Thursday, March 22

BSc in mumbo-jumbo

Complaints again at what the new universities are giving degrees for.

Nature have an article (subscription required) on subjects regarded by many scientists as pseudo-science being taught as BSc courses.

The BBC have picked up on the story, and quote Prof. Colquhoun of University College London for his dislike of these courses:

He said the teaching of complementary medicine under a science banner was worse than "Mickey Mouse" degrees in golf management and baking that have sprung up in recent years as "they do what it says on the label".

The good Prof is using the freedom of information act to find out what these courses are actually teaching.

There may be an argument for keeping these degrees to one extent - as with the management of golf courses and the knowledge needed for running a large scale bakery, these are work-related levels of knowledge required to run businesses that bring in a significant amount of money - someone needs to do this sort of training, and because John Major got all classless about them being regarded as less rigorous than University degrees, his lot decided to make all the places that used to teach that sort of thing universities as well.

So arguably, if there is a market in something (and there certainly is a market in people wanting mumbo-jumbo to make them feel good), then in a purely business sense people should be trained to exploit this market, and since universities are expected to fund themselves, they should be free to offer courses in exploiting people's gullibility.

But then that's business, not science.

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