Staff attack science degrees in alternative health

Plans to offer new science degrees in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine at the University of Central Lancashire have met fierce opposition - from the university's own staff.

Mike Eslea, a senior lecturer in the School of Psychology, has written an "open letter" to the vice-chancellor opposing the courses on the grounds that they have "no academic justification" and would "severely damage" the reputation of the university.

Three new degrees are being offered by the university from September in a partnership with the Northern College of Acupuncture. They are a BSc (hons) in acupuncture, an MSc in acupuncture and an MSc in Chinese herbal medicine.

Dr Eslea said he was protesting now because there was a final "chance to make a stand before they are up and running". His letter says there is a paucity of scientific evidence in the subjects, and the title BSc should not be given to courses that appear to be aimed at training practitioners.

"The fact that they are science courses really rankles. Having these courses is damaging, and it makes us a laughing stock in the scientific community," Dr Eslea said.

The letter is being made available by Dr Eslea to all Uclan staff and students. As Times Higher Education went to press, the university said that seven people had added their names to the document.

A Uclan spokesman said the new courses contained "significant elements" of science and noted that a core first-year module required students to critically review all types of complementary therapies.

"The courses have gone through Uclan's rigorous academic approval process during which senior academic staff from across the university, including those from the faculty of science and technology, considered the academic merits of the programmes. Subsequently, the courses have been considered and approved by a validation panel, which includes Uclan and external academics," he said.

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