Where to be a BA Hons (Yorkshire)

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YORKSHIREMEN, the self- elected elite of county folk, have finally won confirmation of their innate superiority over lesser folk, such as Lancastrians; so developed is their culture that the world's first degree-level course in Yorkshire Studies is being set up.

Staff at the University of Bradford's Centre for Continuing Education have decided to draw up the part-time course, covering Yorkshire history, geography, literature and social life. They hope to attract people from the tourist industry as well as those who simply want to learn more about their surroundings.

The course has been launched not as a leisurely pursuit but in response to government attempts to stamp out learning for pleasure. In future, extramural activities offered by universities will not receive funding unless courses lead to a qualification.

Certificates in subjects as diverse as heraldry, art therapy and whaling will be on offer in universities across the country this autumn. Many of the students who gain them will be offered the chance to pursue their studies at degree level.

Colin Neville, head of the Bradford University course, is not a Yorkshireman himself. He moved from Essex 12 years ago, but recognised a strong local culture which he now hopes will induce Yorkshire natives to pay the pounds 87 per term fees for the course. 'I think we are appealing to adults who have a keen sense of local identity and who want to find out more about the locality.'

Students will be able to choose between courses on the archaeology of Yorkshire, the rise and decline of its textile industry, and the art, literature and culture of the area. If they want to go on to degree level they must broaden their focus beyond the county and make comparisons with other areas within Europe.

An honours degree in local and regional studies, incorporating a certificate in Yorkshire Studies, would probably take at least five years, but students can work at their own pace, picking up credits as they go.

Students can specialise in fields that interest them. Even the renowned Yorkshire mania for cricket could be a valid area of research if it was approached from a sufficiently academic viewpoint, Mr Neville said.

There is a concern that while such new qualifications may attract younger, career- minded students, they will deter some of the retired people who have traditionally filled extramural courses.

George Sheeran, course director for the urban environment, who regularly takes groups of interested amateurs around local country houses and textile mills, believes some of his students will be put off. 'They don't want to go away and start doing homework,' he said.

Peter Raistrick, who was born in Bradford and now lives in Wakefield, is a retired prospective student who has not been deterred by the thought of assessment. He thinks the course might interest him. 'I don't know if I would do a degree. At my time of life, five years is a little bit long, but I may get enthusiastic and carry on,' he said.

He has already done his own research on Robin Hood, who he says was a Yorkshireman born in Wakefield.

Jo Tait, development officer for credit-bearing courses at Lancaster, originally opposed the idea of attaching qualifications to all courses but has changed her mind. Pilot schemes at the university had put some people off but they had offered extra rewards to others, she said. 'You get better value from a course if you participate by writing or doing a presentation.'

While some universities are sticking to traditional areas of study such as art and literature, others are introducing more unusual part-time courses. At Hull, students can take a 'foundation award' in whaling, fossils or heraldry, while Manchester is offering certificates in personal growth and art therapy as well as in the life and times of the North-west from Tim Bobbin to Gracie Fields.

Stephen Barratt, continuing-education development manager at Manchester University and staff tutor in the history of art, says that the people who attend extra-mural courses are not choosing an easy option.

No qualifications are needed to join most of the courses. At Bradford, even people from outside the county will be admitted to the Yorkshire Studies course, according to Mr Neville.

'We certainly wouldn't turn anyone away,' he said. 'But we charge double for people from Lancashire, of course.'