The first group of four Graduate Trainees are coming to the end of their year-long programme which has been extremely successful.

seeds

As the advert for the 2009-10 scheme describes it:

The University is delighted to announce the Nottingham Graduate Trainee Programme. This innovative programme, aimed exclusively at University of Nottingham graduates from any of the University campuses interested in developing a career in university administration. It offers an invaluable insight into this dynamic management activity whilst developing an understanding of:

* markets
* income streams
* resource allocation processes
* client bases including students, parents, employers, funding bodies and commercial partners.

The programme offers four trainees the opportunity to experience key components of university operation and build an understanding of the institution’s strategy. Trainees will spend 12 months undertaking a planned rotation of placements in different areas of the University, reporting to senior staff. Placements will be across central services and schools, and trainees may have the opportunity to experience activity at one of the University’s overseas campuses in Malaysia or China.

The evidence from the presentations by each of the trainees on their experiences and the results both for them and the University is extraordinarily positive. They have all done outstandingly well and all four have now secured other posts within Nottingham which really is excellent news.

Comments on some of the outcomes of the programme can be seen in a recent podcast:

Will swine flu end freshers’ week?

swine-flu

The Guardian is reporting that universities may cancel freshers’ week because of swine flu concerns:

Universities are working on emergency plans to postpone freshers’ week activities and shut down parts of their campuses if the swine flu pandemic peaks when students return in September. Contingency plans to slow the spread of the virus, or to cope if the illness cripples staffing levels, include podcasting lectures and quarantining infected students in their halls of residence. There are fears that the start of term could exacerbate the pandemic, with nearly two million students starting or returning to university, and hundreds of thousands crossing the country to begin their courses.

This is a huge challenge for institutions and everyone will be preparing for such eventualities. Whether it will mean an end to freshers’ week traditions remains to be seen but this will be just one of the many difficult issues universities are going to face in the autumn.

It does seem rather unlikely that wholesale podcasting is going to be the answer though.

League tables podcast (toe in the water time)

University of Nottingham league tables podcast

podcastlogofinalOK, it’s the first one but you’ve got to start somewhere. (Many thanks to Andrew Burden for doing the hard work.)

Suspect this is probably going to be the full extent of cross-media influence though.

Graduate Training Programme at the University of Nottingham

A brief podcast on the launch of the new programme for Graduate Trainees at the University of Nottingham (produced by Andrew Burden of the Communications team)

Offers a good first look at what it is hoped will be a really important and valuable development for the University.

New additions to iTunes U

As reported by the BBC, UCL, the OU and Trinity have joined the iTunes U stable along with a group of other non-US universities. It remains to be seen whether they will reach the top 10 with any of their offerings but one of the UCL presentations is a bit different: the University’s annual report as a series of brief podcasts.

Given the well-known challenges of making university annual reports readable and then promoting them this seems like a worthy approach. But it is still difficult to make some of the issues sound exciting.