Higher Education: A degree in clubbing? I'll drink to that: Academic research into weird and wonderful subjects can change the way we live. Nick Holdsworth explains

Andy Lovatt, a research student, keeps odd hours. For his masters degree at Manchester Metropolitan University, he mingles with the late-night, low-life crowd, a rich primary source for his studies of the night-time economy.

Clubbing and pubbing can become something of a chore, the Institute for Popular Culture researcher admits. But he takes the ribbing from colleagues in his stride, because he believes his work will contribute to shaping life in Britain's city centres.

Like other academics' investigations of the weird and wonderful, Mr Lovatt's studies have a serious social purpose. 'In Britain, we tend to look at the cafe cultures of European cities and think they just happened, which couldn't be further from the truth,' he says. 'A lot of work has gone into encouraging the development of an economy that allows city centres to be lively and safe places after dark.'

Although Mr Lovatt, whose first degree was in politics and history, needs to keep abreast of late-night developments in central Manchester, much of his time is spent with his nose in 'weighty legal tomes'. Being on first-name terms with night-club bouncers and a regular at all manner of obscure bars and clubs may sound exotic, but most of his meetings tend to be with magistrates, council officials, police chiefs and others who have influence on the policies that determine whether the city centre is a bright, lively place after dark, or a threatening and isolated area to be avoided.

Britain's city centres are too often places of fear and crime at night. Mr Lovatt aims to influence the debate over how to breathe life into the night-time economy.

'We are doing work that actually has a bearing on the world around us today,' he says. 'It's not a question of writing a thesis and sticking it on a shelf to collect dust.'

Meanwhile, Les Moseley is hoping that the new degree course he will be directing at Coventry University from September - a BSc in international disaster management - will save lives around the world.

This will be Britain's first course tailored to training students to respond to disasters the world over. And the first two British students, chosen after intensive physical and mental tests, are a former SAS soldier and a mother in her forties.

In an exclusive partnership between the university and the Fire Service College in Moreton-in- Marsh, Gloucestershire, the first intake of 48 students will spend three years learning about the engineering practicalities and management of famines, earthquakes, fires or floods.

The idea for the degree came from a former member of staff who had seen for himself the logistical difficulties faced by aid agencies in Kurdistan. The university chose Mr Moseley, former chief emergency planning officer for the West Midlands fire and civil defence authority, to set up and lead the course. One year will be spent at the fire college, and an optional fourth year with an aid agency.

'The demand for a course like this has come from the aid agencies themselves - particularly the United Nations and the World Health Organisation,' he says. 'They are both concerned about 'the bloody amateurs', and want a much more co- ordinated, cohesive and professional approach in the response to international disasters.'

Core courses in applied engineering, resource management and other technological aspects of disaster response will be supplemented by regular guest lectures from those working at the harsh end of disaster relief. Field skills will also be taught, often during the winter months, in Snowdonia.

However,Dr Tony Curtis of Plymouth University does not want his students to be tough - he wants them to be sensitive. Applicants for the university's new business of perfumery degree, which starts this September, must take a sniffing test to prove they have a nose that can detect subtle differences between aromas.

'We're not looking for bloodhounds, but we do want students who can pass a simple odour test,' says Dr Curtis, who joined the former polytechnic after 25 years in the perfume industry.

The subject of the degree may sound like whimsy, but he believes his graduates will have few problems finding jobs. Demand for the 20-place course, backed by the British Society of Perfumers, has come from students and employees in the industry.

Dr Curtis says that Plymouth's promotion to university status last year provided impetus for the course. 'If you are a new university, you have to create your own ethos. We now have the chance to do that in an exciting way.'

Independence has also helped Cannington College in Somerset to develop another rare course: a higher national diploma in golf- course green-keeping and European studies. Validated by the University of the West of England in Bristol, it is only the second such course in the country. The college has its own nine-hole, 60-acre golf course, where students can practise their game and learn to care for the greens.

Nick Rigden, head of horticulture and a keen golfer, points to the 'dramatic growth' in golf's popularity over the past few years as evidence for the demand. 'There are tremendous job opportunities in this country and in Europe, where golf is also booming.'

(Photograph omitted)

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Sport
Arsenal signing Calum Chambers
sportGunners complete £16m transfer of Southampton youngster
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

ICT Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a qualified ...

DT Design and Technology Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: We are urgently for ...

Maths Teacher

£21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you an experienc...

Horticulture Lecturer / Tutor / Assessor - Derbyshire

£15 - £18 per hour: Randstad Education Nottingham: As a result of our successf...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on