Intellectual and practical: The study of swinging, singing, gaming and snipping

January 23, 2004

Applied golf management studies, Birmingham University

Former bank manager Jonathan Wright is not the sort of man to take unnecessary risks, so when he decided to take a place on Birmingham's golf management studies degree, he had to be sure he was not throwing away a well-paid career.

To join the programme, run in partnership with the Professional Golfers' Association, he had to quit his job in London and sell his Islington flat and his Porsche. But he said he had no regrets.

"There are so many facets to this degree, you could end up working with a manufacturer, as a coach, almost anything to do with golf," he said.

"It is harder academically than I thought it would be. But we will all be better qualified than anyone entering the industry."

Kiin Yang came from Korea to join the course after having scoured the internet for alternatives in the US, Canada and his home country.

Accepting a place meant disappointing his parents, who had hoped he would help run the family business. But after studying hard and gaining work experience at The Belfry, Birmingham's premier golf course, he has their full support.

"The course goes into things such as psychology and physiology: things that no other golf course would cover. It is hard work, and there is a lot of research," he said.

Martin Toms, golf programme manager and a lecturer in sport and physical education, said the level of work on the programme was as high as on any other degree.

"We have come up with a package that has become world renowned. It gives students very good career prospects to work in a multibillion-pound industry."

Popular music, Salford University

The UK's first professor of pop, Sheila Whiteley, said there was nothing Mickey Mouse about the academic requirements of Salford's degree in popular music and recording, which has been running for 14 years.

She said: "We are looking for people who are musically literate because not only do they have to do composition and arrranging, but they must also be able to score music and transcribe it from musical recordings.

Any musician will tell you that that is not easy to do."

The course's standards are as high as any conservatoire's, and students elect to follow either performance or music technology and studio recording. They must also study musical style and genre, cultural theory, gender issues and concepts such as postmodernism.

They write dissertations on subjects such as the role of the TV programmes Pop Idol and Fame Academy while developing their performance skills to a level that will allow them to get jobs as session musicians when they graduate.

Professor Whiteley makes no apologies for the strong vocational vein running through the programme.

She said: "I am slightly puzzled by constant emphasis on trying to give everything an academic gloss. Vocational degrees should be more valued. We are not doing hotch-potch degrees that have no relevance to the jobs market."

About 600 people apply for about 70 places each year.

Computer games design, Wolverhampton University

Wolverhampton is not only launching a computer games design course next academic year, it is also planning to develop an MA.

According to David James, the digital media subject leader, this is a "natural curriculum development" from existing degree courses in video, animation and multimedia communication.

On whether the degree could be classified as Mickey Mouse, he said: "At the beginning of the 19th century, there was shock that English literature was being introduced as a course and that students were reading novels to get a degree.

"Our course requires intellectual as well as practical skills. The students are here to learn not just how to do something but also why. That is something that distinguishes degree courses from technical courses.

"We are turning out people who are authors and creators, not 'software jockeys' who just sit in front of a computer and do as they are told."

Students on the course will study 3D computer modelling, animation, character development, video editing, sound and interactive media.

But they will also delve into cultural and contextual issues, examining gender roles, identity, corporate control and social responsibility.

Hairdressing, Derby University

A hairdressing foundation degree at Derby has proved so successful that its creators are preparing to develop an honours degree extension.

Beauty, hairdressing and spa programme leader Paula Batters said this should not be so surprising given the high level of technical and business knowledge required by the industry for employees aiming for management jobs.

She said: "The hairdressing industry is always looking to develop itself and its staff, so it is looking for people with higher level skills.

"To work in the top salons, staff need to know about design, marketing, retailing and communications, as well as having many technical skills.

"In further education, you are taught something and you do not question it.

What we are trying to do is to get people to question what they are doing and why."

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