Page last updated at 11:58 GMT, Tuesday, 9 May 2006 12:58 UK

Ghostly syllabus for new degree

Tony Lawrence
Tony Lawrence wants to look at the spiritual 'middle ground'. (Picture: Coventry Evening Telegraph)

Students are to investigate the existence of ghosts as part of a degree course looking at people's experience of the paranormal.

Coventry University is offering the chance to look into haunted houses, extra-sensory perception and "the survival of bodily death".

Tony Lawrence, director of the two-year parapsychology course, said it would be "controversial yet thought-provoking".

The focus will be the "middle ground" between religion and science, he added.

Sightings

The 15 post-graduate students starting the first course this autumn will look at the paranormal using several scientific methods.

For instance, some will investigate haunted houses, looking at statistics on which parts of buildings provide the most sightings.

Extra-sensory perception - where two people seem to communicate without using sound, vision, touch or smell - will also be looked at.

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Dr Lawrence said: "We've got to look at what people are experiencing.

"No one has bothered to look, so people's view of the world has been divided into two components: the secular and humanist, and the religious.

"We've got to look at the middle ground, otherwise all you have is Richard Dawkins (professor of the public understanding of science at Oxford University) or the Pope.

"Both have probably not quite got their finger on the real pulse. People out there are having interesting experiences and no one is really following them up.

"It is less about Hammer House of Horrors and more about proper methodology."

If you were to ask anyone what fascinates them, you can guarantee that the one thing they would all like an answer to is if there is life after death
Tony Lawrence

The course also looks at people's interest in the spiritual and paranormal, as seen on TV, in films and in books.

It promises "an honest, open systematic examination of the evidence for these exceptional human experiences".

Student will use yoga and meditation "to extend or enhance their personal development".

'Not always answers'

Dr Lawrence said: "A lot of what we do will be controversial yet thought-provoking.

"There is always a fascination with the unknown and we will be exploring the paranormal and trying to explain why things happen, but sometimes, there won't be answers.

"If you were to ask anyone what fascinates them, you can guarantee that the one thing they would all like an answer to is if there is life after death.

"It is not going to be a course that will tell students what they should believe and it is not a course that will expect the student to practise any particular religion either."

It is hoped some of the students of the Master of Science course in parapsychology will go on to write doctorates on the subject.

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