“Being Sold a False Dream”: Crackdown on Low-Value University Degrees by UK Government

Following a crackdown on ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees by UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, interest in what degrees were available, has piqued.

The term ‘Mickey Mouse’ degree encapsulates those courses that are deemed worthless or irrelevant. As the UK tightens its grip on university regulations, we revisit courses that over the years, have fallen victim to university culling.

The movement has been instigated following continuous low employment rates for graduate students.

Office for Students (OfS) reported that almost three in ten graduates will not move into further study or a highly skilled job, even 15 months after graduating.

Young People Are Being Sold A Fake Dream

Prime Minister Sunak said, “Too many young people are being sold a false dream and end up doing a poor-quality course at the taxpayers’ expense that doesn’t put off the prospect of a decent job at the end of it.”  

The result? Courses are being cut, with a focus on those deemed low-quality.  

BA in Surf Management

In 2004, Swansea Institute pulled a course in surf management. The degree was spanned over three years, resulting in a BA honors degree. It covered coastal conservation, surf skills, and safety management.

It lasted only two years before it came under attack at the Professional Association of Teachers’ conference in July 2004, when it was deemed a “Mickey Mouse” degree.

Though Plymouth University was at the time running a successful BSc course in surf science and technology, Swansea Institute pulled their course without hesitation. 

BA in Harry Potter

Garnering, perhaps the most attention, is the 10-week module course which ran in 2010 at Durham University.

Harry Potter and the Age of Illusion was part of a BA in Education Studies with the purpose of reviewing “the Harry Potter novels in their wider social and cultural context.”

For book lovers and ‘potter heads,’ alike, the course may have seemed like a dream come true. Durham Cathedral, only a fifteen-minute walk from the university, was a filming location for some scenes in Harry Potter, only adding to the magic.

At the time, the registrar of Durham University, Carolyn Fowler, said:

“Harry Potter is a culturally iconic phenomenon and has already been the subject of many well-regarded academic studies over recent years, so it is only fitting that a leading university like Durham responds to new developments in our academic and wider social and cultural environment in developing new modules like this.”

The course was described as a “serious but innovative” academic module. It ran from 2010 to 2021 before the university removed it from the syllabus.

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BA in Golf Management Studies

Still running today is the BSc Applied Golf Management Studies at the University of Birmingham in England. It’s a three-year course claiming to be the “world-leading golf degree.”

It covers modules in business management, applied sports science, equipment technology, and coaching theory. It goes hand-in-hand with a PGA (Professional Golfers Association) membership, requiring vocational placements in a golf environment.

Is golf management the type of degree that is going to fall under the wrath of Sunak’s crackdown? Only time will tell.

Where Real Educational Value Exists

Though Prime Minister Sunak’s intent with the crackdown is to streamline university education for a higher employment rate, many are frustrated by the announcement.

“I wish more people could see the social value of education,” one user said in an online forum. “Real educational value exists far beyond economic terms.”

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This article was produced and syndicated by TPR Teaching. Featured image: ComposedPix // Shutterstock

Caitriona Maria is an education writer and founder of TPR Teaching, crafting inspiring pieces that promote the importance of developing new skills. For 7 years, she has been committed to providing students with the best learning opportunities possible, both domestically and abroad. Dedicated to unlocking students' potential, Caitriona has taught English in several countries and continues to explore new cultures through her travels.

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