Complaints over standards on hypnosis course earn QAA scrutiny

Investigation sparked by questions about staff qualifications and contact hours. Jack Grove writes

April 12, 2012

The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education has begun an investigation into the UK's only undergraduate degree course in clinical hypnosis after receiving complaints about academic standards.

The part-time course is run by a private company called the Brief Strategic Therapy & Clinical Hypnosis (BST) Foundation and is accredited by St Mary's University College Twickenham, which gained degree-awarding powers in 2007.

At a cost of about £3,000 a year, students follow a two-year course to receive a Diploma in Higher Education. A third year of study leads to a BSc with honours.

But two students contacted Times Higher Education to complain about a lack of contact hours: the course, they said, is limited to one Saturday every two weeks and is taught in groups of about 30 people.

It means there are only eight full learning days in the academic year, with four further teaching days to cover aspects such as exams and observed practical demonstrations.

"I cannot see how they can teach an honours degree within three years, particularly when it is part-time and there are so few teaching hours," said one student who has now left the course.

One of her other complaints concerned an alleged reluctance by BST to disclose information about its lecturers' qualifications.

The student - and THE - repeatedly asked BST and St Mary's to give details about qualifications, but only basic information was provided.

After the student submitted a Freedom of Information request to the college, the company's website was updated with details of staff members' credentials to teach hypnosis.

Hypnotherapists are asked to sign up to the codes of conduct of self-regulating bodies, the largest of which is the General Hypnotherapy Register. Those who teach at St Mary's are members of the Society of Brief Strategic hypnoTherapists - a professional body run by Gavin Emerson, principal of the BST Foundation - and of other bodies such as the GHR.

A second student who contacted THE was suspended from the course after raising several concerns. She said she has now been reinstated.

"Hypnotherapy has struggled over the past 100 years for acknowledgement, and there are some really good practitioners, but I feel BST is giving it a bad name," she said.

Stephen Jackson, the QAA's director of reviews, said it was "investigating concerns reported to us about St Mary's University College, and will publish our findings when we have completed the investigation". In cases involving partnerships with private providers, the QAA examines the validating institution's oversight of academic standards.

A spokesman for the BST said that it stood by the course and insisted that "the assessment load is that of a full-time student".

He added: "All staff on the programme are appropriately trained in clinical hypnosis and also have appropriate clinical experience."

He explained that "students have access to one-to-one telephone tutorials" as well as "intensive day-long sessions", although "the amount of input varies between individuals".

The two students who contacted THE said that they had heard no mention of telephone tutorials.

A spokesman for St Mary's said: "As is the case with all new programmes, this course will need some fine-tuning. We are also appointing a new programme director."

He added that St Mary's had apologised to one of the students about the handling of her complaint, prompting a "general review" of its complaint procedures. The other student's complaint was still in process.

jack.grove@tsleducation.com.

Already registered?

Sign in now if you are already registered or a current subscriber. Or subscribe for unrestricted access to our digital editions and iPad and iPhone app.

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

Elderly woman looking up at sky

A recent paper claims that the quality of researchers declines with age. Five senior scientists consider the data and how they’ve contributed through the years

Woman tearing up I can't sign

Schools and universities are increasingly looking at how improving personalities can boost social mobility. But in doing so, they may be forced to choose between teaching what is helpful, and what is true, says David Matthews

Eleanor Shakespeare illustration 19 May 2016

Tim Blackman’s vision of higher education for the 21st century is one in which students of varying abilities learn successfully together

Otto illustration (5 May 2016)

Craig Brandist on the proletarianisation of a profession and how it leads to behaviours that could hobble higher education

Door peephole painted as bomb ready to explode

It’s time to use technology to detect potential threats and worry less about outdated ideas of privacy, says Ron Iphofen