To browse around the list of undergraduate courses on offer at British universities is to undertake a journey of discovery and wonder. There are degrees covering every possible human interest - puppetry, surf science and geological hazards are just three that catch the eye.
Universities occupy a rapidly changing landscape. And this year, of the 60,000 courses listed on the UCAS database, more than 11,000 are new ones. These include many that underline our expanding horizons. A new BA in adventure and media, at the University of Central Lancashire, for example, is among 86 degrees containing the word "adventure". And growth areas in the language field include, not surprisingly, numerous new courses in Chinese.
Many new degrees, of course, are driven by the rampant progress of new technology, particularly in personal entertainment. The new BSc in new media production technology at Anglia Ruskin University's Cambridge site is aimed at the iPod generation. It looks to equip students with practical knowledge of how the new gizmos work, and to develop the creativity needed to match new inventions to changing human behaviour patterns and desires.
Specialist areas of study will include live streaming, studio recording and video post-production, plus commercial software for media production, satellite and mobile technology. It's the latest addition at a university known for its cutting edge-activity in new media.
"Our mission is to develop fast-thinking, work-ready graduates who have a competitive edge in the jobs market," explains senior lecturer Dr Tim Rowsell.
Another area continuing to spawn new degrees is IT, and its applications at work, specifically the health field. The NHS's new multi-billion pound new system, said to be the world's largest civil IT project, is the catalyst behind a new BSc in health informatics at De Montfort University, in Leicester.
The four-year course will give students the skills to deal with the technical, managerial and cultural issues related to the integration of IT into all stages of the health care process, and a one-year NHS placement should complement that.
It is hard to imagine that graduates will not find employment comes easily in four years' time, given the way IT is now becoming embedded in the health sector.
But not all new courses appear as tied to employment prospects. The BA in world music studies, starting at City University in London, has evolved from existing strengths in the university's music department, where two lecturers specialise in what's known as ethnomusicology. Students will follow the same path as the established BMus degree intake for the first year, and then branch off into the rich world of non-Western musical traditions, including African drumming, Iranian music and Indonesian percussion.
Head of music, Simon Keefe, says A Level music will be expected of all candidates, but equivalent qualifications from students with non- British academic and musical backgrounds will be considered.
"We hope to attract a range of cultures," he explains. As for prospects after graduation, Keefe is confident there will be numerous opportunities, in London, and further afield.
"It will give them a strong practical and theoreticalfoundation to participate in musical activities worldwide," he says.
Setting up a new degree course takes at least two years, from formulating the idea to the first students arriving in the lecture hall. Midway through this process is Keith Brennan, leader of the new developmental biology BSc at the University of Manchester, which owes its creation to science's ability to now explain all steps between an egg's fertilisation and the creation of a fly, a human being or anything in between.
"This has several spin-offs for treating human diseases," explains Brennan. "It is a course for those with a broad biological interest."Reuse content