When I Applied to Five Universities as Mickey Mouse, They All Offered Me a Place. How Could This Happen?

Article excerpt

Byline: JONATHAN MAITLAND

If Jonathan Maitland found it this easy to fool colleges, it's no wonder our degrees are a laughing stock

When the students on the communicationof technology degree course at Birmingham University gather for their inaugural lecture next week, there will be one absentee: Michael Mouse. Or, as he is more famously known, Mickey Mouse.

And it will be the same story in other universities, as despite being the world's most famous cartoon rodent, Mickey has been accepted on no fewer than five degrees starting this month.

This follows an experiment I carried out after concerns about the proliferation of seemingly frivolous and undemanding degree courses available in Britain today.

Indeed, at a public seminar in January Margaret Hodge, then Higher Education Minister, referred to 'Mickey Mouse degrees [in which] the content is perhaps not as rigorous as one would expect . . . and may not have huge relevance to the labour market'. She added: 'Stacking up numbers on Mickey Mouse courses is not acceptable.' So I wondered how easy it would be for the Mouse himself to get accepted on to one of these courses.

Despite sending in official university application forms bearing false names, addresses, qualifications and references, horrendous spelling errors and a string of obvious clues, such as writing in my personal statement that it was 'time to wake up and smell the cheese', I was accepted.

It started in early August when I called the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) head office in Cheltenham.

I was asked my name and address. 'Mouse,' I said. 'Michael Mouse.' Three days later, my official form arrived.

In order to test the rigour of university selection procedures, I wanted my form to contain more holes than - well - a piece of Swiss cheese. I gave my

house name as 'Ladey-dinns', an anagram of Disneyland. Describing my current job, I wrote: 'Promoting the American way of life in general.' I awarded Mickey eight O-levels, despite the fact that they were replaced by GCSEs in 1988, and three A-levels.

These qualifications had apparently been gained from the North East Surrey College of Technology (NESCOT) in Epsom, a genuine college, but one call would have revealed me as a fake.

In the personal statement, I wrote about a 'substantshial qualificashion' and continued, 'although my work is very enjoyable, when I apply for more serious jobs than just entertayning people, which is what I do, I get reejected'.

My reference, from a supposed teacher at NESCOT, read: 'I have known Mickey for many years. He is a natural, I believe, in the fields of leisure, entertainment and tourism, as his work eloquently testifies.' I posted the form, signed 'M Mouse' and, five days later, I received an acknowledgment letter and a clearing entry number. I could now access a list of degree courses available on the UCAS website - including 447 courses in Internet studies, 335 in leisure studies and 613 in communication studies. …