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Friday, 26 July, 2002, 13:48 GMT 14:48 UK
Television shapes college choices
Police drama
Police dramas have drawn students to forensic science

The popularity of university courses is being boosted by the appeal of police dramas and cookery shows on television.

While there have been concerns about the decline in popularity of traditional subjects such as modern languages and engineering, there are other new courses which are benefiting from television exposure.

Simon Schama
Simon Schama has helped to increase the appeal of history

The forensic science course at South Bank University has more than seven applicants for every place.

And Professor Clive Steele, who directs the course, says that this reflects interest generated by crime programmes on television, which feature forensic scientists.

And in the last five years, from existing in only a handful of institutions, he says that forensic science courses have now mushroomed in 90 different universities.

Saving chemistry

"The university system seems to be catching on to this popularity, which I'm reasonably sure is linked to what students are seeing on television."

Culinary science
Culinary science courses benefit from Jamie Oliver and other television chefs

"Forensic science is something that you hear mentioned in dramas and in news programmes," and he says that this added a degree of glamour to the subject.

The success of forensic science has also been used in some universities "as a last ditched attempt" to rescue the fortunes of struggling subjects, such as chemistry.

He says that courses could be labelled forensic science which were mainly analytical chemistry, with the change of title giving the course a greater appeal to young applicants.

Dr Steele's university has also seen a course in special effects grow in popularity, which again has been driven by the high profile of films such as the Star Wars series.

Psychological appeal

At Thames Valley University, the influence of cookery shows on television and celebrity chefs has been seen as a factor in the popularity of culinary arts courses.

If courses fail to attract students, they risk becoming economically unviable - and ultimately face closure.

And while the influence of television has been pulling in students in some subjects - the university sector has seen closures in courses in modern languages, chemistry and geography, geology and maths.

But television has also benefited traditional subjects. The high profile of historians on television, such as Simon Schama, has seen the subject attracting more applicants this year.

See also:

18 Jul 02 | Education
11 Apr 02 | Education
15 Feb 02 | Education
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