Pendulum stops as St Mary's drops hypnosis

The UK's only undergraduate degree course in hypnosis has been scrapped after an investigation by regulators revealed serious problems with teaching and assessment.

St Mary's University College Twickenham has closed its honours degree in clinical hypnosis after a report by the Quality Assurance Agency, published last month, disclosed a litany of failings in the management and oversight of the course.

Teachers were inadequately qualified, reading lists were out of date and the external examination was "not fit for purpose", putting academic standards at risk, the report said. In one case, a student on the course was also listed as a teacher and an examiner, the QAA found.

Concerns over the programme were first raised by Times Higher Education in April after it was contacted by two students who said that complaints about poor teaching and academic standards had not been dealt with by the hypnosis training company that ran the course.

St Mary's, a former teacher training college that gained degree-awarding powers in 2007, has now terminated its validation agreement with the company, the Brief Strategic Therapy & Clinical Hypnosis (BST) Foundation.

Although St Mary's suspended enrolment on the course shortly after the QAA's report, it had wanted to teach the existing students itself. However, it was unable to find enough hypnotherapists with academic credentials to do so, and thus decided to drop the programme.

Philip Esler, principal of St Mary's, expressed "deep regret" for the predicament students on the course find themselves in.

"It is hard to put into words how disappointed we are by this outcome," said Professor Esler, a former chief executive of the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

St Mary's has offered to repay students the full tuition fees paid to BST or to allow them to do a different course at the institution free of charge.

As they are now unable to complete their degrees, second-year students will each be awarded a St Mary's certificate of higher education in clinical hypnosis, while third-years will receive a diploma.

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