[Council of University Classical Departments]

Minutes of the 113th meeting of Standing Committee

Saturday, 15th October, 2005, 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
    1. Personalia
    2. Subject Centre
    3. Response to HEFCE about the RAE
    4. AHRC Panel and Peer Review College: call for nominations
    5. AHRC Consultation on Doctoral Research
    6. AHRC Consultation on Specialist Networks
    7. Enhancement of public profile
    8. CA conference
    9. International Baccalaureate
    10. Parliament
    11. C-Web
    12. CUCD web site
    13. QAA Regional Seminar
    14. Burgess Report
    15. Subject Banding.
  5. Subject Centre
  6. Business for Council
  7. Elections
  8. QAA Benchmarking
  9. Secretary's Report
  10. Bulletin
  11. Treasurer's Report
  12. Statistics
  13. ICS move
  14. Classics in the Marketplace
  15. AOB
  16. Date of the next meeting


Present: Graham Shipley (chair), Patty Baker (minutes), Jonathan Powell, John Morgan, Mirjam Plantinga, Costas Panayotakis, Peter O'Neill, Susanna Phillippo, Fiona McHardy, Nick Lowe, Philip Hardie.
In attendance (up to item 5): Richard Williams (Project Officer, Subject Centre) vice Christopher Rowe.


1. Apologies for Absence

Apologies were received from Philip Burton, James Robson, Christopher Rowe, Peter Jones, Paul Millett, Mike Edwards, Gill Partington.


2. Minutes of Last meeting

GS would send the Secretary minor changes.


3. Matters Arising


4. Chair's Report

i. Personalia
The meeting noted with regret the deaths of Frank Lepper (Oxford) and Guy Lee.

ii. Subject Centre
GS had represented CUCD during the appointment of the new Project Office, Richard Williams.

iii. Response to HEFCE about the RAE
GS had responded on the basis of the plentiful comments sent by departments. The suggestion that individuals could self-nominate one book as counting for two items had caused unease. GS had suggested that the panel have discretion to identify outstanding works at the outset. SP asked if there were guidelines for this submission; GS responded that this was too much work and it was better not to try to achieve fine-tuned rules which might tie things down in unexpected way. However, everything suggested the RAE panels (Classics and Archaeology) were sensitive to issues. Philip Hardie offered to discuss this at the RAE panel meeting.
iv. AHRC Panel and Peer Review College: call for nominations
Malcolm Schofield was nominated by CUCD as a possible panellist. In the PRC, Classics was well covered. As this request would recur periodically, it was important to check the AHRC web site where members of the PRC are listed.

v. AHRC Consultation on Doctoral Research
P. Baker, who had handled this on the Chair's behalf, reported no response from CUCD members. It was agreed that two of AHRC's firm recommendations were worth seizing upon: the proposal to offer grants for longer MAs and for an extra year of Ph.D. study in certain cases, This would be especially useful for languages and for specialist options such as epigraphy and papyrology. P. Baker to write on behalf of CUCD in support of this. ACTION P. Baker.
vi. AHRC Consultation on Specialist Networks
The AHRC had asked for information on support groups or specialist research groups, to ensure that peer-review is done fairly. So far only the Women's Classical Caucus and Lambda (a group supporting sexual minorities) had come to light; the latter apparently has no UK members, however. GS had sent these names in.

vii. Enhancement of public profile
Emma Stafford is now the CA's publicity officer and we should develop active contacts with her.
viii. CA conference
GS was liasing with some PGs to see what the CUCD panel should cover.
ix. International Baccalaureate
A question was raised about what, if any, effect the International Baccalaureate would have on ancient history papers. SP to ask Donald Hill about this, as he marks for IB exams. ACTION SP.
x. Parliament.
MPs and peers were keen to form an All-Party Group for Classics. This could have two aspects: political pressure for classics and social events with guest speakers.
xi. C-Web (Classics.ac.uk)
Questions were to be raised at the CA council meeting in November about the development of the web page. Questions to be addressed to Douglas Cairns.
xii. CUCD web site
Nick Lowe reported that he is updating various aspects of the web site. CUCD thanked him for his hard work at a time of pressure. He is digitising the contents of all the back issues of the Bulletin, starting with the ones he has.

xiii. QAA Regional Seminar
Graham Shipley to attend the seminar on December 13, 2005, about Securing and Maintaining Academic standards.

xiv. Burgess Report
Two consultation documents had been published by Universities UK. The main document was mooting changes to degree classification (e.g. simply Distinction - Pass - Fail) in relation to student transcripts (with enriched information including data drawn from the Personal Development Plan). There was much discussion of this and of the problems of changing the system of marking. 'Pass' was liable to lead to disgruntlement, nearly all students attaining the same grade on very different performances; it currently connoted weak performance. Employers might want precisely the kind of 'gold standard' currently expressed as II.1. Should a 'merit' replace it, i.e. a 4-point rather than 3-point scale? Without it, how would parity be achieved? JP raised the point that our class descriptors were anchored to definitions of II.1, II.2 etc.; remove the classes and how do you define the meaning of different marks on a numerical scale? The second document, on credits, raised the spectre of the over-strict application of level descriptors. GS to consult CUCD Contacts over the issues. ACTION GS.
xv. Subject Banding.
Questions had been raised again over which subjects deserved to be in higher bands. Languages are labour intensive, and it was noted that modern languages are generally placed in high bands. Classical archaeology was also singled out as labour-intensive. The Secretary could be asked to survey CUCD Contacts for information in confidence; GS would phone HEFCE to see what their advice was and what criteria they might use. ACTION P. Burton, GS.


5. Subject Centre

RW reported that the Subject Centre would be holding meetings with departments. There would be consultations on subjects such as reflective learning. GS noted that the Advisory Panel had been restructured, and welcomed the offer a place for the CUCD chair. CR had noted previously that the Advisory Panel was keen to create links with CUCD, HEFCE, etc. CR would speak at Council about this and other issues. Other issues mentioned included the need to encourage and develop schoolchildrens interest in classics. The Centre would arrange for special sessions on this. GS thanked RW for attending.


6. Business for Council

The head of research for the AHRC, Tony McEnery, would address Council before lunch. GS asked for suggestions as to specific issues to be addressed. They might include the recent changes to funding, and future policy options; the move away from the managed project (researcher + RAs) to the project grant (collaborative, cross-institution) model. Will the lone scholar be fostered? SP would like to ask about the relationship between the public and private sectors.
There were still problems about the location for Council. The imminent move of the ICS was problematic, though it was reported that it might be delayed until December. The Warburg had been approached, but cannot offer lunch. Other venues were suggested, including hotels (e.g. Tavistock? Holiday Inn?).


7. Elections

The Secretary had been handling this, as CP (Elections Officer) was a candidate for re-election. The Treasurer and Secretary were due to demit, as were CP and SP among ordinary members. With the exception of the Secretary, however, all were willing to serve a second term. Nominations had been received for all three willing to stand again; Dr Bruce Gibson (Liverpool) was the only nominee for Secretary. Secretary to e-mail Contacts requesting seconders for all four. If a seconder were found for a candidate, s/he would be declared elected at Council and no further nominations or ballots needed. Secretary also to ask all four candidates to submit c.100 words in their cause. ACTION P. Burton.


8. QAA Benchmarking

There was much discussion over the revision to the Benchmarking Document. GS reported on Robin Osbornes update, and JP set out the latest issues arising from QAAs comments on our initial suggestions. SC thanks the working group (RO, JP, SP, and Christopher Smith) for their work. GS to ask RO whether it was known what use had been made of the Benchmark; if necessary, the Secretary could canvass Contacts for information. It was noted that it could be particularly useful when setting up new courses or defending language teaching within universities from the over-right application of level descriptors (e.g. beginners Greek in year 2/3 or at MA). Whether MA programmes should have a benchmarking statement was a good question but possibly one for the (near) future. If possible, could RO present a draft text to Council? ACTION GS/P. Burton


9 Secretary's Report

It was noted that BG, if elected, might not be able to attend the first meeting after Council, and that P. Burton had kindly offered to attend to take minutes. SC thanked the Secretary in his absence for this offer, and for all his hard work since 2002.


10. Bulletin.

FMcH reported that among articles to be included in the Bulletin would be a paper by Charles Martindale with a response from Chris Rowe. Tom Harrison had contributed a piece on teaching ancient history. GSs short speech at Parliament was to be included, along with his index of previous Bulletins. PM was almost finished with the statistics. GS had still to write his Chairs report.

The layout has changed to a two-column design. There was a discussion about whether the Bulletins should be available on the web in PDF or word format; NL felt both were desirable. GS thanked FMcH for her hard work.


11. Treasurer's Report

P. Baker reported that the funds stood at £3,762.69. 600 would be paid for the Parliament reception and another 200300 for the Bulletin. Most universities had paid their 2005-6 subscription though a number were still awaited. She would write to these in the next week or two to remind them.


12. Statistics

PM sent word through GS that he was waiting for the last couple of returns. It was suggested that a good tactic in future might be to write directly to the Head of a dilatory department requesting the statistics.


13. ICS move

ME sent word through GS that the move may be delayed, and that the Library should only be closed for a week, whilst it is moved. JP gave the London perspective. It was agreed that CUCD should offer to help when asked but that there might be nothing we could do at the moment to help matters.


14. Classics in the Marketplace.

SP reported that Ardal MacMahon (OU) had compiled a number of questionnaires to consider how classics students fared in the job market. There were separate questionnaires for students, employers and departments. Some questions had been raised by PJ about the manner in which the questions are to be answered. The main points are: is the questionnaire going to yield adequate data for its purpose, what form is the final output to take, and who is it meant to reach? There was a suggestion that AMacM might issue follow-up guidance (to his e-mail circular) as to the best way to complete the questionnaire and as to its purpose. SP agreed to discuss these issues with him, RW and CR.


15. AOB

No other issues were raised.


16. Date of the next meeting.

11 February was agreed. GS suggested a regular 4-month spacing and suggested we fix the June meeting for either 3 or 10 June. The Secretary would be asked to e-mail SC members asking for availability in June (so that those not present today could have a view).

With that the meeting closed at 13:35.


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