History is in bunker

November 9, 2006

Birmingham University has dropped courses in history and heritage while retaining a golf management degree in the same faculty, raising fears that commercial goals are eroding higher education's role as a public good, writes Phil Baty.

A paper agreed by Birmingham's governing senate last month says that the School of Education will drop a degree in history, heritage and education as a result of low student demand. An MA in applied community studies and a diploma in higher education in community play and youth studies will also be dropped.

A spokeswoman for the Birmingham University and College Union branch said it was "dismayed" at the plans. She said the dropped courses promoted social inclusion in terms of the students they attracted, while golf studies was "not at all inclusive but, of course, likely to be lucrative".

A review of the school by the university's "change management team" found that the history and heritage degree took in only six students this year.

Its target is ten. The golf management course took in 23 students. Its target is 25.

An earlier review of provision in community play and youth led to the decision to withdraw a BPhil in the subject. It also reported that "staff associated with this area are not making a major contribution to the research agenda of the school".

Birmingham said: "This decision was made following an extensive review by the School of Education of its academic provision."

It added that a commitment to the study of sport was part of its wider strategy.

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