V-cs attack tax-cut lobby's 'Mickey Mouse' criticisms

August 24, 2007

Vice-chancellors have hit back at a report that claims that universities are offering "non-courses" that waste millions of pounds of taxpayers' money.

The TaxPayers' Alliance study lists what it describes as 401 "non-courses" at 91 institutions and says that £40 million would be saved if the "Mickey Mouse" courses were scrapped. Among the courses it singles out are Derby University's "Culinary Arts and Adventure Tourism" course and Glamorgan University's "Science: Fiction and Culture" programme.

The TaxPayers' Alliance, a free-market group that lobbies for lower taxation, has previously made headlines with populist attacks on what it sees as wasteful, "politically correct" bureaucracy.

Deian Hopkin, chairman of Universities UK's skills task group, said: "I find the concept of 'Mickey Mouse' courses deeply offensive; it misconstrues the purpose of the new types of degrees.

"There is no fantasy associated with providing higher-level qualifications linked with new industries, whatever they are.

"In fact, £40 million is half of 1 per cent of what we spend on higher education. The people with these degrees will pay much more in tax over their working lives."

Professor Hopkin, vice-chancellor of London South Bank University, added: "I'm old enough to remember when accountancy and financial management were introduced into universities and people were very sceptical."

The report says Derby University has the largest number of "non-courses", at 41.

Derby's vice-chancellor, John Coyne, said: "This report is an unfortunate combination of misplaced assertion, misunderstanding of the educational needs of important commercial sectors, and poor research."

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