Is there a hierarchy between degrees?


University is the place to go to further your education in a particular field and become a specialist in that certain subject. Yet more and more universities around the country are offering this specialist education for, let’s say, quite untraditional subjects. It’s gone from studying Maths or Politics to the recent ‘David Beckham studies’.

After doing some research, I found some hilarious courses that universities were offering, including New York’s Alfred University module: “Maple Syrup-The Real Thing”, which looks into the production process of syrup and how it hasn’t changed throughout the years. What degree this counts towards I do not know, but I dread to think. Yet I did happen to find one course which was particularly amusing, that is New Jersey Rutger’s degree in “Politicizing Beyonce”. The intention of this is that it “will allow fans and pop-culture vultures to explore the 30-year-old Single Ladies singer’s alter ego Sasha Fierce, and debate the extent of control she has over her own image”. When it’s put like that it does sound quite fancy and kind of intelligent, yet we all know that – however much you know about Beyonce and her empowering routines – it is hardly going to put you at the top of the employer’s list (that is unless an improbability occurs and Beyonce herself is your boss). Such degrees have earned themselves the title of ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees, rendering them trivial and amateurish.

However, does this attitude lend itself to other degrees as well? Stereotypically, people tend to view artsy subjects in this way, believing that Theatre, Music, and Fine Art should also belong in this category. And, of course, if you tell anyone that you’re doing a History, Geography, or Philosophy degree you tend to be greeted with “So what’s that going to get you then?” As a History and Philosophy student myself, this can be very frustrating at times. Whilst management school students will have a wider choice of careers to go into, this should not take away from any art student’s hard work. After all, we all had to put a vast amount of effort into actually get into this university, we all went through the same process and we all worked hard to get the same grades. So where did this communal feeling of a degree hierarchy generate?

A degree in the arts is definitely not lesser than any other degree, but perhaps people view it in a pejorative manner because (and I’m not saying this is certain) they seem to be subjects everyone always enjoyed throughout secondary education. But whilst some continued this enjoyment, bravely opting for a degree in a field that may not have a promising future, others went for degrees that are generally seen as more employable. Yet I for one would much rather learn about WWI than fight my way through an accounting and finance test. However, different people enjoy different things, so who are we to say that one is more difficult than another. Arts students may find it harder to find a job, as it is such a competitive career to get into, but everyone has to start somewhere and somebody has to make it, so surely the logical thing to start with is a degree in that field. Business and scientific students have to do that exact thing too, and without your degree it’s going to take a whole lot longer to get onto that first step of the metaphorical career ladder.

Let’s face it, whilst engineering and business students will land jobs in big firms and no doubt earn lots of cash, it cannot be forgotten that people who study some form of art or humanity degree will be a crucial part of your life. Writing what you read in the newspaper, teaching your children and even designing the very chair you’re sitting on. By this, I am not at all doubting the purpose of traditional subjects either; all of these traditional degrees are needed otherwise they wouldn’t have been offered for so long. But the creative subjects are an equal necessity to life, just as much as the traditional ones. Granted, a good essay can’t exactly save someone from a critical injury, just as a wonderful piece of music can’t exactly build a plane or sort out your finances. But a life without all things imaginative, in my opinion, would be a dull place to be. To quote ABBA “what would life be, without a song or a dance, what are we?”

So please, let’s end the prejudices and lay off the arts and humanities students. University degrees can and do complement each other as well-established courses and, no matter what they are, deserve credit. It is better to call a course a ‘Mickey mouse’ course when it actually is one. After all, there probably is a ‘Disney Studies’ on offer somewhere.


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