Beckhamologists get college degree

David Beckham, Homer Simpson, gambling and herbal medicine are among subjects deemed suitable for university study in this country.

The explosion of higher education has given sixth-formers choosing a university a wide range of unusual courses, such as brewing or golf management. Students increasingly opt for courses with a vocational slant, amid increasing concerns about employment.

There are nearly 40,000 degree courses, with myriad combinations of subjects on offer, giving students a huge choice. Earlier this year Staffordshire University offered classes on the significance of David Beckham, as part of its 12-week course in football culture.

Napier University encourages students to discuss the television cartoon series The Simpsons as part of one of its degree courses, and students at Leeds can study the pop music of the Nineties in an introductory first-year course.

Academics at Salford University are running a BSc (Hons) course in business economics with gambling studies to prepare people for work in the management of gambling institutions.

The University of Plymouth offers a BA in the business of perfumery, a course said to be unique in Europe. The degree includes business studies as well as more specialised studies such as "odour language" and "fragrance evaluation".

Herbal medicine is offered as a BSc (Hons) by the University of Central Lancashire. The course covers conventional pharmacology and biology as well as the art of diagnosis using herbalist techniques.