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Row erupts over 'celebrity journalism' degree

A university has defended its plans for a degree in ‘celebrity journalism’ after a senior academic called for it be scrapped.

Dr Richard Pike, head of the Royal Society of Chemistry, sparked controversy yesterday after hitting out at so-called ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees.

Calling for some “realism” about university funding, Dr Pike said the government should “no longer be paying young people to start courses on celebrity journalism or international football business management.”

“These courses should be kicked into touch, especially at a time when the UK is desperately short of funding research into Alzheimer’s and other diseases of ageing, alternative energy sources and wider, more effective health care provision, all of which depend on leading edge work in the fundamental sciences,” he said.

Celebrity Journalism is a new three-year course being offered at Staffordshire University from this autumn. Its sylllabus includes interviewing celebrities and understanding celebrity culture.

Dr Pike said that such courses were no more than an attempt to “satisfy some ephemeral demand that in 10 years’ time will be viewed as a curiosity.”

But the university’s head of journalism Sarah Rowlands said focusing on celebrity will help equip journalists for the changing world.

“Whilst traditional news reporting jobs are decreasing, jobs reporting celebrity news are expanding. We need to train our journalism students to be employable in this changing market,” she said.

The university stressed that students on the couse would also be taught “core journalistic skills” including media law and shorthand.

But Ms Rowlands said that journalism training needed to respond to what she called “the changing face of news.”

“The world we live in demands news about celebrities. You only have to go online, open a newspaper, read a magazine, watch TV – there is a thirst for information about this footballer, that person from X Factor or that film star,” she said.

“If Staffordshire University is to continue its ability to lead the way with cutting edge awards we need to adapt to the changing face of news.”


Amazed lecturer (12/02/2010 07:57:42)
During the past few years there has been an alarming growth in truly ridiculous degrees.
All I can say is that no wonder Oxford and Cambridge universities no longer trust parts of our education system and have developed some entrance exams of their own.
More words fail me!

Old regional press hand (12/02/2010 08:05:25)
When I heard that one college was offering a degree in social networking, my first reaction was to mock. Then a colleague turned to me and said that in ten years’ time, you won’t be able to run a business without knowing how social networking works. He’s right.

Fence hopper (12/02/2010 09:01:07)
Check out today’s front pages – celebrities across the board.

MikeC (12/02/2010 09:25:22)
If cuts have to be made in the university sector they should be in the media. There must be a gross oversupply of graduates for jobs following the recession. All these degree courses have done is to keep the students off the dole queue for two or three years.

fearfulforthefuture (12/02/2010 15:49:11)
What I don’t understand is how anyone can spend three years learning about celebrity journalism. Three hours with the magazines and tabloids off a newsagent’s shelf should tell you everything you ever needed to know.

Devoted (15/02/2010 10:12:50)
Having worked for many years in Student Support and latterly, loans, I have to say that Mickey Mouse degrees have been in the system for longer than you think. The students taking the degrees think that they are the bees knees, and so it goes on. Combined with the loans fiasco, it all became unbearable, and I was lucky enough to escape.

Fencehopper (15/02/2010 14:56:04)
Let’s hope you didn’t escape into the media @Devoted. Frying pans and fires spring to mind…