Salford supplies what students really, really want

October 31, 1997

Critics call them Noddy courses, but more and more students are opting for highly vocational study

Wannabe Spice Girls need not apply. A pop music degree at Salford University requires students with at least three A levels at grade C and above, as well as a grade eight performance qualification. Applicants outnumber places by 950 to 40, so competition is tough.

The music industry might be reluctant to welcome, or even encourage, graduates with pop music degrees, and Salford will not make any promises about its popular music graduates' employment prospects, but the Salford course is not a "Noddy course", said course leader Robin Dewhurst.

"More and more universities have to respond to industry," he said. "But that doesn't mean becoming like a further education college. We do not advocate the further education approach to training - teaching people to do rather than teaching them to think. Thinking and doing can go hand in hand."

He said that much of the course was highly vocational, such as a unit in studio design and engineering.

The course focused on the technical skills of playing and recording popular music, but there were compulsory, complementary study options.

Dr Dewhurst has just won money from the Higher Education Funding Council for England to develop ways to assess popular music performances.

"There are already criteria for assessing a classical music performance. But we're now looking into ways to take into account the farts, groans, grunts and screams of pop music performances."

At one extreme, he said, you can "take the further education approach and let your students get on with it, and give them a qualification at the end. We don't want to do that."

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