Welcome to the new Independent website. We hope you enjoy it and we value your feedback. Please contact us here.

`Star Wars' degree is more fact than fiction

YOU'VE SEEN the movie, bought the light sabre, now do the degree: Star Wars studies is an official university course.

Darth Maul, Skywalker's paternity and the fate of the universe have been included in what is thought to be the world's first degree in science fiction. The University of Glamorgan in Wales has decided to include the study of Captain Kirk's multi-racial crew, little green men and the X Files in a new degree aimed at tempting more students into science.

Interest in the BSc in Science and Science Fiction has been phenomenal, and the university expects the 100 places to be filled when the course begins in September. More than a third of the inquiries have been from the US, with others from Australia and Russia.

But as well as studying the link between science fiction and science fact, UFOs and futurology, the students will have to complete modules in maths, physics, astronomy and chemistry. Still, the coursework appears to be a sci-fi buff's dream, with students expected to watch the Star Wars trilogy "to explore modern mythology" and sit through Star Trek re- runs "to understand the ideals of utopian societies".

It is just one of the latest degrees that veers away from the traditional. There are modules in stand-up comedy at the University of Kent at Canterbury, perfumery at Plymouth and gambling at Salford.

Others include herbal medicine, brewing and football management. The University of Leeds even offers a module on how to change a double duvet cover as part of an NVQ (National Vocational Qualification).

But the leader of the Glamorgan sci-fi course, Dr Mark Brake, said the curriculum wasnot frivolous. "Science fiction is an integral part of delivering science fact to people," he said.

"The world of science fiction can be a good model for theoretical science in an imagined environment. Films like Star Wars are modern morality tales with strong elements of good versus evil.

"Equally, the growing interest in UFOs indicates a vacuum that religion has not been able to fill and these are themes we will also deal with."

Dr Brake said students would be expected to produce clear, strong work on these issues. "Put it this way - they won't be watching 2001 and listening to Pink Floyd.

"Well, not in my lectures. I can't abide Floyd."