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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 July, 2004, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
College defends 'surf' degree

The principal of Swansea Institute, which is starting a degree in surf and beach management, has dismissed claims it is a 'Mickey Mouse' course.

Professor David Warner said graduates would gain a valid qualification for the tourism industry that would lead to meaningful employment.

He was responding to comments made by a Swansea delegate at the annual Professional Association of Teachers conference.

Teacher Peter Morris claimed the government's drive for 50% of young people to go to university was lowering the quality of degrees.

The truth is, and this is where we will get complaints from students, they won't do much surfing apart from in their spare time
Professor David Warner

Mr Morris, an information technology teacher at Bishop Gore Comprehensive School, said: "Surfing is a hobby, not a subject.

"I do believe that these degrees are devaluing academia full stop."

But Mr Warner said Mr Morris, a former graduate of the institute and former Conservative parliamentary candidate, had failed to understand it was a vocational course aimed at students looking to work in leisure and tourism.

"Mr Morris can't have failed to have noticed that we have some really magnificent surfing beaches in Swansea that are the second best, some would say the best, in the UK," he said.

"Leisure and tourism is earmarked by the Welsh Assembly as one of the three areas of growth in south west Wales.

"If we did not offer this course we would be letting down what our raison d'etre is.

'Nothing to be ashamed of'

"Nobody queries whether we should teach business courses and I think it is totally and utterly appropriate that we teach this.

"I feel our students should have real life experiences in the work area they are in.

"The name of the course is surf and beach management - the noun is 'management' - it's a management course.

"The truth is, and this is where we will get complaints from students, they won't do much surfing apart from in their spare time.

"We've nothing to be ashamed of here."

Mr Warner went on to say every course at the institute was carefully planned to give students as much hands on experience as possible in their chosen field.

And he said 96.8% of graduates either found employment or went on to further education within six months of completing their studies in Swansea - one of the best rates in the UK.

Open mind

He said there was great potential for an expansion in surfing and beach holidays in the area which would lead to employment.

"If Mr Morris had picked-up the telephone we would have been happy to explain what the course is about," he added.

Swansea is not the only institution offering surf-related courses.

The first graduates of a surf science technology course at the University of Plymouth received their degrees two years ago.

Mike Steadman, who runs the Welsh Surf Federation surf school at Llangennith on Gower, said he had an open mind about such courses.

But he added: "I do wonder where graduates of such a specialist tourism degree may be employed."

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