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As promised in my last post about Edinburgh Napier University, I wrote to the vice-chancellor of the university, Professor Dame Joan K. Stringer DBE, BA (Hons) CertEd PhD CCMI FRSA FRSE, to invite her to respond.

7 February, 2011

Dear Professor Stringer,

I should be grateful if you could let me know about your opinion of the degrees that you offer in Aromatherapy and Reflexology

I have posted on my blog a bit of the material that was sent to me as result of recent FoI requests. See https://www.dcscience.net/?p=4049

I submit that degrees like this detract from the intellectual respectability of what is, not doubt, in other respects a good university, but since you are mentioned in the post, it’s only fair to give you the chance to defend yourself. In fact you’d be very welcome to do so publicly by commenting on the post.

Best regards

David Colquhoun

Over a month later, I have received no response at all. This seems to me to be a bit discourteous.

There is nothing new in failing to get any answer to letters to vice-chancellors. The only VC who has ever thanked me for opening his eyes is Terence Kealey, of the University of Buckingham. All the rest have stayed silent. I can interpret this silence only as guilt. They know it’s nonsense, but dare not say so. Of course it isn’t infrequent for the course to close down after public exposure of the nonsense they teach. So perhaps the letters get read, even if they don’t elicit a reply.

Meanwhile the university sent me more materials that are used to teach their students. So here is another sample, largely from what’s taught to the unfortunate “reflexology” students.

Remember, these pre-scientific myths are not being taught as history or anthropology. They are taught as though they were true, to students who are then let loose on patients, so they can make money from anyone who is gullible enough to believe what they say.


There are no "excess body energies". It’s made-up nonsense.


The diagram is pure imagination. It dates form a time before we knew anything about physiology, yet it is still being taught as though it meant something.


The admission that there is controversy is interesting. But it doesn’t seem to deter Napier’s teachers in the slightest.


How can anyone in the 21st century believe that the heart is "king of our emotional existence”?. That’s just preposterous pre-scientific myth,


You must be joking.




"Vibrational medicine" is a non-existent subject. Pure gobbledygook.


This is partly old, partly quite new. It is all preposterous made-up nonsense. There isn’t the slightest reason to think that "zones" or "meridians" exist. In fact there is good evidence from acupuncture studies to think that they don’t exist.

Now some slides from course CPT08102. The mention of the word ‘energy’ in the alternative world always rings alarm bells. Here’s why.


Well, it’s a good question. Pity about the answer.


Shouldn’t that read "as a practising reflexologist it is important than you have a MISunderstanding of the energy that surrounds us"?.


What logic? Have these people never heard of Hodgkin & Huxley (the answer, I imagine, is no)?


The mention of Kim Jobst immediately raises suspicions. He is a homeopath and endorser of the obviously fraudulent Q-link

"when you as a reflexologist palpate the foot you not only produce the physical responses in the CNS but also enter the energetic body and move energy , , ". Well, no you don’t. This is purely made-up nonsense. The words sound "sciencey" but the meaning of the words is utterly obscure.


Yes we do live in an interconnected world. And sadly, that interconnectedness is used to spread myth and misinformation, usually with the aim of making money.

I guess Edinburgh Napier University makes money by teaching ancient myths as though they were true. In so doing they destroy their academic reputation.


Here you are tested to see how much nonsense you have memorised successfully. If only they had sent ‘model answers’.

Remember, these pre-scientific myths are not being taught as history or anthropology. They are taught as though they were true, to students who are then let loose on patients, so they can make money from anyone who is gullible enough to believe what they say.

A 2009 systematic review of randomised controlled trials concludes that “The best evidence available to date does not demonstrate convincingly that reflexology is an effective treatment for any medical condition.”. So forget it.

How about it Professor Stringer? Isn’t it time to clean up your university?


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24 Responses to Yet more dangerous nonsense inflicted on students by Edinburgh Napier University

  • stephenemoss says:

    It’s odd that when I first went to see my cardiologist a couple of years ago, after several months of increasing breathlessness, that he didn’t immediately recognise that the ‘king of my emotional existence’ had simply developed a problem with its ‘chakra’. To think I might have been fixed up by someone fiddling around with my foot for twenty minutes, rather than having all that complicated mitral valve surgery.

  • phayes says:

    “Energy is the first thing we are given in life and is the last thing to leave us in life”

    Yeah… and since the symplectic woo-form is invariant along the CAMiltonian flow generated by Chi, if you strike us down we will become more powerful than you can possibly imagine, innit?

  • Moochie says:

    After reading through this drivel, I am not at all surprised that your letters/emails go unanswered. I hope those responsible for this mess are thoroughly ashamed of themselves, and act with indecent haste to expunge these courses from their curriculums.

  • @phayes
    LOL. I needed a good laugh

  • Michael says:

    As a practicing veterinary surgeon, I once picked up the foot of a dog and it bit me on the nose. Pretty convincing reflex if you ask me. I definitely felt the link.

  • Avoided Cranium says:

    A degree? From a rag-bag collection of eastern mysticism, new-age superstition and a history of people looking for magic cures?

    In 1967, when reflexology started in the UK with Doreen Bayly, her school gave people a certificate after 2 weekends of practical training. It wasn’t rocket science (well it wasn’t any sort of science), and that was enough for a bit of pleasant foot-rubbing.

    But now we have an expensive 3 year degree course padded out with all sorts of baggage from completely different and incommensurable paradigms. Like so many quack courses, they rely heavily on the perceived “tradition” of eastern folklore to justify them, when in fact what they actually do has no origins in it, nor any overlap. For example a refexologist working on the solar plexus area of the foot would be working on a kidney point in TCM – nothing to do with the solar plexus – and the “solar plexus chakra” is seen as something to do with spleen energy – a completely different organ. You can’t add apples and oranges.

    They try to make out that all these beliefs, whether ancient, modern or re-invented are all part of some wonderful integrated body of woo-medicine. They are not.

    Leave aside any consideration of whether these alternative therapies work or not. Surely it is intellectually dishonest to put together a pick’n’mix selection of different “woo” topics which refer to the word “energy” and pretend it is degree level training. If you do a degree in horticulture, you don’t expect it to include modules on sewer maintenance, just because of a link with the concept of “fertiliser”.

    Strangely, there seems to be quite a lot of fertiliser in this relexology course.

  • Michael says:

    Joking aside, I’m glad at least these bogus degrees are being challenged especially when it is clear that they are being promoted as some sort of vocational qualification. I had believed that there was some form of inter-university peer review of courses before they are offered, it saddens me to suspect that this is not the case. Keep up the good work, serious academia needs people like you.

  • Michael says:

    Just to be clear, the ‘joking’ I referred was my own and not of any previous posts, all of which I agree with as serious critiques.

  • BadlyShavedMonkey says:

    “This subtle energy that supports, shapes and enervates the physical being…”


    Enervate \E*ner”vate\, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Enervated; p. pr. &
    vb. n. Enervating.] [L. enervatus, p. p. of enervare, fr. enervis nerveless, weak; e out + nervus nerve. See Nerve.]
    To deprive of nerve, force, strength, or courage; to render feeble or impotent; to make effeminate; to impair the moral powers of.

    It’s even funnier when these numbnuts get the little things wrong as well. Clearly English as well as science is a foreign language to them.

    I found a similarly delicious one yesterday when following a link from the Quackometer to David Icke’s site.


    “We are also encouraged to eat what are called trans fats, better known as unsaturated fats, to protect the heart and yet these have been linked in trials with an increased chance of coronary heart disease!”

    If you’re going to be wrong it’s tidiest to be wrong in the small things as well as the big things. At least you can rely on them to be consistently wrong.

    Joking aside, I think this is a common pattern. People like this have very little real understanding of any underlying principles of science so they reproduce whatever their magpie eyes have happened upon in a completely unreflective manner. It all becomes sciencey word-salad.

  • Michael says:

    “word-salad”, very apt

  • HughWillRidmee says:

    “The Relationship between Meridans and Zones…..
    Both have significant differences”

    These people live in a world where it’s possible for only one of two concepts to be (significantly) different from the other?

  • Avoided Cranium says:

    “This subtle energy that supports, shapes and enervates the physical being…”


    Sir, I think you are missing the esoteric reference to the other use of the tem “enervate”, which scholars will find in recently uncovered and popularised scrolls of mystical wisdom. “Enervate” is in fact a powerful enchantment or “spell” which can waken someone from unconsciousness when a victim of the spell “Stupefy”. Well known authorities such as Bartemious Crouch and Dumbledore have demonstrated its healing power, but the current ASA/CAP codes prevent the dissemination of this knowledge.

    Or so said my tutor on my BS Hons course in Medicinal Harry Potter Studies. With the right wand, “Renervate” is another powerful remedy for alleviating general unconsciousness as used by Dumbledore, but with less success by Sarah Beeny.

    Ref: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Muggles%27_Guide_to_Harry_Potter/Magic/Enervate

  • @Avoided Cranium
    I’m deeply impressed by your scholarship -rolling in the aisles again.

    Semi-literacy seems to be quite common in alternative universe fans, specially in some of their abusive emails.

  • toots says:

    You mentioned in your previous post on Napier that the University of Wales Institute at Cardif offers a BSc in reflexology. It could be argued that since Napier are offering a BA then there isn’t a problem – as there most definitely is with UWIC attatching the cachet of science to the hippy-woo of reflexology.

    That would be wrong, I venture.

    Whilst one might incorporate reflexology into a sociology of CAM course, to teach it as it is uncritically practiced, as if arrant nonsense can effortlessly be conjoined to science – as Napier’s blurb for the course states – is injuriouus to science and the humanities alike.

    A BA or a BSc in reflexology is a sick joke.

    If I were an arts student at Napier I would be pretty browned off to discover that my University sells sick joke BAs.

  • Teige says:

    I feel sorry for the poor students getting so ripped off!
    You could learn this stuff at the weekends. Or even more conveniently, invent it yourself, who would notice?

  • neiltingley says:

    I guess the Scottish taxpayer is delighted to pay for this nonsense. Don’t the deans of the famous Scottish medical faculties have anything to say about non-medicine being taught in the capital ?

  • Blue Bubble says:

    DC, I wonder if you might entertain the idea of engaging the Edinburgh-local press in this scandalous state of affairs ? The Scotsman and the Edinburgh Evening News would be the ones (I am originally from Edinburgh, and am thoroughly disgusted by Napier).

  • @neiltingley

    You ask “Don’t the deans of the famous Scottish medical faculties have anything to say about non-medicine being taught in the capital ?”

    That’s a good question. It seems that there is a culture that prevents people in black suits from criticising each other. You might equally ask why UUK, QAA etc do nothing. Complaints through the official channels invariably (in my experience) get stonewalled. I’d much prefer not to have to post these public criticisms. Sadly, embarrassment seems to be the only thing that works.

  • Chris says:

    We learn that “…living tissue generates energy..” and that “..Westerm medicine uses this fact every time an MRI scanner…is used”.

    Maybe you could take them to the nearest chemistry laboratory to see the recording of a magnetic resonance spectrum of something indisputably dead like ethyl iodide.

  • CrewsControl says:

    Poor Dame Joan, I can’t help but feel sorry for the dear old girl. She is not a scientist so she, probably, consulted her senior staff when a BA course in BadJuJu was suggested. Let’s be charitable and assume that she asked whether it was considered science. She may have been told that a complementary medicine research unit is hosted by a reputable university and is funded by the likes of the Wellcome Trust, the MRC, RCGP and the NHS. Well she probably thought to herself if reputable bodies like that are prepared to flash the cash it must be kosher. Then all manner of stuff hits the fan; letters to her office, assassination by blog (‘we name the dame’), ridicule. What’s a girl to do when her chakras are thrown out of kilter?
    Well I was Dame Joan I might write letters of my own to the Wellcome Trust, the MRC, the RCGP and the NHS (R &D) and ask them to let me have the names of the members of the various committees who decided to make awards to Lewith’s Loony Lab. And then ask them to help me clean the fan.

  • @CrewsControl
    “We name the dame”. Now you are making me feel guilty again. But believe me. I’ve tried gentler approaches and got absolutely nowhere. Really there is not much excuse, even if you aren’t a scientist. It’s easy now to get information, but they don’t bother. They should.

  • James Cranch says:

    I can’t help feeling that CrewsControl is being a little disingenuous. “We name the dame”: what the hell?

    One wonders what he or she thinks vice-chancellors are for, if not for being visible general-purpose representatives of their universities, and not for adopting responsibility for serious blunders in university strategy.

    To whom else might he have written the letter? What might he have done other than writing such a letter?

  • neiltingley says:

    If you/we could persuade the Scottish medical school deans into condemning fake medicine it might shame whoever controls academic standards in Scotland to intervene.

    Mind you, an emeritus fellow (!) of Glasgow University is a fully fledged AIDS denialist, and has even co-authored a “paper” on the subject with Duesberg.

  • […] Information Commissioner says you should know. Some of the horrors so discovered appeared in Yet more dangerous nonsense inflicted on students by Edinburgh Napier University. The embarrassment seems to have worked. Their remaining degrees in aromatherapy and refelxology […]

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