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Staff attack science degrees in alternative health

Plans to offer new science degrees in acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine at the University of Central Lancashire have met fierce opposition - from the university's own staff.

Mike Eslea, a senior lecturer in the School of Psychology, has written an "open letter" to the vice-chancellor opposing the courses on the grounds that they have "no academic justification" and would "severely damage" the reputation of the university.

Three new degrees are being offered by the university from September in a partnership with the Northern College of Acupuncture. They are a BSc (hons) in acupuncture, an MSc in acupuncture and an MSc in Chinese herbal medicine.

Dr Eslea said he was protesting now because there was a final "chance to make a stand before they are up and running". His letter says there is a paucity of scientific evidence in the subjects, and the title BSc should not be given to courses that appear to be aimed at training practitioners.

"The fact that they are science courses really rankles. Having these courses is damaging, and it makes us a laughing stock in the scientific community," Dr Eslea said.

The letter is being made available by Dr Eslea to all Uclan staff and students. As Times Higher Education went to press, the university said that seven people had added their names to the document.

A Uclan spokesman said the new courses contained "significant elements" of science and noted that a core first-year module required students to critically review all types of complementary therapies.

"The courses have gone through Uclan's rigorous academic approval process during which senior academic staff from across the university, including those from the faculty of science and technology, considered the academic merits of the programmes. Subsequently, the courses have been considered and approved by a validation panel, which includes Uclan and external academics," he said.

zoe.corbyn@tsleducation.com.

Readers' comments (45)

  • So is this a race to the bottom of academic credability by the University? Because it really would make the institute a laughing stock. Is the revenue generated by this endorsement of magical thinking worth the entire universities reputation ?Somehow I doubt it.

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  • If I was at University College London, which shares the initials UCL with the University of Central Lancashire, I would be worried about any association people might make between my respected university and the joke institution planning to give degrees in "Made-Up and Imaginary Stuff"

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  • It is laughable that the university even try to defend this. A university science course is no place for quackery.

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  • Sadly much that isn't science is awarded BSc degrees. If it puts bums on seats then as long at is sounds reasonably "sciencey" it'll probably do. Ho Hum.

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  • Further evidence of universities becoming "diploma mills", dispensing degrees in warm, fuzzy political correctness. All manner of nonsense shelters under the umbrella of tolerance.

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  • Steve Hughes: the University of Central Lancashire is usually known as UCLAN rather than UCL.

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  • Is the UCLAN spokesman having a laugh? The only "significant elements" of science in these courses are likely to be the use of sciency-sounding phrases like "energy fields", "quantum", "resonances", "natural frequencies", and so on.

    If these joke courses really have been approved by "senior academic staff ... including those from the faculty of science and technology", then clearly UCLAN is to be avoided by anyone with any intelligence and integrity.

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  • That should be a BS in acupuncture, surely?

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  • How about instigating a new degree of BPSc (Bachelor of Pseudo Science (dis-hons, of course) just for these courses?

    I know there it is frequently said that science is continually being dumbed down, but there is no need for a University to give it a massive helping hand in that direction.

    "academic merits"? You've got to be joking. This is a stupid idea and the University must drop it immediately.

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  • Perhaps all institutions offering mumbo-jumbo courses of this type could be lumped together with an appropriate label, e.g. 'Triple As' (Astrologically Approved Academies). What a shame for their intellectually respectable employees like Dr Eslea!

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