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Articles > October, 16, 2007

Mickey Mouse Degrees – What Have They Ever Done For You?

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Boris Johnson commented recently “There are hundreds of thousands of dur-brained kids sitting for three years in an alcoholic or cannabis-fuelled stupor while theoretically attending a former technical college that is so pretentious as to call itself a university. After three years of taxpayer-funded debauch, these young people will graduate; it is a con, a scam, and a disgrace.” I study at Southampton Solent University, established in 2005, taking a BA Hons degree in Football Studies. Oh dear! Boris is talking about me.

I was a mature student, well into my 30`s when I decided to go to university. At 17, I was flung out of the education system and onto the streets of Bournemouth.  At that time it was only just beginning to dawn on me that I could pursue a university education but instead I became an estate agent. I then progressed into property development and ended up 20 years later with a bit of money, a few houses and a beer belly but also disillusioned and bored.  Enough was enough!  I wanted to get involved in the football industry.

I applied for the Football Studies degree at Southampton Solent and two years later have my own views and experiences to add to Boris’s. Every now and then something goes awry on the course; a bit of catastrophic organisation or perhaps a lecturer forgetting to turn up for a seminar. But incidents like that can and do happen in every university so why is there an “ageist” backlash towards new universities?

Fifty students enrolled on the course and whether some were in an alcohol or drug fuelled stupor would have made little difference to them acquiring a degree or not. The vast majority were not “dur-brained”, but some were simply not up to the academic side of the course. Before anyone starts sniggering, there is an academic side; the papers are rigorously marked and if they are not up to the required standard, you fail. Just like a degree in history or law. There are just 22 of us left going into the 3rd year. With a 56% drop out rate, we like to think that our course has made a strong contribution to the rather feeble 17% drop out rate reported by The Times for Solent courses recently.

Boris points out, “It is patronising, in that you really can’t tell, just by reading a course title, whether it is any good or not, and whether it will be of any intellectual or financial benefit to the student”.  He’s right! The course for me has been fantastic. I have studied units in a range of subjects. The Football Development unit has nudged me towards football community work. I have been working two days a week at Bath City Football Club and have just attended a fascinating two day course about engaging with hard-to-reach kids, offenders and former addicts using football as the “hook”.

I am amazed how far I have come and the knowledge I have acquired from my “vocational” degree in just two years. The washed out thirty-something has gone and I have a new lease of life and the potential of a new career that has already begun.

What’s Mickey Mouse about that?

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  1. Anneke

    Although it may be in part “Apolitical Gambit” it is true that tax payers pay part of our degree. Although we are able to have a student loan (As I have) this does in no way fully cover the cost of our education. As far as “Student debt” i concerned I don’t understand the issue students raise: 1) If you get a job that pays well you pay some money back to Society and that enables future students to be able to study. 2) If you don’t earn over the threshold of 15000 a year then you have notjhing to pay. In otherwise if your degree helped increase your earning potential then you pay something back, otherwise you may never have to pay. Going to University is an amazing experience and students should be happy to have been enabled to do so. I hate people complaining about a system that is fundamentally fair. In a lot of countries you can only go to University if your parents can afford it. Is that more fair? In respect to “Mickey Mouse Degrees” Why doesn’t the University provide a 2 tier system with Polytechnics for vocational degrees? That would be the most logical thing to do.

  2. OpinionPanel

    Hi Mark, please can you refrain from using sharp language such as ‘shut up’ in your comments as it doesn’t really help the debate. Other than that you’ve made a valid point though. Many thanks, OpinionPanel.

  3. Mark

    Becki Shut Up
    For 3,000 a year minimum, people shall do what they wish. At least they have the courage to pursue something they have a genuine passion for as opposed to doing what others feel is CORRECT.

  4. Becki

    I appreciate that these Mickey Mouse degrees might be fun, and as the article comments, they might even lead to a job. But they’re not really degrees are they? I’ve just finished a science degree, and it pains me that people did “Football Studies” or “Criminology” for 4 hours a week for three years, and get to call it a degree! If you like football, join a saturday league and stop pretending it’s anything like getting a real degree, in a real subject, from a real university.

    • Tanvir Arafat-Ali

      Wow Becky just wow, you really think that is the case? Then i feel sorry for you, the day and age we live in where underemployment is the name allot of residents of the UK live by means that such accessible degrees are a godsend to people who not only want to work but work in something they have a passion for. Not everyone has the qualifications to get into a “Real Subject” Your frankly selfish and even with your “real degree” ignorant.

  5. Jodi

    I don’t really think that any course is a Mickey Mouse course. If you are taking the time to study something that you are interested in and gives you a qualification then you should go for it. I don’t see the problem with tax payers money going towards universitys. Its a good cause compared to providing money for people who can’t be bothered to get a job and will never pay tax in their life. I think they forget that we are the future tax payers so in the end we will be paying for it anyway. From what I see in my Journalism degree I pay £3000 a year to watch pre made powerpoints for barely 12 hours a week. Where does the money go?

  6. h tsang

    I did a social sciences degree a decade ago in a new university (i.e. formerly a technical college). This was, and still is, viewed as a Mickey Mouse course at a less prestigious institution. I had a social life but did not drink nor dabble in drugs. The course was enjoyable and I built up my social confidence, problem solving and team working skills etc. After graduation, I worked in graduate level jobs for 9 years and got promoted a couple of times. I paid plenty of taxes and this more than made up for my education paid out of the public purse. As a single person I feel penalised for my single status. Married couple’s or single parent’s allowances and tax credits do not apply to me. I do not have kids who take up nursery and school places. I have recently returned to Uni for a career change and find it a struggle. Mature students without children do not get much financial support, yet we often have homes and elderly parents to look after!

  7. Raymond Smith

    I agree with Kyle’s comments. I googled ‘boris johnson mickey mouse degrees’ and the first item was Boris’s webite with the full article. The title is ‘Mickey Mouse degrees are just the job’ and in it Boris offers his opinion in FAVOUR of universities and their degrees by mocking some of the narrow-minded nonsense one might expect from, what Boris calls, saloon-bar critics. Boris also calls attention to the benefits of higher education, both to the student and the economy. A few minutes’ worth of reading and Boris’s position was clear, but Paul’s article takes what Boris writes completely out of context. Without wishing to offend, close reading, critical analysis, referencing and accuracy are all vital at university-level study but these seem to be lacking in Paul’s article. Paul’s opinions are valid, and that he feels higher education, and in particular his own degree, to be of great value is clear. His case might have been better served, however, if he had quoted accurately and used Boris’s like-minded opinions to substantiate his position.

  8. Kyle Patterson

    I’d like to ask if you could check your facts in advance in future. It’s funny because here is an article on the Boris Johnson website DEFENDING Mickey Mouse degrees. And if you scroll down through the comments, Jack Target prophetically says that that quote you used will come back to haunt Boris, with the removal of the three words, “he asks rhetorically”. Moreover, we only pay around £3000 of the tens of thousands uni actually costs.

  9. Gemma Leslie

    All of the above points are valid however I would have liked to see somebody defend those mature students who take loans, who have paid their taxes up to the point of re-entering education, and probably still work part-time while they study. The life of a 30 year old compared to that of an 18 year old is very different. The majority of 18 year olds do not have the same responsibilities as your average 30+ year old. However it is those same 18 year olds 10 years down the line after fortunately being able to go to Uni early that say ? oh but it?s my taxpayers money? and let?s not get started on the over 60 , and the taxpayers money getting piled into the NHS and pension schemes. Whose money is it ??

  10. Abi

    I hate that issue of what is a ‘good’ university and a ‘good’ course. Yes, there are obviously universities and courses with more prestige than others, but that isn’t necessarily a good thing and like you say, the most important thing about university is often just what you make of it. I admit to being prejudiced against some degrees but I always try to remind myself that it is just different skills. And if your degree shows nothing else then it is evidence of you having the determination and aptitude for hard work to stick at something (and succeed at it) for at least three years, unlike the people who do inevitibly drop out. And as for wasting the taxpayer’s money… I hate it when thats used as a political gambit. The majority of students are coming out with massive amounts of debt that will affect the quality of their lives for *years* to come, because they made that concious decision that further education is worth it. No one should cheapen that.

  11. Lucy

    Interesting, but I’m not entirely convinced. There are a lot of degrees out there that shouldn’t be called degrees but it is wrong to say that all ‘new’ universities offer mickey mouse degrees. If the course is interesting and helps with your future career, then there’s nothing wrong with it.

  12. Holly

    I hate the way that people go on and on about it being their money or taxpayers money that pays for our degrees, when in reality we do. Yes we do get a substantial loan to pay for it but the key word their is loan! We pay it back with interest just like any other tax paying citizen. We are the people of the future and we pay for it!

  13. Amy

    I couldn’t have said it better myself!!

  14. David

    Iam a first year student and i can already identify this happening within my course after only three weeks. I agree fully with your views