Five of the World’s Strangest University Courses (and What They Can Teach You)

Wednesday May 15, 2019 Written by Toby

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We've teamed up with the folk at UNiDAYS to bring you interesting stories about higher learning. UNiDAYS members are eligible for a 25 per cent discount on their Smith Journal subscriptions. Interest piqued? See the end of this article for details.

Uni G1Archaeology doesn't feature in this listical, but a still of Indiana Jones teaching a university class is the best visual we could find. 

Biology of Superheroes

While working on his dissertation at Harvard in 2013, evolutionary biologist Shane Campbell-Staton fell into a vat of radioactive material and was transformed into Interested in Comic Books Man (not strictly true, but we’re going with it). He now teaches the Biology of Superheroes course at UCLA, which uses your favourite caped crusaders to explain “the biology of aging, genetics, evolution, genetic engineering, biotechnology, artificial intelligence, the ethics of reviving extinct species, parallel universes, intelligent alien life and how biology shapes modern society.”

Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse

Michigan State University wisely offers its Surviving the Coming Zombie Apocalypse subject as an online-only course. After all, when the dead rise again, it’s probably best to complete your studies from the safety of your boarded-up home. The course is more than just learning how to aim for the head: even military staff, state police and emergency managers have been signing up for the invaluable and generalisable lessons it teaches about disaster management. (If you’re interested in further study in the field, we recently spoke to Melbourne scientist and zombie expert Greg Foliente about how to survive a zombie attack.)

Pizza Hut Studies

In 2015, Manchester Metropolitan University announced that it would be creating 1,500 degree-level apprenticeships in partnership with Pizza Hut, and no, you can’t apply for recognition of prior learning. On top of teaching students Pizza Hut-related skills – such as, ostensibly, how to put pineapples on pizzas and still somehow manage to sleep at night – the course also offers a range of academic and practical skills relating to finance, management and food production.

Surf Science & Technology

Surprisingly, there’s not a whole lot of surfing involved in Cornwall College’s Surf Science & Technology course. You don’t even have to be an excellent surfer to apply, Cornwall says. Granted, surfing definitely pops up on the curriculum, but the academic program also spans a wide range of areas well-suited to dry land, including but not limited to event management, environmental sustainability, exercise science, oceanography and psychology.

Maple Syrup

Laurie Lounsberry McFadden’s honours course description reads, “Wanted: Someone with a background in meteorology, chemistry, botany, forestry, art and cookery who is also a nature lover with lots of patience. Must enjoy long hours of hard work in the snow, cold and mud”. Which is a hell of a way to bury the sweet, sticky lede: this is a course in maple syrup. Learning to tap a tree for the good stuff is a big part of the Alfred University course, but there’s also a light drizzle of “U.S. and local history, environmental science, business and economics of the industry, storytelling, and biology”.

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