15 unusual university degree courses you didn’t know existed

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Photo of a surfer

When you think of studying at university what subjects spring to mind? English? Law? Astrophysics perhaps?

There are more than 37,000 undergraduate courses available at 370 institutions in the UK according to Ucas.

And among them are some quirky degrees that you might not have expected – proof that you really can study just about anything, from circuses to wine (studying, not drinking, but still).

Here’s our pick of the most unusual subjects you can get a degree in:  

1) Wine

Plumpton College, in East Sussex, offers no less than six full time courses, and a number of part-time courses too, in wine.

You could get a taste of the industry with a BSc in viticulture (the science of grapes) and oenology (the study of wine) or a BA in wine business.

Around 150 students enrol on the courses each year and, according to Plumpton, graduates have gone on to become vineyard managers and winemakers worldwide, buyers, importers and wine journalists.  

2) The circus

Roll up! Roll up! The circus is coming to town – at least it is at Bath Spa University, where students can enrol on a foundation degree in contemporary circus with physical performance.

It’s described as an intensive training course designed to develop students into rounded performers, covering styles like circus, cabaret and outdoor theatre – so there’s no room for clowning around on this course.

3) Golf

If golf is your passion, then landing a place on the University of Birmingham’s BSc in applied golf management studies will feel like getting a hole in one.  

According to the university, which offers the course in partnership with the Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA), it’s the only degree of its kind in the world. 

Many graduates go on to have successful careers in professional golf, coaching, golf management and sports science.

4) The Beatles

Where else can fans come together to study for a degree about the famous rock band other than in their hometown of Liverpool?

Liverpool Hope University offers an MA in The Beatles, popular music and society – unsurprisingly the only one of its kind in the world. You’ll explore the significance of their work and the role of popular music.

5) Baking

Photo of a baker

London South Bank University has the oldest bakery school in the UK and offers a foundation degree in baking technology management.

Forget a baker’s dozen – this is a highly sought after course that gets many applications because it’s endorsed by The Worshipful Company of Bakers. Students will develop skills to help them become top notch baking technologists. 

6) Surfing 

Surf’s most definitely up at Cornwall College, in Newquay, where you can gain a foundation degree in surf science and technology.

If the closest you’ve got to riding the waves is standing on your mum’s ironing board at home don’t worry – you don’t need to be a good surfer to get in. But before you get too excited, you should probably know that this is an academic course and you won’t actually be taught to surf.

But you WILL get the opportunity to design and build your own surfboard, organise and judge a surfing competition and develop a fitness regime. Plus the classrooms are on the beach. So not too bad really.

7) Comedy

It’s no joke – the University of Salford offers a degree in comedy writing and performance. You’ll learn practical skills and techniques of comedy writing and get help to “find your own comedic voice”.

It’s certainly not for those with stage fright as you’ll have to give public performances but Jason Manford and Peter Kay, both of whom studied at the university, give guest lectures and workshops.

8) Vikings

Not for the faint-hearted, University College London offers a degree in Viking and Old Norse studies. It’s a four-year course and you get to spend a year at a university in Denmark, Iceland, Norway or Sweden.

All students specialise in one Scandinavian language and, by the time they graduate, they are expected to be fluent, and have a reading knowledge of the other Scandinavian languages too.

9) Outdoor leadership 

Photo of a kayak

Definitely one for you outdoorsy types, if you study for this degree at the University of Cumbria you’ll get to do things like climbing, canoeing, caving and gorge walking. You may even get the chance to go kayaking in the Alps or scuba-diving in Egypt.

But before you bike off into the sunset thinking that you’ll never see the inside of a classroom again, I’m afraid that you’ll still have sit down once in a while to learn important theoretical skills and do an academic dissertation. 

10) Stained glass

You’ll get a real window on the world by the end of this two-year course at the University of York, which will lead to an MA in stained glass conservation and heritage management.

It’s the first of its kind in the English-speaking world and students go on to work in industries like stained glass conservation, heritage management and architecture.

11) Cruises

According to the University of Plymouth, which is offering this BSc in cruise management, this course is for people who want more out of life than a nine-to-five office job (where do we apply?!).

Take to the seas with this degree, which will teach you skills in hospitality management and cruise operations. And yes, there is an optional placement year where you could have the opportunity to work on a cruise ship and get paid while you’re training. Seriously, where do we apply? 

12) Jazz

Get those jazz hands ready because you can now study this music genre by applying for an MA course in jazz studies at Birmingham City University.

Students on the course will explore jazz as a music culture and ways that they can make a living out of it, including as an academic, in the music industry or in arts organisations. 

13) Airports

Photo of an aeroplane wing

If you were the kind of child who got ridiculously excited about going to Heathrow Airport then this course could really help your career take off. 

University College Birmingham offers a BA in aviation and airport management. According to the university, the aviation industry is booming and graduates with skills in aviation operations are highly sought after.

Through studies and industry experience, students learn skills in airline management, airport administration and global aviation management.

14) Adventure

If you’re an adrenaline junkie, then did you know you can do a degree in adventure? Well, almost.

The University of Chicester has offered a BA in outdoor and adventure education for nearly 15 years and students learn both practical and classroom based skills to help them pursue a career in the outdoor industry.

More than 50% of graduates go on to work in education as qualified teachers at schools, colleges and outdoor adventure centres. 

15) Making props

At the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama you can do a BA in prop making, which it says could lead to a career in industries like theatre, film, TV, window display and museum installation.

You’ll work with lots of different materials and learn skills and techniques in sculpting, casting, welding, carpentry and drawing.

Uni isn’t for everyone and there are lots of other routes into your chosen career. Need some inspiration? Here are five practical alternatives to university. Have a read of our advice about apprenticeships too. 

And don’t forget to explore our career zones to see the different career options out there for you.

By Natasha Boydell 

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