How to stage a revolution. And other niche university courses

I’ve gone on a bit before here about some off-beat higher education courses  which might be described as possibly slightly bonkers or, more kindly, rather niche.

Previous favourites have included:

Also, who can forget the launch of an MA in Beatles Studies and the offer of a degree in Northern Studies.

The Independent has an interesting selection of new and not so new ones including, hilariously, a Stand-up comedy master’s degree at the University of Kent. There are also these novel offerings:

  • Hair, makeup and prosthetics for performance at the London College of Fashion
  • A Perfumery diploma offered by the International Centre for Aroma Trade Studies, Plymouth University
  • Catering for the Bake-Off generation there is a course in Cake Technology Management at London South Bank University

And then there is this range of popular culture courses too suggested by the NME (remember them?) which includes:

Best of all though, NYU has a course in ‘David Bowie’:

Vivien Goldman, NYU’s resident “Punk Professor” has explored Bowie’s involvement with Tibet, Buddhism, German Expressionism and his interest in existentialism. Producer Tony Visconti has been a guest speaker at this course. Goldman’s other original courses at NYU include one on Punk, another on Bob Marley and Post-colonial music and another on Fela Kuti.

“Very cool” is the NME verdict on that one.

Finally, there is this selection from EAB which reports on several of the most interesting courses on offer in 2017/18:

How to Stage a Revolution (at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology)

A study of how governments around the world have overthrown their rulers, with a special focus on revolutions that happened through radical upheavals and violence.

The Anthropology of Magic, Witchcraft, and Religion (at Moorpark College)

As an attempt to get students to see the world differently than they normally do, this course combines a study of religious practices with dancing, drumming, and chanting.

Probability and Games of Chance: Poker 101 (University of Ottawa)

A look into the mathematics and game theory involved in poker, as well as the psychology of the decisions made by its players.

Sociology of Hip Hop: Jay-Z (Georgetown University) 

Students discuss race, gender, ethnicity, economic injustice, and other topics with a look at Jay Z’s upbringing and music through a sociological lens.

 Baseball as Philosophy: God, Beauty, and Morality (Harvard University)

A deep philosophical investigation of the issues in ethics and morality, using baseball as a focal point. The course includes critical readings of scholarly works on baseball and Plato.

 Philosophy & Star Trek (at Georgetown University)

Students approach a study of Star Trek with a focus on metaphysics. Students also analyze philosophical readings and wrestle with philosophical arguments and apply them to concepts from Star Trek.

This really is an extraordinary range of some possibly bonkers and definitely niche course offerings. Do share if you have any others.




4 responses to “How to stage a revolution. And other niche university courses

  1. One of the perks of working at LSBU (where the National Bakery School is situated) is the man who comes round selling the baked goods the students have made.

  2. Have you come across Signum University in the US? It’s an online university centred on Tolkien Studies, ranging from casual and appeaing-to-fans offerings alongside what appear to be some more hard-core academic courses (‘Introduction to Germanic Philology II’, for example). No comment on whether it would be awarded degree awarding powers in the UK!

  3. I was forced to face reality by a student on a Horse Studies BSc course (now equine studies) who pointed out that on placement he would be (partly) responsible for £40 million worth of horse flesh remaining healthy. There is always a danger of huffing and puffing or smirking like John Humphrys on radio 4 but methodology, rigour, and analysis and its application that can be transferable to a range of subjects is the purpose.

  4. Given the concerns over fake news, we might see Calling Bullshit: Data Reasoning for the Digital Age at the University of Washington moving from niche to mainstream quite quickly.

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