[Council of University Classical Departments]

Minutes of the forty-first meeting of Council

Saturday, 14th November, 2009, 11 a.m.

Room G34, Senate House, London.

  1. Apologies for Absence
  2. Matters arising
  3. Chair's Report.
  4. Research Excellence Framework (REF) and CUCD's draft response to the HEFCE consultation
  5. HEFCE banding and language teaching.
  6. Treasurer's Report
  7. Institute of Classical Studies and the Joint Library.
  8. Classics Subject Centre business.
  9. CUCD Bulletin and Statistics.
  10. Elections.
  11. 12 Date of next meeting

Present: Robin Osborne (Chair, Cambridge), Bruce Gibson (Secretary, Liverpool), Adam Bartley (Treasurer, Kent), Andrew Bayliss (Birmingham), Charlotte Behr (Roehampton), George Boys-Stones (Durham), Gillian Clark (Bristol), James Davidson (Warwick), Glenys Davies (Edinburgh), Catharine Edwards (Birkbeck), Mike Edwards (Director, ICS, SC), Steven Green (Leeds, Elections Officer), Elena Isayev (Exeter, SC), Doug Lee (Nottingham), Miriam Leonard (UCL), Nick Lowe (Webmaster, RHUL), Phil Perkins (Open), Robert Parker (Oxford), James Richardson (Lampeter), Anne Sheppard (RHUL), Catherine Steel (Glasgow, Classics Subject Centre), Daniel Stewart (Leicester), Stephen Todd (Manchester), Matthew Wright (Exeter, SC)

1. Apologies for Absence

1. Apologies were received from: Peter Jones (Friends of Classics), Stephen Halliwell (St Andrews), Fiona McHardy (Roehampton, SC, Editor of the CUCD Bulletin), Paul Millett (Cambridge, SC), Christopher Pelling (Oxford, SC), Jonathan Powell (RHUL, SC), Malcolm Schofield (Cambridge), Jakob Wisse (Newcastle, SC).

2. Minutes of the last Council (15th November 2008). These were approved.

3. Matters arising

4. Chair's Report.

  1. European Reference Index in the Humanities (ERIH). The Chair reported that there were signs of discordant views within the European Science Foundation (ESF) on the direction of this project. Various research councils (including ESRC within the UK) had commissioned a report (the Scoping Project) on the flaws of various databases for assessing research in the social sciences and humanities but with the predetermined aim of designing a new database project rather than acknowledge that the problems could not realistically be solved. A conference had been held about this in Berlin in October at which A-HUG had been represented. It was possible that the new project could pose greater problems in the future than ERIH itself, but the time for action by CUCD had not yet arrived.
  2. Research Impact. It was noted that both the AHRC and other bodies (the British Academy, RCUK) were engaging the subject associations in discussions about the role of impact, and that the REF consultation was currently the central focus for this issue.
  3. AHRC research leave schemes and panel structures. Concern was expressed at how AHRC was defining the needs of replacement teaching. It was agreed that CUCD should usefully pool information from different institutions, and to gather feedback about experiences of the application processes. In discussion, anecdotal evidence of institutional topslicing of AHRC funding intended for replacement teaching was reported, while the system of rolling applications was felt in some quarters to be adding delay to the announcement of results. As well as information on research schemes, it was agreed that it would be beneficial to prospective postgraduate students if member departments also shared information on the AHRC's Block Grant Process and on internal schemes for postgraduate funding, and that co-ordinated publication of funding opportunities at regular intervals on the CUCD webpage would be useful.

5. Research Excellence Framework (REF) and CUCD's draft response to the HEFCE consultation

The Chair thanked colleagues who had contributed comments and suggestions. It was noted that HEFCE may have little freedom of movement, so that it was difficult to be certain on the best mode of response, especially in the light of a General election in 2010. It was agreed that a positive tone might be adopted in the response whenever possible, provided that there was no dilution in expression of the substance of CUCD's concerns. In preliminary discussion, colleagues noted that the process of measuring impact would be extremely expensive, as it was unlikely that the 'users' envisaged in the consultation document would donate substantial amounts of time on a voluntary basis, and that it would be absurd to attempt to measure the impact of every output, rather than use case studies.

The draft document was then discussed in detail. General issues raised included: the submission of retired staff to the REF return and the need to protect departments with an especially young profile of staff in situations where several retirements had recently taken place, and the problems of double-weighted outputs. After taking a vote, Council decided to recommend that submission of three rather than four outputs would be desirable in the REF exercise, though it was agreed that there were risks that this might encourage institutions to apply more pressure on staff to produce monographs. It was acknowledged that political pressures meant that impact was likely to count for at least 15%. On the issue of possible partners, there was substantial opposition to Classics being part of the same unit of assessment as History. If Classics had to join with other subjects, it was suggested that small partners who were most conscious of their own distinct nature as a discipline were likely to be the best match for Classics. It was agreed to emphasise the international dimension of 'users' of research, which appeared to have been ignored in the consultation document, and to note that measurement of the impact of interdisciplinary work was even more likely to be unreliable. It was agreed that 7-8 years would be the most satisfactory length to the assessment period, on the basis that the length of the period should counted from the time of proper establishment of the rules that would be in force.

After discussion of the draft CUCD response, it was agreed that CUCD contacts would be sent a final draft incorporating revisions made during the meeting.

6. HEFCE banding and language teaching.

It was noted that only one department appeared to have been successful in the past in having its teaching of ancient languages counted as Band C. Prof. Steel reported on the recent Scottish Funding Council consultation, which was likely to see some uplift in funding for all institutions at which there are Classics departments. The situation for Classics in Scotland would remain unchanged, but Archaeology would be dropping to Band D. In discussion it was agreed that it would be worth CUCD seeking to have Classics language teaching generally counted in Band C.

7. Treasurer's Report

The Treasurer tabled a report giving a breakdown of CUCD expenditure and income in the past year. The current estimated balance stood at £5207.69. A brief discussion followed on how CUCD might spend some of its accumulated balance, with suggestions including inviting speakers when there was a particular need, and meetings or conferences organised under the auspices of CUCD.

8. Institute of Classical Studies and the Joint Library.

The Director reported that some of the long-standing problems that had beset the ICS were now resolved. The University of London and the Hellenic and Roman Societies had made a 5-year agreement during the summer. Significant fundraising would now be needed by the Societies, in order to meet recurrent annual costs in the region of £70-80K. The move back to the South Block had taken place in August, and the library was now fully open on the third floor, though some security issues were still being addressed. The offices of the ICS were now on the second floor, together with the Hellenic and Roman Society offices, while the CA, JACT, and the BSA (who would shortly be moving back to premises in the British Academy) were on the third floor. The Council offered its warmest appreciation and congratulations to the Director for having secured so satisfactory a result for the ICS and the Joint Library in what had appeared such unpromising circumstances.

9. Classics Subject Centre business.

The Classics Subject Centre Director noted that there had been two developments since her report to the Standing Committee meeting in October: i): Reading had made a proposal for running a language 'boot camp' for postgraduate students to CSC, and had been asked to submit a business plan; ii) a day would be organised on 23rd June which would deal with teaching within the pressures of a research environment in Classics and Archaeology. In discussion, the Director noted that it was important to make use of the CSC's available funds during the current year, and that it was a good time in which to submit bids for funding. The future of funding after July 2010 was unclear, especially with a general election on the way.

10. CUCD Bulletin and Statistics.

The Secretary reported that hard copies of the Bulletin (including the annual statistics) would be posted to departments that had requested them, and that the electronic version would be placed on the CUCD website by the Webmaster.

11. Elections.

It was noted that Prof. Osborne had been duly proposed and seconded for re-election to the position of Chair of CUCD, for he which he was the sole candidate, and Council welcomed his election for a second term. The Elections Officer noted that there were five candidates for three ordinary vacancies on the Standing Committee: Dr Owen Hodkinson (Lampeter), Dr Jessica Hughes (Open), Dr Elena Isayev (Exeter), who was standing for election to a second term, Dr Miriam Leonard (UCL), and Dr Ulrike Roth (Edinburgh) The elections were then conducted according to the Alternative Vote method laid down by the constitution. Dr Green agreed to count the votes after the meeting and to report to the Chair and Secretary on the results. The Chair expressed thanks on behalf of CUCD for all those whose terms on SC were coming to an end.

12 Date of next meeting

It was agreed that the 2010 meeting of Council would take place on Saturday 13 November, at 2 pm.


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