Are ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees as irrelevant as they sound?


With government backed loans being the primary route for most undergraduates to afford university fees, the question remains whether degrees that do not economically benefit the country should receive funding.

With only an estimated 38% of all student loan debt being repaid and just 20% of student loans being repaid in full, is government expenditure truly being best placed? University is no longer the clear and obvious route to financial and job-based success, and, therefore, one must ask if the push for students to go and study degrees that may not benefit the country should place a burden on taxpayers’ shoulders. 

Traditionally, degrees were not seen from an economic viewpoint but rather a desire to see greater opportunity and education extended across society. This goal may be a noble one but, with around 50% of students now going to university, is this the best goal for society to pursue? Sir Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust, told The Daily Telegraph “I think there are too many kids going to university.” He went on to justify this claim by referencing the large-scale debt most students leave university with, where many are unable to pay back their loans. With the average student debt for the 2021/22 cohort reaching £45,800, it seems rather practical for the Government to crack down on degrees that either have high dropout numbers, or low levels of opportunity. 

This is surely the traditional role of a capitalist society

The disadvantage to looking at degrees in a purely economic sense is the overwhelmingly negative impact it has on primarily arts and humanities, as they are the worst performing in terms of postgraduate salaries. Research from the Centre for Policy Studies determines that those who take creative arts degrees receive a subsidy of around £37,000 from the Government while those in engineering receive just £11,000. Therefore, the Government cuts would be primarily aimed at creative degrees, such as drama and art, rather than more scientific based degrees, such as medicine and economics. This would diminish the creative output in the country, as fewer students are able to pursue their creative passions.

This reduction on the levels of creative students could reduce the number of great British artists and writers that the country produces. However, these proposed cuts do not lead to a majority of artistic and creative courses being cut, but rather just those that fail to provide students with the means for future success. This is surely the traditional role of a capitalist society — when entities fail to perform to the standard expected, they are removed and more suitable options take their place. This is simply the wheel of capitalism which ensures that the economic requirements of the country are met.

This would enable more students to pursue their passions at a more competitive level

With the future being more technologically driven, it makes sense for some level of adaptation regarding degrees offered by higher educational institutions. These cuts also fail to prevent subjects, such as English and History, from being pursued as they would still be overwhelmingly offered. With the introduction of law conversion courses as well, the humanities are unlikely to be detrimentally affected, as many who pursue humanity-based degrees tend to study conversion courses after their degree. Hence, it seems the cuts to ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees will have little affect for the majority of students seeking to study arts and humanities, with the primary shift likely being that there is more competition to access said courses.

The proposed cuts to ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees are, therefore, overwhelmingly beneficial to the country in the long run. These cuts would also free up funding for greater opportunity to access creative subjects at a school-based level. With the Government losing on average £8 billion a year on student loans and the overall debt standing at over £120 billion, it is clear there are large amounts of money that could be reinvested in primary and secondary education. If anything, this would enable more students to pursue their passions at a more competitive level and increase the quality of art produced within the country as a whole. 


3 thoughts on “Are ‘Mickey Mouse’ degrees as irrelevant as they sound?

  • I wonder what Xander is reading?

    Far too much Ayn Rand by the sounds of it.

  • The weakness of this view is that it is imposed on Universities and other HE providers based on graduate salaries after less than two years, supported by metrics subjectively biased against what the populist press identifies as ‘mickey mouse’ degrees.

    There is also an extraordinary snobbery, again sponsored by the populist press, against Modern universities which are often flagged as the providers of these degrees. When I went to Durham in the early 1970s the so called ‘Redbrick’ universities were less than 10 years old, following the 1963 Robbins report. Nobody sneered at them; indeed they were lauded as the first step in making HE available to far more 18 year olds. Modern universities have continued that trend and allowed something approaching 50% of 18 year olds to go to university; some are snapping at the heels of institutions like Durham. Yet 30 years after their translation from Polytechnics and Colleges they are treated as second best by the populist press. The reality is that media studies, computer gaming and avant garde creative arts degrees produce in some cases the highest earners from many univesities. HE should be treated in the round and students should not be subjected to the stigma of being labelled with an inferior degree; nor should they be judged on their earnings so soon after graduating. An investment bank or City law firm may pay £70k to a graduate after two years whilst the National Theatre cannot afford to do so, but it doesn’t mean that the graduate entrant is any less worthy.

  • I did a Combined Arts degree (Cuthberts 1972) and can confirm that a Mickey Mouse degree
    should be no hinderance to earning a decent crust. I have done quite well in the monetary sense and the secret is to keeping a low personal profile as one advances. I control my companies through my trusted front men Gates and Musk who can take the flak while I bask under the radar.
    Yours etc
    Pecunia non Olet


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