‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees: a response

Richard Pike, chief executive of the Royal Society of Chemistry, writing in his blog has said ‘‘Mickey Mouse’ degree courses should be swept away, and priorities in university education and research should reflect the challenges facing the country over the forthcoming decades’.

My objections to this line of argument are twofold:

(i) It’s against the principle of academic collegiality. Universities, such as mine, are founded on the basis of mutual respect, with equal value given to all subjects. We can’t continue as we are if some subjects are considered to be ‘superior’ to others, and therefore get more funding.

(ii) In this time of pending cuts in funding, we must all stand together, and argue the case for universities as a whole. The line being proposed amounts to ‘divide and conquer’, turning subjects and departments against each other. We will be far stronger if we face this together.

Incdentally, I am a Chemistry lecturer, and care about my subject, but not at the expense of academic collegiality, and good relations between departments and colleagues.

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5 thoughts on “‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees: a response”

  1. I couldn’t agree more with both your points. I’m perhaps a rare physicist in that I genuinely cringe every time my supposedly-clever colleagues make cheap shots at media studies. The media (from blogs to TV to newspapers to films and who knows what else) is quite an amazing product of human endeavour and more than worthy of study.

  2. I couldn’t agree more with both your objections. I do get a bit cross with my colleagues (who are apparently clever intellectuals) when they take cheap shots at media studies, as if the analysis of the complexities of human interaction was beneath them… I think it’s jolly interesting!

  3. Ugh, “Mickey Mouse Degree”. Another one of those cute little terms coined just to be patronising. Hearing it t used to make me die a little bit inside every single time, especially since the category’s been expanded to include degrees in English as well. Now I tend to just let it bounce off me. Occasionally, I challenge them to present their arguments and providing they actually get past the blustery kind of shock at actually having to back up a cheap shot with a few facts, it’s amazing how often their arguments boil down to “Media Studies is not worthwhile because it’s not chemistry/engineering/medicine” or a similar derivative.

    And to be honest, I think that’s just too easy. I’m very grateful indeed that there are people out there who are studying chemistry, engineering, medicine. The world needs those people. But it needs other people too. I might be wrong, but it seems to me that the vast majority of graduate jobs don’t actually make the major contributions to society that seem to be expected if your degree is to be considered worthwhile. The work they do is important, but it’s important in a very narrow circle.

    And I simply don’t see the problem with that. My sister got a 2:2 in a degree that society loves to sneer at. An inferior grade in an inferior subject, if you listened to what was said behind her back. Yet she’s the one that found a graduate position within a few months, one that means she has to use what her degree taught her every single day. So much for having wasted her time. She never aspired to change the world with the work she does, but she still does good work that’s very much appreciated by the people she does it for. So she’s worthwhile. Her degree is worthwhile.

    And as far as academic rigour is concerned, I’m not going to sit here and bleat that media studies is every bit as difficult as chemistry or physics because I simply don’t believe that. Does that make media studies an easy subject? Certainly not. Easier is not the same thing as easy.

  4. Thanks for your comments. Since I posted this over 2 years ago (!), I had to go back to my post to get the context. Anyway, I agree with what you say. However, the new climate we are in, with increased tuition fees, and the diffuclties new graduates face in getting employment, prospective students will have to choose their degree subjects carefully. It remains to be seen whether this will affect some subjects more than others.

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