[Council of University Classical Departments]

Report of the 106th meeting of Standing Committee

Saturday, 31st May 2003, 11 a.m.

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

  1. Apologies for absence.
  2. Minutes of last meeting
  3. Matters arising
  4. Chair's report.
  5. Secretary
  6. Treasurer.
  7. Bulletin
  8. Nominations and elections
  9. Stats and website.
  10. National Classics Prospectus
  11. LTSN
  12. AOB.
  13. Date of next meeting.

Present: Prof. E. G. Clark (Chair), Dr P. A. Baker, Dr G. R. Boys-Stone, Dr P. H. Burton, Prof. P. J. Hardie, Dr N. J. Lowe, Prof. S. Mitchell, Dr. C. Panayotakis, Dr S. Philippo, Dr J. M. Robson, Prof. D. G. J. Shipley, Prof. C. J. Smith, Dr D.J. Spencer

The Chair welcome Dr Baker, Dr Burton, Dr Panayotakis, and Dr Philippo to their first meeting, and thanked the outgoing members Dr Gibson and Prof. Smith for their work.

1. Apologies for absence.

Prof. P. Jones, Dr G. Partington, Dr R. K. Gibson, The Rev'd Dr T. J. Morgan.

2 Minutes of last meeting (12/10/02)

These were approved subject to minor typographical alterations. The Chair noted that Prof. Smith should have been congratulated on this promotion.

3. Matters arising

a. Standing Committee

b. Draft Minutes of Council (16/11/02)

4. Chair's report.

Response to Mr Charles Clark.The Chair had drafted a letter in response to the Education Secretary Mr Clark's public doubts on the value of studying the ancient world; but this was not sent, in view of Mr Clark's statement of support in the House of Commons on 6/2/03

SCASS.The Chair had replied to a consultation by the Standing Conference on Arts and Social Sciences (SCASS). The resulting SCASS document 'One Voice' makes the points that the humanities do not need to be concentrated in a few resource-rich universities; and that they tend to be dialectic, rather than cumulative, in their approach to knowledge. The Committee welcomed these observations, while deciding against formal affiliation to SCASS.

British Academy.The Chair had replied to the BA Review on 'Creativity and the Economy; the contribution of the arts and social sciences' (December 2002); and to the consultation on 'Endangered and Emerging Subject Areas' (March 2003). (See below, item 4.2.

4. 1 RAE 2001 and 2007.

The Roberts review of the RAE had been published two days before the meeting. The Chair noted three main recommendations in the report:i) continued expert reviewing in each subject-area; ii) a seven-year cycle for future RAE rounds; iii) the classification of institutions into three types, according to the relative importance they attach to teaching and research, with a move from ranking to profiling of research produced by a department.

The committee broadly welcomed the report, and in particular the first two recommendations above. Concerns were expressed about the following:

  1. The possible public ranking of individual researchers; there was strong support for Roberts' recommendation this should nottake place;

  2. The proposed introduction of norm-referencing and its implicit assumption that only a limited amount of research (and so of departments) met the highest standards. Classics research in British universities enjoys a very high international standing; most departments would aim for the highest level of assessment, the Research Quality Assessment (RQA);

  3. The fact that some Classics research was undertaken by staff in larger administration units, which might not as a whole be of RQA level. Excellent research was often done in less competitive institutions;

  4. The nature of work ('output') regarded as 'research'. The traditional definition tended to overlook the publication of new teaching resources (notably in the languages) and in particular the OU tradition of collaborative course/sourcebooks which did not fit neatly into the category of either research or teaching materials;

  5. The requirement by many institutions on researchers to submit four pieces of 'output' for review. This tended not to reward those who published more, while potentially putting at a disadvantage those who for good reasons (e. g. parental leave) had published less; there was strong support for Roberts' recommendation this should not be an inflexible norm;

  6. The extent to which departments were permitted to give a discursive account of their research, as opposed to a simple enumeration. (This was in part a function of the way guidelines were interpreted at given institutions).

A four-month consultation period now followed. The Chair would consult members of the Committee, and departmental contacts, in that time (action: EGC).

4.2 Update on AHRB; ring-fenced funding.

The AHRB had asked for suggestions of subject-areas which were 'endangered' or 'emerging', these to be the object of up to 6 additional doctoral studentships. It was felt that

  1. given the high level of competition for doctoral funding, and the fact that excellent research was regularly produced across the field, it was difficult to identify any particularly deserving sub-disciplines for doctoral research;

  2. that there were, however, certain key skills, not necessarily taught to all students at undergraduate level, whose survival was essential to the long-term health of the subject; these included epigraphy, papyrology, palaeography, and the study of the ancient languages.
Training in these areas for PGs deserved support. The Chair would write welcoming this initiative, and setting out the Committee's views (action: EGC).

The Classical Association of Scotland (CAS) had endorsed in advance the Chair's letter.

4.3 Language levels.

Concerns were expressed that requirements for 'progression' meant it difficult for students to gain credits for beginners' language courses above Level 1. This was affecting course-structures at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Some pressure for this was said to come from accreditation bodies, but there was evidence that some of problem lay in the interpretation of their guidelines by individual institutions. This was a long-standing problem. It was agreed that:

  1. A concerted response was needed, with suggested strategies and arguments for members to use. Standing Committee members would seek advice from their colleagues on this (action: all members).

  2. The Chair would write to the relevant QAA and SCQF officers, drawing their attention to the issue and asking that guidelines be (re-)drafted and interpreted in a way which did not penalize ab initio learners (action: ECG; CP and DGJS to identify contacts);

  3. The relevant AHRB officers would be consulted and asked for their support in this matter (action: SM)

4.4 Support for classical subjects in schools.

Not discussed, in the absence of Dr Partington.

5 Secretary

All matters dealt with under other items.

6. Treasurer.

We are in funds; but a letter is needed to Barclays' to confirm Dr Robinson as new Treasurer (action: PHB)

7 Bulletin

Not discussed, in the absence of the Rev'd Dr Morgan. Printing would continue in Leicester, under the oversight of Prof. Shipley.

8 Nominations and elections

Dr Spencer reported that a new Chair was needed (for three years); that two new elected members were needed for next year; and that co-opted members were co-opted on an annual basis. No post was co-opted sine die, but any member could be co-opted on a rolling basis. The nominations process for the next Chair was to begin straightaway. It was agreed that names would be sought by email consultation, between members of the Standing Committee and by the CLASSICISTS list (action: PHB and DS);

9 Stats and website

The deadline for submission of statistics was later than in previous years. Some had already been submitted; other institutions were being reminded. The Standing Committee list on the website needed updating.

10 National Classics Prospectus

The website (maintained by KCL) had not been updated since March.


Dr Spencer had attended an LTSN meeting in March. She reported that:

  1. Bids were invited for Phase 5 of teaching development grants; details on the LTSN website. Inter-institutional and interdisciplinary grants were encouraged.

  2. The LTSN was funded till 2004. From spring 2004, an 'academy' would be set up to shadow its activities. The 'academy' would have larger subject-areas, and Classics was likely to be combined with a subject such as languages or European culture. A separate Classics sub-group was unlikely. The 'academy' would have one centre in Glasgow and one outside Scotland; both would be under a single institutional head. The LTSN would scale back the number of events organized over the next twelve months.

The Committee commended the responsiveness of the Classics LTSN to the needs of the subject, and thought that a more generic centre would be less useful than the existing arrangement.

12 AOB.

The Committee welcomed the recent report that Duckworth had found a buyer and that the future of the Bristol Classical Press was assured for the foreseeable future.

13. Date of next meeting


The meeting closed at 1. 35 p. m.

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