University launches course on Harry Potter

Durham University attempts to place the phenomenon that is Harry Potter in its social, cultural and educational context

Thought you knew everything there was to know about Harry Potter? Now’s your chance to get a certificate that says so.

The UK’s Durham University has announced a new course on the boy wizard as part of its Education Studies BA degree.

It will be offered for the first time this autumn, and some 70 undergraduates have already registered.

The course aims to place the phenomenon that is Harry Potter in its social, cultural and educational context and understand some of the reasons for its popularity; to consider the relevance of Harry Potter to the education system in the twenty-first century; to understand twenty-first century education in the light that the Harry Potter series, and other educational fiction, casts on it; and to make explicit connections between Harry Potter and citizenship education.

The registrar of Durham University, Carolyn Fowler, called it a "serious but innovative" academic module. "A huge amount of work has gone into developing it, and we are extremely excited to be offering it as a study option to our undergraduate students, who have already expressed a high level of interest," she told The Guardian newspaper.

Students will mull over content including Harry Potter and the remaking of England, the commodification of education and how the sign replaces the thing, the age of illusion post the Second World War, anarchy and rebellion from Tom Brown to Harry Potter, the peer group, ideals of manhood and how JK Rowling fits in with the legacy of the school story from Rudyard Kipling to Grange Hill.

The course aims to help students think critically and independently; analyse, synthesise, evaluate and identify problems and solutions; construct and sustain a reasoned argument; communicate effectively with appropriate use of specialist vocabulary and work to deadlines.

Unfortunately, though, there’ll be no lessons on potions or the dark arts.

There is no word yet about whether Durham will be joining the International Quidditch Association, which counts more than 400 colleges and 300 high schools among its members, the vast majority of which are from the US.

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