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UK university awards first Beatles degree

posted 27 Jan 2011, 04:18 by Mpelembe   [ updated 27 Jan 2011, 04:19 ]

Woman becomes the first person in the world to graduate with a Masters degree in Beatles studies.

In a world first, Mary-Lu Zahalan-Kennedy graduated to become the first person to hold a Masters degree in Beatles studies.

A former Miss Canada finalist, Zahalan-Kennedy was one of the first 12 students to sign up for the Liverpool Hope University course on the Fab Four when it began in 2009 and was the first to graduate, the university said on Wednesday (January 26).

"It's a fascinating study of society it's an anthropological look at our culture so it was way more intense and on a much higher level of learning than I could have imagined and I think the British academic system is extraordinarily string too which is a great thing," Zahalan-Kennedy said of the course.

"It definitely challenged the grey matter I must say I spent a lot of time reading and just filling in the blanks - I needed to learn a lot more about the British culture to be able to understand post war trend here, how it was very different from Canada," she added.

Zahalan-Kennedy was the first to accept her MA in Beatles, Popular Music and Society in person from the university.

"Liverpool Hope University was superbly supportive to me in my time here and made me feel very welcome even though I was an international student. it was a great experience," she said.

The course looks at the studio sound and composition of the Beatles and how Liverpool helped to shape their music. The MA examines the significance of their music and how it helped to define identities, culture and society.

Dr. Mike Brocken, founder and leader of the Beatles MA at Liverpool Hope University, said the postgraduate degree makes Zahalan-Kennedy a member of a select group of popular music experts.

"Well, the idea behind it is the serious study of popular culture really. To study popular music one has to study popular culture and within that of course there's a framework of the Beatles which are one of the most popular culture phenomena of the latter part of the 20th century. But we do it very seriously in that respect, so that module by module we take though various disciplines in a way to kind of bring ourselves towards an academic study of The Beatles," Brocken explained.

Brocken warned sceptics and potential university slackers they wouldn't find an easy ride with the course:

"Come along and try it because it's actually a dosser's nightmare. I always think that once we start engaging in popular culture we're engaging in some very, very distinctive complex areas of study. Issues to do with society and culture in the post-war era, issues to with race, gender, sexuality, the music itself, how we go about understanding it rather than just through the dots but through semiotics. So it's pretty complicated and highly serious academic material."