At Victoria University in the 1980s I took a paper called "Russian Civilisation" - which, from memory, mainly involved studying Russian icons and listening to the music of Rimsky-Korsakov - for an easy six credits towards my degree. The word around campus was that this particular paper had a 98 per cent pass rate and you could do a lot worse than sign up for it.

The lecture theatre was always packed. Evidently I wasn't the only one hell-bent on getting my education done and dusted as efficiently and effortlessly as possible. I hope our lecturer thought we were all budding historians with a keen interest in symphonies and religious imagery rather than cynical undergraduates with terminal laziness.

But if you think "Russian Civilisation" sounds like a flaky subject to study then please consider some of the gems available at other institutions of higher learning. Durham University offers a paper called "Harry Potter and the Age of Illusion" which aims "to place the phenomenon that is Harry Potter in its social, cultural and educational context". Don't you love how they make it sound all, like, brainy when, like, it's not really?

"Philosophy and Star Trek" is studied at Georgetown University. It wrestles with some awesome metaphysical questions including "Is time travel possible? Could you go back and kill your grandmother?" and "What is a person? Must you have the same body to be you?" Well, is it? Could you? Must you?
The following have also been offered recently at learned institutions around the world - okay, mainly in the US:


* "History of Lace Knitting in Shetland" - University of Glasgow
* "Campus Culture and Drinking" - Duke University
* "How to be Gay: Male Homosexuality and Initiation" - University of Michigan
* "The Science of Superheroes" - University of California, Irvine
* "The Art and Science of Beer: History, Technology and Culture"- Indiana University

It seems that the addition of the word "science" lends gravitas to almost any subject. Good to know.

I had a quick trawl around the University of Auckland's website and the best example I encountered was a Film, Television and Media Studies course called "Watching Television". Hey, I do that every evening. I wonder if "Emptying Dishwasher" and "Brushing Teeth" is also offered. But, wait, there's more. You can follow it up with FTVMS 309: a stage 3 paper also called "Watching Television". It's true.

Have you ever signed up for a university course with a title that made you wonder what people must think? What's the most imaginatively named paper or course you've encountered? Are universities just having a laugh? Or are they simply trying to make academic subjects appeal to the youth of today? And have you ever taken a paper just for easy credits?