[Council of University Classical Departments]

Minutes of the 121st meeting of the Standing Committee

Saturday 21 June 2008, 11.30 am

Room 274, Stewart House, 32 Russell Square, London WC1E 7HU.

  1. 1. Apologies for Absence
  2. 2. Minutes of Last meeting
  3. 3. Matters Arising
  4. 4. Chair's Report
  5. 5. ICS and the Joint Library
  6. 6. Roehampton employability event
  7. 7. JACS coding
  8. 8. New OCR syllabuses
  9. 9. Classics Subject Centre
  10. 10. Secretary's Business
  11. 11. Treasurer's Report
  12. 12. Elections
  13. 13. Webmaster
  14. 14. Bulletin
  15. 15. Statistics
  16. 16. Date of next meeting

Present: Robin Osborne (Cambridge; Chair), Bruce Gibson (Liverpool; Secretary), Patty Baker (Kent; Treasurer), Mike Edwards (Director, ICS), Steven Green (Leeds), Elena Isayev (Exeter), Nick Lowe (RHUL; Webmaster), Fiona McHardy (Roehampton; Editor), John Morgan (Swansea), Susanna Phillippo (Newcastle upon Tyne), Mirjam Plantinga (Lampeter), Jonathan Powell (RHUL).

1. Apologies for Absence

Apologies were received from Peter Jones (Friends of Classics), Paul Millett (Cambridge; Statistics), Gill Partington (JACT), Costas Panayotakis (Glasgow; Elections), Christopher Pelling (Oxford), James Robson (Open; Languages), Christopher Rowe (Durham; Subject Centre).

2. Minutes of Last meeting.

The minutes of the meeting of 9 February 2008 were received and approved.

3. Matters Arising

Item 5, iii: Beacons for Public Engagement: The Chair reported that he had been in correspondence with various relevant departments, but significant developments were still awaited.

Item 8: Temporary Lecturers: The Chair noted that some departments had reported that the protocol had proved useful in dealing with HR departments. UCU had declined to endorse the document.

Item 5, i: Equivalent and Lower Qualifications: The Select Committee's firm response to education ministers on this issue was welcomed. It was noted that the Church of England had managed to secure a separate favourable agreement in respect of ELQ.

Item 5, ii: ERIH: The Chair reported that since the February meeting with European Science Foundation representatives, opposition to ERIH had increased considerably, with various subject associations joining the campaign; there was also greater awareness elsewhere in Europe, with the possibility that European scholars might begin to mobilise as well. Attempts to press AHRC on the issue had, however, been met with bland responses. It was felt that that the new Arts and Humanities User Group (AHUG) would be an appropriate focus for continuing to apply concerted pressure on the AHRC in relation to this. In discussion, it was also noted that the grading of Hermathena as a C journal had caused deep concern in TCD, and this raised the issue of whether another move against ERIH might be to invite journals to consider withdrawing from the ERIH list; the support and involvement of A-list journals would clearly be essential.

Item 10: Response to HEFCE consultation on the Research Excellence Framework (REF): There had been no official developments with regard to the REF, and it was unclear where the REF was going. It had been noted that some science bodies had voiced strong opposition to a system wholly based on metrics. There had been varying and contradictory reports that there was a push for peer review to be an element across the board in all disciplines, and that there was a move to stiffen and enhance the metrics element in arts subjects.

Item 9: Cuts to AHRC funding: The Chair had been in correspondence with the Leverhulme Trust about the possibility of Leverhulme taking an interest in providing PG studentships, but the response had not been positive.

4. Chair's Report

  1. Arts and Humanities User Group (AHUG): After some debate, AHUG had emerged as the acronym for the co-ordinating body for arts and humanities subject associations. Some 25 organisations had joined AHUG, though associations in larger subjects such as English and History were currently more cautious about being involved. Every letter sent by AHUG would clearly indicate which individual subject associations had agreed to act collectively on particular issues. It was unanimously agreed that CUCD should formally join AHUG, and that the Chair should act as the AHUG contact.
  2. AHRC matters: A meeting had been organised by the AHRC on 1 May 2008 for learned societies and subject associations, in an attempt to massage concerns over AHRC cuts. While the main presentation and question and answer session had been deliberately organised so as to stifle debate and criticism entirely, Prof. Shearer West, the new Director of Research at the AHRC, had made a more positive presentation, which raised the possibility of a less adversarial relationship between the AHRC and subject associations. It was noted that it might be useful for AHUG to organise and maintain control of liaison events to which AHRC figures could be invited.
    On a separate issue, the AHRC summary of issues raised at the consultation meeting which Professor Powell had attended about the future of the subject panels had borne little relationship to what was said at that meeting. It appeared that the AHRC was pressing on with the panel reorganisation despite the grave reservations voiced by those with intimate knowledge of the current system. The outlook was not encouraging: it was likely that there would be even less expert judgement on projects and applications in the future.
  3. Teacher Training in the UK: Concern was expressed at the possibility that the number of places for training of classics teachers in the UK was now smaller than the typical annual number of classics teaching positions advertised. The Graduate Teacher Programme (GTP), with training provided in post, was an important route into classics teaching. The Chair had been in discussion with JACT, and it was agreed that, should CUCD support be needed for any action JACT took with regard to safeguarding teacher training in classics, the Chair would act accordingly on behalf of CUCD. Members of SC noted their concerns at the perception that teacher training institutions still appeared, in spite of longstanding discussion on the issue, to envisage language preparation solely in terms of A-level qualifications, rather than taking into account qualifications in classical languages achieved at university level by candidates for teacher training.

5. ICS and the Joint Library

The Director reported on developments. There had been no change in relation to the position of the Hellenic and Roman Societies: their agreement to sign an agreement with the UoL was conditional upon a grant of listed building consent by Camden Borough Council, which was still awaited; there was no guarantee that the plans for the third floor entrance would be approved, but the Director was hopeful that they would be. No binding agreement had been finalised.

With regard to the HEFCE review of the SAS, the Director noted that in full economic costing the Crewe report had identified a £5 million deficit. This deficit was being addressed through a policy of efficiency gains of 5% per annum over a five year period. Though the ICS had nevertheless received a notional 70% increase in funding, library funding was being cut. Topslicing had been applied since 2005 over three years, and for the next year's allocation, there would be a 5% efficiency gain, which would have serious effects on SAS libraries, including the Classics Library. A figure in excess of £50000 had been presented as the annual deficit for the ICS library at the University Council, which could have serious consequences.

The Library Committee of the Directorate had been reorganised, and would now be chaired by Prof. Edwards. The Director noted the importance of resisting the UoL's convergence policy, so as to prevent redeployment of some of the ICS library staff.

The Director reported that because SAS libraries were funded by HEFCE funding, a business plan for reducing the deficit had been required. Since in the new SAS Resource Allocation Method losing library staff would also entail losing a percentage of funding, members of SC were relieved to hear that this was not a viable option, even though many staff on temporary contracts in other SAS libraries seemed likely to lose their posts. Fundraising seemed to be the only possible recourse for the ICS.

It was likely that the move of the Institute back to the South Block, officially scheduled for Christmas 2008, would be delayed, increasing the risk of a move during term. It was also noted that the Warburg was considering a legal challenge against the convergence policy in relation to its Deed of Transfer.

It was agreed that CUCD would be ready to act in support of the Institute, should such help be required.

6. Roehampton employability event

Dr McHardy reported that Prof. Rowe and the Classics Subject Centre had been very positive in their response, as had JACT. The potential for involvement by Friends of Classics was also noted. Three sessions were planned, one of which would be theoretical in character. The remaining two sessions would deal with classics graduates and employers and with work placements. It was suggested that this event might usefully take place in September, and be timed close to the Teaching Ancient Languages event in London. The SC expressed their full support, and it was agreed that funding up to £300 would be provided if needed.

7. JACS coding

Prof. Powell reported that HESA was seeking to monitor provision of courses within degree programmes, and expressed concern at the possibility of wholesale mapping of UCAS codes down to a lower level, which would give a false impression of what was going on inside degree programmes (there was thus no JACS code for Greek archaeology, for example). It was agreed that co-ordination between universities would be valuable, and that Prof. Powell would draft a letter to HESA offering CUCD's help in refining the JACS codes to give a clearer and more reliable picture of the subject.

8. New OCR syllabuses

It was noted that while there had been some redesign of OCR GCSE syllabuses so as to make Latin and Greek uniform, there was now less flexibility within the courses. While the increase in the language element was welcome, there was a concomitant risk that this might discourage students from taking the subject. Some of the old options, such as Roman Life, had been pruned. JACT was currently in dialogue with OCR, and believed that their concerns were being heard. It was agreed that CUCD would stand ready to act in support of JACT, should JACT request this.

9. Classics Subject Centre

The documents which had previously been circulated from the CSC (the operational plan for 2008-9, a report on activities for 2007-8, and a list of planned future activities) were received and welcomed. It was noted that the Mapping Project was now fully underway, and that the Subject Centre itself would be moving to Liverpool with effect from 1 August 2008. There would be a 10% increase in the Classics budget in the next session.

10. Secretary's Business

i) Meeting between Friends of Classics and the Schools Minister, Jim Knight (15 May 2008): Peter Jones had reported on four issues: a) The Minister had agreed that the Classics teacher training programme should be rationalised and made more coherent, and that b) a two-tier system for Latin GCSE would be a good idea, to cater for those with differing prior experience; c) the Minister had, however, declined to offer more than the evanescent possibility of very modest sums of matching government funding for the Appeal for Classics, and had also d) declined to consider counting classical languages as the language element in the assessment of a school's language performance within the national curriculum. Michael Gove, MP, the shadow education spokesman, had indicated informally to Peter Jones that he would be willing to be investigate how Latin might be made to count.

ii) Validation of MA language modules: Prof. Powell had noted that that there was potentially an issue regarding the validation of elementary language courses as credit-bearing components of an MA programme. After a brief discussion of the situation in various universities, it was agreed that it would be useful to raise the issue of MA benchmarking again, and to have it as an agendum at the November Council meeting.

11. Treasurer's Report

The Treasurer reported that the balance currently stood at £3372.14. Requests for subscriptions had recently been sent out. It was noted with some surprise that no bill for producing the 2007 Bullletin had yet been received from Roehampton.

12. Elections

Dr Panayotakis' draft election document for the elections which would take place at the November Council was tabled and approved. There was brief discussion of the impending vacancies on the SC.

13. Webmaster

It was reported that the website had again been updated.

14. Bulletin

The Editor noted that the 2008 issue would engage with the issue of employability, and that she was keen to hear from anyone interested in contributing in this area.

15. Statistics

The request for annual statistics had recently been sent out to departments.

16. Date of next meeting

It was agreed that the next meeting would take place on Saturday, 11 October at 1 pm, and that luncheon would be provided.

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