[Council of University Classical Departments]

Report of the 107th meeting of Standing Committee

Saturday, 11th October 2003, 11 a.m.

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

  1. Apologies for absence
  2. Minutes of last meeting (12/10/02)
  3. Matters arising
  4. Chair's report.
  5. Secretary
  6. Treasurer
  7. Bulletin
  8. Nominations and elections.
  9. Stats
  10. National Classics Prospectus
  11. Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN)
  12. AOB
  13. Date of next meeting

Present: Prof. E. G. Clark (Chair), Dr P. Baker, Dr G. Boys-Stones, Dr P. Burton, Prof. P. Hardie, Dr N. Lowe, Prof. S. Mitchell, The Rev'd Dr T. Morgan., Dr. C. Panayotakis, Ms G. Partington, Dr S. Phillippo, Dr J. Robson, Dr J. Rowlandson, Prof. D. G. J. Shipley.

1. Apologies for absence

Prof. C. J. Smith, Dr D. Spencer, Dr R. K. Gibson.

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

These were approved subject to minor typographical alterations, and the re-drafting of 3. a. (5. 3) to read: Dr Boys-Stones reported that notionally complete sets of the Bulletin were held in the Institute of Classical Studies (in fact lacking number 29), and in the University Libraries of Durham and Glasgow. He would approach the Bodleian Library and the Faculty of Classics in Cambridge to ensure their holdings also were up to date.

3.a. Matters arising

3. b. Date of Council

The date of Council was set for the 22nd November. This date had been publicized. A deadline of 31st October was set for all requests for agenda items.

4. Chair's report.

4. 1 Update on Research Assessment Exercise.
Many of the points raised at the CUCD Standing Committee meeting of 31/5/03 had been made by other bodies consulted on the Roberts report. In particular, there was a welcome for the principle of peer review, alongside concern about norm-referencing and the possible grading of researchers. The Committee welcomed the fact that (if the Roberts proposals were accepted) the number of sub-panels charged with reviewing work would in fact be higher than the current number of panels.

However, it was likely that the Department of Trade and Industry would want a simpler system, in line with reform of the current 'dual-support' system of research funding. Under this system, research funding in the arts and humanities is supported partly through HEFCE block grant for research (the so-called QR stream), partly through external bodies such as the Arts and Humanities Research Board and the Leverhulme Trust, with 80-90% coming from the Higher Education Funding Council for England. In the sciences, the proportions are almost reversed. It was likely that the DTI would want a more transparent accounting for the actual cost of research carried out in universities, and would also expect the QR contribution to drop as a proportion of arts research funding.

The Committee was concerned that:

  1. The pursuit of transparency in QR funding might lead to a reduction in the amount of time university staff could spend on research without external funding;

  2. The AHRB did not at present have enough resources to fund all worth-while applications, and was unlikely to do so even if it gained Funding Council status;

  3. The AHRB's rules for the 'shape' of projects it would fund were relatively restrictive.

It was further noted that an increase in the proportion of external funding would tend to diminish the importance of the RAE, as the AHRB and other external bodies would have a more important rôle compared to HEFCE in distributing research money than is the case at present.

4.2.a Update on AHRB post-graduate funding.
Three bids for 'ring-fenced' PG funding in classical subjects had been received by the AHRB over the summer. In each bid the Chair had expressed general support on behalf of the CUCD, but had declined to express opinions on the relative merits of these bids.

There appeared to be a move on the part of the AHRB towards the identification of 'strategic' funding projects (such as the current project on computing in the humanities). This was a consequence of their expected transition ot Research Council status. However, there was no intention to move away from 'responsive' funding.

Concerns were expressed about the level of transparent in determining which PGs are given AHRB awards. It was suggested (by Prof. Mitchell) that the AHRB would be greatly assisted if:

  1. Institutions were to rank applicants;

  2. More weight in the AHRB algorithm were to be given to exam results;

  3. Institutions were as objective as possible in evaluating applications.

Further questions were raised about the possibility of offering feedback to unsuccessful applications and of publishing more specific guidelines for applicants. The former was unlikely to be practical, due to the number of applicants. The Chair would write to Prof. Christopher Carey (chair of AHRB PG panel) with these concerns, and invite him to attend Council to speak on the matter (action: EGC).

4.2.b Academic Fellowships(DTI document circulated).
It was noted that while further funding for scholars at the beginning of their career was welcome, the DTI document was effectively aimed mainly at the sciences and engineering, which employed relatively more contract research staff (CRS). It was unclear whether temporary staff other than CRS were eligible. It was noted that linguists as well as scientists could be dissuaded from academic work by the early stages of the career structure, and that this too had wider economic implications.
4.3 Language levels.
The Chair noted that:

' Some of our member departments have found that university committees think the QAA/SCQF (Quality Assurance Agency/Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework) will object (a) if students in years 2 or 3, or Masters students, are allowed to take ab initiolanguage classes; (b) if year 1 students who enter with A level Latin or Greek (or equivalent) are in the same class as year 2 students who entered with GCSE and/or year 3 students who began the language in year 1.

'It is standard practice for departments to vary the assessment of students from different years who share a class, either by setting different assessments or by marking differentially. Where language is taught through literature, departments expect greater analytical skill, and greater literary or historical sophistication, from students in years 2 and 3 and from Masters students. It is also widespread practice to cap very high language marks that might distort a degree profile. In some university systems, it is possible to give alternative codes that signal the difference in assessment and expectations. Collective experience suggests also:

'(a) Colleagues from other disciplines may assume that a class called "Beginners' Language" (or even ab initiolanguage) is appropriate only for (QAA) level 1. A title such as "Latin for Ancient Historians" or "Greek for Early Christian Studies" makes it clear that these classes contribute to providing a necessary skill, analogous to computing skills in the sciences. In many cases, the classes are offered as reinforcement to computer-aided language learning, which is accompanied by seminars or other forms of advice for students in different years. Students who opt to begin a language in year 2 or 3, or at Masters level, typically do so because they have realised they will need it for postgraduate study. It is a heavy workload and takes time from other options, but AHRB has made it very clear that postgraduate students must have, or must be able to acquire, appropriate research skills.

'(b) The LTSN is working on language descriptors that will help to specify the level of linguistic skill achieved by students. These levels of skill are distinct from levels in the QAA sense.'

5 Secretary

All matters dealt with under other items.

6. Treasurer.

The Council's balance as of 29/9/03 stood at 3165.88. Subscriptions for 2003-4 were still outstanding from Belfast, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Swansea, and UCL, besides the outstanding subscriptions for 2002-3 from Birkbeck and Southampton (item 3.a).

7. Bulletin

. The next issue of the Bulletin was complete except for the statistics, which were to be added; it would be ready for Council.

'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.'

(to Council)

8 Nominations and elections.

The Chair thanked the outgoing members of the Committee.

So far one formal nomination had been received for the Chair. Two further messages would be sent to departmental representatives, one a final call for nominations (deadline 31/10/03), the second containing nominees' statements.

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, it was agreed to recommend 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, Treasurer, 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.'

(action: PHB and DS).

9. Stats

(GS). The statistics had now been compiled. Salient points were:

  1. There was a slight overall increase in the number of student FTEs on 2001-2002;

  2. 'Traditional' language-based courses were slightly up on 2001-2002, but the figure was still 16% lower than 1992-3. There was, however, an 11% rise on 2001-2002 in Single Honours Ancient History and Classical Studies.

  3. There was an apparent decline numbers of mature students, though not all departments were able to provide specific data on this. There were grounds for concern about the situation of part-time students if research were to be concentrated within a few universities.

  4. Despite a rise of more than 7% in staff FTEs (both 'core' and temporary/part-time) the overall student-staff ratio worsened because of the increased intake.

The Chair thanked Prof. Shipley for his valuable work in compiling the statistics.

10 National Classics Prospectus

(NL). The National Classics Website should go live before the end of 2003. Dr Charlotte Roueché and Dr John-Gabriel Bodard would report to Council.

11 Learning and Teaching Support Network (LTSN)

11.1 Funding resource development (paper circulated). The Committee welcomed the prospect of increased funding for resource development, while feeling that the matter was better discussed at the level of individual departments.

11.2. External Examiners (paper circulated). The LTSN had asked for comment from the CUCD on the proposals by Teaching Quality Enhancement Committee (TQEC) for accreditation of external examiners. It was noted that many departments had their own induction for external examiners and that good practice was widely disseminated by existing means. The difficulty encountered by many departments in finding suitable and available examiners could be exacerbated if further centralized training and accreditation, not specific to the subject, were required. The Chair would write to Dr Hardwick.(action: EGC)

12 AOB

No matters were raised.

13. Date of next meeting

Provisionally 24/01/04.

The meeting closed at 1. 30 p. m..

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