[Council of University Classical Departments]

Minutes of the thirty-fifth meeting of Council

Saturday, 22nd November, 2003, 11 a.m.

Institute of Classical Studies, Senate House, Malet Street, LONDON WC1E 7HU.



  1. Apologies
  2. National Classics Website (C-Web).
  3. Minutes of Last Meeting
  4. Matters Arising
  5. Chair's Report
  6. Secretary's Report.
  7. Treasurer's Report
  8. Statistics and Website
  9. Bulletin
  10. Constitution and Election of Chair and Members of Standing Committee
  11. Report on Arts and Humanities Research Board
  12. Consultation on the Institute of Classical Studies
  13. Report on the Learning and Teaching Subject Network (LTSN)
  14. Support for Classics in Schools
  15. Thomas Wiedemann Memorial Fund.
  16. AOB/date of next meeting


Present: Prof. Gillian Clark (Bristol, Chair), Dr Maureen Alden (Belfast), Dr Patty Baker (Kent/Standing Committee), Dr Felix Budelmann (Open University), Dr Philip Burton (St Andrews, Standing Committee), Prof. Christopher Carey (Arts and Humanities Research Board/Royal Holloway, University of London/Institute of Classical Studies), Ms Carlotta Dionisotti (King's College, London), Prof. Lorna Hardwick (Learning and Teaching Support Network/Open University), Ms Fiona Hobden (Liverpool), Dr Paula James (Open University), Prof. John Rich (Nottingham), Mrs Charlotte Rouché (King's College, London), Prof. Graham Shipley (Leicester), Dr Catherine Steel (Glasgow), Prof. Greg Woolf (St Andrews)


1. Apologies

Apologies were received from Ms G. Partington (JACT), Prof. K. Rutter (Edinburgh), Prof. S. Oakley (Reading), Dr M. Edwards (Queen Mary's, University of London), Dr J. Robson (OU), Dr E. Pender (Leeds).


2. National Classics Website (C-Web).

Mrs Charlotte Roueché (KCL) gave a demonstration on the current state of the National Classics Website. This project (mainly funded by the Classical Association) is designed primarily for the benefit of school pupils interested in the classics, and their parents. It aims to give information on what people do after studying classics, and with classics degree, and to promote wider access to study at university level. The Joint Association of Classical Teachers are to take responsibility for information on classics in schools; the CUCD for classics in universities (including the study of classical subjects outside traditional classics departments). The first editor is to be Dr I. Ruffell (Glasgow).

Dr Roueché thanked the CUCD for its support, and her thanks were warmly reciprocated. The following suggestions were made about the design of the site and the content of submissions to it:

  1. Contributions should be as accessible as possible to the prospective audience of school pupils and parents.

  2. Where possible, information should be presented in a standard form; it should also be of a kind not likely to date quickly. Recent-historical information (for instance, 'In 2002-3 papyrology was available as an option at the Department of Mediterranean Studies, University of Darlington') might help users gain a feel for the subject without the risk of obsolescence.

  3. A limited-area search engine, restricted to sites with links, might assist users in finding the information they needed.

  4. The target audience should include not only school pupils, but also the wider community of prospective students; people over 50 made up an increasing part of the university classics population. The site should publicize also workshops and summer schools not leading directly to a degree qualification.

  5. Statements from prominent former classicists on the value of their degree might be included. Information on this was available in the CUCD document Classics in the Marketplace. Prof. Michael Crawford was compiling a further list from entries in Who's Who. It was, however, important to focus on 'normal' rather than extraordinary careers. It was hoped to obtain Widening Participation funding to build a section on this topic -- and perhaps for other areas of the site.

  6. The Standing Committee of the CUCD had agreed to spend £200 on postgraduate assistance in compiling its submission. There would be one further opportunity to review the site before it goes live. But it was agreed there should be a signing-off date of 1/3/03 for submissions from departments, and of 15/3/04 for the CUCD. In the meantime, the CUCD contribution would be overseen by a steering committee of Dr Roueché, Prof. Shipley, and Dr Lowe, keeping in close touch with the CA and JACT.


3. Minutes of Last Meeting

were approved.


4. Matters Arising

Item 3. 2 League Tables. The Chair has received no correspondence on this matter.

4.1. The Queen's University of Belfast. The situation is not encouraging. The University has refused to admit undergraduates to Greek, Latin, and other Classical courses in first year, and has denied existing students the right to change into a classics pathway from other degree intentions. Non-linguistic Ancient History courses are still being taught, but the University has determined to cut its language teaching altogether. Postgraduate admissions also have been frozen.


5. Chair's Report

Matters up to September 2003 are covered in the Bulletin, and most material since in other items on this Agenda. Two matters merit particular consideration:

5.1. Some member-departments have experienced difficulty with their institutions in allowing post-Level 1 students to do beginners' language courses. In some universities, however, colleagues in science departments have recognized analogies between language skills in classical studies and the position of numeracy or computing skills in their fields, which are often taught separately and at a more basic level. Institutions may also be persuaded of the case for ab initio language provision where this is linked to a more demanding scheme of assessment. The AHRB also is concerned about language teaching as appropriate research training; the main motivation for post-Level 1 language is PG intention or study. For further information, a digest of the recent Standing Committee discussion of the topic will be posted on the website, and supplemented by material from AHRB (action: PHB).

Prof. Carey (attending pro AHRB PG panel) noted that the AHRB is concerned more generally about level of student language attainment, and consequent growth of anglocentric research in the historical disciplines.

5.2. CUCD response to RAE Consultation. It is not yet known whether or when there will be another RAE. The Roberts report is getting a rough ride in the consultation process. A date of 2007 is far from assured. The Department of Trade and Industry want reform of the current 'dual-support' funding system, to one under which they allocate all research funding to research councils. However, the DTI cannot absolutely monopolize research funding where the research does not depend on extensive hardware.

Prof. Carey noted that in the sciences, the research funding bodies wish to administer money currently channelled through QR. He expressed the view that classics research would be 'decimated' by the abandonment of dual-support; Council agreed on the importance of stressing the difference between the arts and the sciences.

Prof. Shipley drew attention to the threat to the British Schools at Rome, Athens, and Ankara from the British Academy plan to cut core funding and invite annual bids for large amount of research funding; it was noted this will tend to destabilize the Schools and make it harder to build up areas of specialist interest.

The Chair noted that the AHRB had been hoping that Research Council status would increase the money it had available; however, the Education Bill, which incorporates this change of status, is delayed in Parliament, and it is unlikely in near future that more money would be available.


6. Secretary's Report.

All matters covered elsewhere.


7. Treasurer's Report

The Treasurer report that CUCD funds currently stood at 2974. Subscriptions for 2003-4 had not been received (despite correspondence) from the following institutions: Belfast, Birkbeck, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Swansea, and Southampton (Southampton have for some years provided statistics but not paid subscriptions). It was agreed the Standing Committee would examine the question of the level of subscription, with particular reference to the situation of smaller departments and institutions where there was no single classics unit.


8. Statistics and Website

(Prof. G. Shipley reporting:) The statistics for 2002-2003 were contained in the latest Bulletin. Overall student numbers were up, but mainly in non-linguistic 'modern classics', in particular single-honours programmes. Numbers in language-based courses were in long-term decline, one-sixth down on 10 years ago. The overall staff-student ratio also was less favourable than previously. Mature student numbers appeared to dip, but may be an illusion. There was an apparent drop in the number taking in beginners' language courses, but this was probably the result of the OU's success in recruiting students to these courses in 2001-2002; there was also drop in PGs taking language courses, but some of these may be taking these courses through the OU.

The Chair thanked Prof. Shipley and the various colleagues who had supplied data.

The Bulletin would in future be put on the Council's website in addition to its hard-copy publication.


9. Bulletin

Motion from Standing Committee: "The Standing Committee notes that the online publication represents a simple and economical means of accessing the Bulletin. However, in view of the benefits and the relatively low cost of hard copy, it recommends that the Council continue with publication in this format."

This motion was adopted. It was also agreed to keep under review the number of copies required and the length of the print-run. Council thanked Dr Morgan for her work as Editor.


10. Constitution and Election of Chair and Members of Standing Committee

10.1 Motion from Standing Committee: "In view of the need to recruit and retain well-qualified members of the Standing Committee, and of certain ambiguities in the current drafting of the Constitution, Standing Committee recommends to Council the following amendment of items 4-4b, to read:

'There shall be a Standing Committee consisting of:

'4a. A Chair and Treasurer, elected to serve as such.

'4b. Ten elected members. The Standing Committee shall assign offices among these elected members; these offices will include a Secretary, Bulletin Editor, Statistics Officer, and representative to the Council of JACT.'

And item 6 to read:

'6. The term of office of the Chair and other elected members shall be limited to three years. No member will normally serve more than two consecutive terms.'"

The motion was passed.

10.2. Elections. The following were duly elected. Chair of CUCD: Prof. G. Shipley (Leicester). Standing Committee: Dr P. Millett (Cambridge), Dr J. Morgan (Swansea), Dr P. O'Neill (Exeter).

The Chair thanked outgoing Standing Committee members for their services, and in particular Dr Spencer for her work in recruiting new members.


11. Report on Arts and Humanities Research Board

Prof. Christopher Carey (chair of AHRB PG panel) reporting. Prof. Carey's contribution fell into four main headings: 1) The membership of the panel; 2) the process by which PG applications are evaluated; 3) future AHRB postgraduate policy; 4) advice for applicants and their institutions.

11.1. Membership of the Panel. The panel consists of Prof. Carey, Prof. Greg Woolf, Prof. Geoff Bailey, Prof. Marie-Louise Sorensen, Prof. Chris Mee. The panel considers applications for funding in classics, ancient history, and archaeology.

11.2. Process. The panels hold briefing meetings in March; the AHRB may use these meetings also to get feedback on policy initiatives. Applications are circulated in May. For competition (A) (Masters), double blind assessment is used; for competition (B) (PhD), triple blind assessment. The Chair reads all applications (600+ in 2002-2003). The panel meets again for two days in late June-early July. There is usually consensus on the merits of applications, but there are often divergences, and occasional wide divergences, on the numerical grade. The panel has access to most degree results and report forms before or at its grading meeting. The panel perceives some problem with grade inflation (and, occasionally, deflation). Any reports which arrive after the grading meeting are dealt with by the Chair.

Applications are graded on the scale 1, 2a, 2b, 3, 4, 5. The most difficult decisions involve applications on the 2a-2b borderline, as only applications ranked 1-2a tend to gain funding. In Competition (A), the success rate in ancient history was around 40%, in classics and archaeology around 19%. However, the raw figures may mislead, as many ancient historians apply as classicists; there is also an overlap between archaeology and classics. In Competition (B), the success rate for ancient history was 28%, classics 30%, and archaeology under 20%. Prof. Carey emphasized that it was applications, not applicants, that were under evaluation.

In Competition (A), around 90% of awards are made to students with Firsts (though not all Firsts get funding). In Competition (B), around 80% go to students with Firsts. Applicants for competition (B) must have relevant postgraduate experience or equivalent. Students who have taken Masters courses are generally better trained for PhD work than those without, and better at producing research proposals. Improved grades in Masters courses are incorporated into the algorithm for Competition (B).

11.3. Future policy. The AHRB is currently moving towards Research Council status, as AHRC. This will entail the establishment of a new and smaller Board of Management, without the present system under which panel chairs rotate on and off automatically. The AHRC will seek to move into policy-led, alongside traditional demand-led research funding; there will be a greater relative emphasis on PhD funding vis à vis Masters funding. There will be a consolidation of the current various 'pots' of Masters funding into two from 2004: professional training and research training. Students will be able to apply for both within the same Masters programme; students applying for research training will be expected to write a dissertation, while professional training might include more taught courses. Increased levels of competence in the ancient languages will be viewed as a research skill; it is recognized that competence in modern languages is also an issue, though the implications of this are still under consideration. A series of seminars on research training will be held, beginning in February 2004.

In response to questions from Council, Prof. Carey indicated the AHRB/AHRC would consider whether there was a pattern to which institutions were most successful in gaining funding, and would aim to offer useful feedback to departments without dictating the form and content of courses. The AHRB/AHRC would consider also the nature of feedback given to unsuccessful candidates.

11.4. Advice for applicants and institutions. In competition (B), many candidates submit proposals for editions and/or commentaries, without fully explaining the importance of the texts in question for the wider research community, or engaging with the intellectual issues involved in the commentary format. It is not always clear why a commentary is a more appropriate genre than a monograph. Stronger applications tend to be those where there is clear evidence of consultation between the applicant and the intended supervisor, and which avoid making excessive claims for the outcome of the research.

Applicants for competition (A) tend to summarize course content, without sufficient reference to their own intellectual plans and aspirations.

Referee statements do not always provide evidence of the applicant's performance to date. Referees are advocates up to a point, but hyperbolic (or bland) statements should be avoided. Institutional statements need to be tailored to individual applicants. Specific information on the fit between applicant and institution will strengthen an application.

The panel sees the ranking of students by institution as vital. This may start to take precedence over question of whether a applicant falls into the 'top n per cent of students' at an institution. Where students are applying to an institution other than their current one, it helps to have evidence of personal contact with the new institution; this tends to lead to a more holistic application all round.

Prof. Carey concluded his advice with the following five points:

Finally, Prof. Carey and Prof. Woolf indicated their willingness to visit university departments to offer advice

The Chair thanked Prof. Carey for his very useful contribution.


12. Consultation on the Institute of Classical Studies

12.1. It was noted that the University of London had recently advertised for a Librarian in terms that implied overall financial control of the Institute of Classical Studies library. A review panel was still considering the future of the ICS library, and there was a view within the University that advantages were to be had from a greater degree of amalgamation with other University libraries. None the less, Council was concerned; it was agreed that the incoming Chair would pass on these concerns to Nico Mann.

Motion from Dr Catherine Morgan (KCL): "CUCD places great value upon the Joint Library, and commends the collaboration of the ICS and the Hellenic and Roman Societies in maintaining it as an outstanding (and accessible) resource for UK Classics. It trusts that the incoming Director will foster this partnership, and will work to protect the integrity of the Joint Library's funding structure and management."


13. Report on the Learning and Teaching Subject Network (LTSN)
(Dr Lorna Hardwick reporting)

Dr Hardwick drew attention to the following areas of LTSN activity:

14. Support for Classics in Schools

(Prof. Stephanie West). Oxford had been actively involved in setting up twilight clubs in local primary schools, involving teams of PGs. Oxford had secured HEFCE access funding for a series of GCSE mini-conferences.

(Dr C. Steel). The classics PGCE trainer at Strathclyde was retiring; it seemed that a decision had been reached in principle to replace him, but no action taken yet. Council agreed to press to ensure that this was done.


15. Thomas Wiedemann Memorial Fund.

(Prof. John Rich reporting). The Fund had been generously supported and various postgraduates had benefited from it. However, the number of applications was dropping. Representatives were asked to remind colleagues and students of the Fund's existence, and to encourage suitably-qualified students to put in applications. In particular, conference organizers were asked to bear it in mind as a means of assisting postgraduates to attend.


16. AOB/date of next meeting

16.1 Prof. Carey and Dr R. Alston intimated that they intended to submit a proposal for a project on research training in classics under FDTL phase 5 (see above, 13. 7) This would involved subject-specific training for PGs and new lecturers. The Council expressed their strong support for this project and asked the incoming Chair to assist in what ways he could before the deadline of 5/12/03.

16.2 Date of next meeting set for 13/11/04.


Dr P. Burton
Centre for the Editing of Texts in Religion
Elmfield House
The University of Birmingham
Birmingham
B29 6LQ.


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