Sunday, 20 February 2011

Grade F for common sense

For sometime now I have been of the opinion that certain courses offered by Universities are totally pointless and outdated. A fine example of this is History of Art, which guarantees you exactly two career options: an Art Historian (unlikely), or selling the Big Issue. However, a few months ago, it came to my attention via a good friend that Northampton University was offering a joint honours course in Waste Management and Dance. Initially, I thought he was joking, but after I'd picked myself up off the floor and turned on my computer, I have the misery of reporting that he is indeed correct. Furthermore, Northampton also offer Dance with with Equine Studies and (rather ironically) World Development with Pop Music, while Glyndwr University in Wrexham offers an unusual course in Equestrian Psychology which "investigates the unique partnership between horse and rider."

This is absolutely ridiculous. Especially since Universities have had the bare-faced cheek to charge students over TRIPLE what they were previously paying in tuition fees. It seems to me that the government has gone about saving money in tertiary education completely the wrong way. Rather than asking for more money to sustain all the courses currently offered by Universities, what they should have done was to weed out all these Mickey-Mouse subjects and withdraw funding, leaving more money left for the subjects that really matter and will further the development of the country in the future. The majority of students should certainly NOT have to pay to keep these subjects in the prospectus. Therefore, I propose the following: If you really are that concerned about the "unique partnership" between you and your horse and wish to study it in an academic environment, pay for it yourself. If you would like to study how the world benefits from effective waste management through the medium of dance, pay for it yourself. And if you absolutely must study how Bono will save the third world through his music, pay for it yourself! What you should not do, is ask students or tax payers to fund you.

This horrible approach of trying to turn hobbies into academic subjects  permeates every aspect of education in this country. How can a school fund Intermediate 2 Cake Decorating but not find the money to buy the latest textbooks for its English Students? How can a school afford to buy new costumes for the drama club, while giving Musicians old, out-dated instruments?  How can a school plough resources into Media Studies, but not offer decent scientific apparatus to its students? Its a totally wasteful approach that at its core promotes mediocrity.

In many ways I do hope that this financial "belt-tightening" results in these subjects being banished from every curriculum and that we can return to giving proper financial backing to the potential Nobel prize-winners of the future.


  1. Bravo, Jon!

    Thoroughly enjoyed that tongue in cheek critique of the current system. When you suggest that students are currently partly subsidising the Mickey Mouse courses, I take it that funding currently is pooled and disbursed to all courses arbitrarily within the university. Is that really the case, or there already a compartmentalisation of budgets among the various courses?

  2. Drama club and media studies sound like perfectly sensible ideas that should get funding, but 'Equine Psychology' and 'Waste Management and Dance'.... why?
    *sigh* this is a disgrace :p

  3. Hey Ananth! I would agree that there is a degree of subjectivity regarding what classifies as a soft or hard subject (to use oxbridge terminology), however if schools are pressed for cash I would rather have these subjects be pulled first. My friend actually illustrated this point very well when she told me that her school could not find the resources to teach any subjects at Advanced Higher, but yet managed to offer a course in Survival Cookery! You use the term "Drama Club", perhaps this should be the road we should look down in that we offer subjects such as Drama, Cookery, Media Studies etc as extra curricular activities? Therefore, individuals can still enjoy these subjects and save people the dreariness of assessments etc.

  4. While your post seems to pose an interesting point, it is devalued somewhat when you consider that not all courses are undertaken to create a career opportunity.

    For example, the history of art is interesting. Learning for learning's sake isn't usually a bad thing.

    Furthermore, the history of art might seemingly be a rather limited end goal of learning, but could lead the student in question in a more general art path. Perhaps the course was taken by a budding art student, who simply wanted to pick up ideas from his historical peers?

    And while your example of Waste Management and Dance seems rather questionable, I would put forward Politics and Music as being an equally pointless double course, abet one made up of two courses that you would never think of cutting from curriculum.

    Remember, these things would not result in a hybrid end job (such as a tap dancing bin-man or a rock star MP) but could just be the student having two areas of learning which they wanted to nurture, with only one leading to an employment end goal.

    Just my 2 cents.