One can imagine that today’s students are of the generation who, while anxiously checking the post for a real-life acceptance, may wish that a letter from Hogwarts would drop through their letterbox.
But they can now study the roots of spells as part of a new degree in magic at Exeter University, which will also include the study of dragons and witches, and the legend of King Arthur.
The course, based in the university’s Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies and one of the only postgraduate courses of its kind across the UK, will also encourage students to “decolonise” their thinking about the foundation of Western science, acknowledging its debt to Arabic magic and philosophy.
Prof Emily Selove, who leads the course, said: “A recent surge in interest in magic and the occult inside and outside of academia lies at the heart of the most urgent questions of our society. Decolonisation, the exploration of alternative epistemologies, feminism, and anti-racism are at the core of this programme.”
She added that the course would allow students to re-examine their assumptions that the West was wholly rational and scientific while the rest of the world was superstitious and mystical.
“Magic and the occult have been and remain an enormous part of Western culture, and it is foolish to deny this or to refuse to take it seriously. Rigorous study of these subjects allow us to re-examine the relationship of humans to the natural world and of different human cultures to one another,” she said.
“By housing this degree in the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, we acknowledge the profound debt of Western culture and science to the Arabo-Islamic world, a history that has been erased in creating our false picture of the West as uniquely rational.”
Exeter said that the course was responding to a recent surge in interest in magic and could prepare students for careers as teachers, counsellors, mentors, museum work, work in libraries, tourism, arts organisations and the publishing industry.
Rishi Sunak has recently announced a crackdown on so-called “Mickey Mouse” degrees, and said young people were being sold a “false dream” that left them on a “poor-quality course at the taxpayers’ expense” without the prospect of a “decent job at the end”.