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More stupid undergraduate degrees from our universities

By johnboy - 9 January 2009 59

The Canberra Times has a piece on moves by ANU and UC to offer ever more specialised “degrees” to students fresh out of year 12.

ANU’s proudly touting a “Bachelor of Genetics” for future paternity testers to spend three years working towards. Meanwhile UC is promising a “Bachelor of Urban and Regional Planning” as well as “Bachelor of Cultural Heritage”.

Because what 18 year olds need is to be pigeon-holed.

What’s Your opinion?


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59 Responses to
More stupid undergraduate degrees from our universities
jakez 11:50 am 09 Jan 09

Having a number of friends who changed degrees completely (I myself went from a Bachelor of Science to Science/Laws which isn’t the same degree of change), I can definitely understand the concern with regard to having such specialised degrees.

However, I don’t think they are necessarily a bad thing. Some people do know what they want to do at age 18, some people don’t go to uni at the age of 18, and somebody simply need to make a mistake.

If you don’t believe in specialised degrees you could advocate for the ‘Melbourne model’ which is a move towards the US system of having a generic undergraduate degree and then going to a postgraduate ‘law school’ etc.

It’s not personally appealing but I value that option in Australia.

I’d say that ‘the market’ will determine whether these courses are valuable however the extremely centrally planned nature of our Higher Education system (which in many respects was made worse by the Howard Government despite their claims of deregulation) makes it extremely difficult for that to actually happen.

B_Man 11:49 am 09 Jan 09

When I was at CSU Albury a few years back my fellow business students and would I often ponder over a few beers as to the future of the cultural heritage students and wondered where they would end up. Now a lot of them are working as consultants for various govenrment departments and apparently raking in some big dollars.

In hindsight it would have been good option because history interests me a lot more than anything I studied but I couldn’t see much future in it at the time.

ogrex 11:41 am 09 Jan 09

VYBerlinaV8_the_one_they_all_copy said :

I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that these courses are offered, or that people elect to take them!

The courses (not necessarily the degrees) should be offered. Cultural heritage should probably be Bachelor of Arts with a focus in “conservation science” or something like that.

As for giving anyone a “leg up” when seeking a job (ref the B. of Genetics)… I don’t buy it. Postgraduate work is where all the real specialization occurs and asking someone to limit themselves so early on is a recipe for 1) disaster or 2) limited choices. Once upon a time postgraduate programs (and jobs) valued broad-minded individuals. When I was doing my first degree (engineering, but with lots of arts thrown in) I was approached (by the school) to go to medical school because they wanted to diversify their incoming students above and beyond the typical “pre-med” (biology, chemistry) folks that they typically got.

Some of the best opportunities I’ve had came to be because of something I did outside a strict curriculum.

VYBerlinaV8_the_one_ 11:25 am 09 Jan 09

I don’t know what’s worse, the fact that these courses are offered, or that people elect to take them!

Thumper 11:11 am 09 Jan 09

The “Cultural Heritage” one is basically museum curatorship, isn’t it?

Yep, with a heap of archaeology, anthropology, conservation, etc thrown in. It’s good to see that it’s back.

random 11:06 am 09 Jan 09

Apparently the Bachelor of Genetics is actually divided into “medical genetics”, “molecular genetics”, or “computational and statistical genetics” streams.

The “Cultural Heritage” one is basically museum curatorship, isn’t it? I remember someone telling me there was nowhere left you could do that in Australia, so it’s good to have it back.

The whinging about pigeon-holing seems misguided. It could give students a leg up into their chosen field (it’ll certainly be easier to go on to postgraduate genetics research with that degree than with general science), and if not then they’re no worse off than anyone who studied geology, anthropology, musicology or whatever and then went to work in an unrelated job.

Mr_Shab 10:48 am 09 Jan 09

It’s still not quite a silly as the UK just yet. I spoke to a rather posh young lass when I was last in Blighty, who informed me that she was studying a degree in “Fashion Purchasing for Retail”. I barely restrained my guffaw.

BTW – I probably would have done the units requried for a B.Genetics. At the time I started uni, I might have even applied to do one. But I agree – pigeonholing students is bad. I’m very glad I diversified out of straight science and did some philosophy and anthropology.

Tibbs 10:23 am 09 Jan 09

Sorry to be one of those two post nutbags, but I think Edith Cowan University really wins out when it comes to frivolous degrees. Their bachelor of surfing is a real highlight – http://southwest.ecu.edu.au/surf/course.html.

Tibbs 10:21 am 09 Jan 09

I’m glad to see the Cultural Heritage degree back at UC, though I’m sure it would be preferable if it remained an applied science degree specialising in Cultural Heritage.

I was at UC a few years ago when they shut the original Cultural Heritage course (at a time when the fed government was really pushing for economic rationalisation of university courses). It was quite a big deal. There were only ever a few dozen students taking the degree each year but it was the only such degree in Australia, at least at the time. Graduates were highly sought after and it was a bit of a feather in the cap for UC.

Mr Evil 10:10 am 09 Jan 09

What next – Bachelor of Blogging with Hons in Facebook? Bachelor of eBay? Bachelor of iPod Engineering?

Ian 9:59 am 09 Jan 09

Cool. You’ll be able to have a B.URP after your name.

grunge_hippy 9:45 am 09 Jan 09

yeah my friend started a degree in cultural heritage management or something equally inane and lasted about a year…

ogrex 9:44 am 09 Jan 09

Universities have really beefed up their marketing departments, and this is the result.

More students = more $$$

“Popular degrees” = more students

—> “Popular degrees” = more $$$

It’s just like the trend/boom in forensic science enrollments due to the CSI (and it’s many copies) effect. Many schools and unis that didn’t previously have forensic science programs all of the sudden decided to start one (or rename something they already had).

I whole-heartedly believe that there should be a wide range of specialized 2-year (associate’s) degrees, TAFE certificates, etc. I think that Bachelors and above should remain in the core disciplines. There’s plenty of room to specialize within a given curriculum and you state/show that on your CV.

wot said fred 9:31 am 09 Jan 09

and urban and regional planning also I suspect from my distant days at CCAE doing urban geography as part of a BApSc also

Thumper 9:28 am 09 Jan 09

Cultural heritage used to a B.AppScience. I know, because it’s one of my quals 😉

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