[Council of University Classical Departments]

Minutes of the 124th meeting of the Standing Committee

Saturday 13 June 2009, 2 pm

Room NG16, Senate House, University of London, London WC1E 7HU.

  1. Apologies for Absence
  2. Minutes of Last meeting.
  3. Matters arising
  4. Chair's Report
  5. ICS and the Joint Library
  6. HEFCE banding and language teaching
  7. Subject Centre Business
  8. College Greek Exam in the USA
  9. Graduate Funding and the AHRC Block Grant Partnership (BGP)
  10. CUCD Elections
  11. Treasurer's Report
  12. Webmaster
  13. Bulletin
  14. Date of next meeting

Present: Robin Osborne (Cambridge; Chair), Bruce Gibson (Liverpool; Secretary), Adam Bartley (Kent; Treasurer), Mike Edwards (Director, ICS), Elena Isayev (Exeter), Nick Lowe (RHUL; Webmaster), Fiona McHardy (Roehampton; Editor of the Bulletin), Christopher Pelling (Oxford), Jonathan Powell (RHUL), Christopher Rowe (Durham; Subject Centre), Jakob Wisse (Newcastle upon Tyne).

1. Apologies for Absence

Apologies were received from Steven Green (Leeds), Peter Jones (Friends of Classics), Paul Millett (Cambridge), John Morgan (Swansea), Gill Partington (JACT), Mirjam Plantinga (Lampeter), James Robson (Open; Languages), Matthew Wright (Exeter).

2. Minutes of Last meeting.

The minutes of the meeting of 14 February 2009 were received and approved.

3. Matters arising

Item 6: Languages: Classes and Levels of Ability. It was agreed to change the phrasing of the opening line of this minute from 'a member department being prevented by its University' to 'a member department possibly being prevented by its University', since the matter had now been resolved internally to the satisfaction of the department in question.

All other matters arising were covered under other agenda items minuted below.

4. Chair's Report

  1. European Reference Index for the Humanities. There were as yet no developments: a meeting between subject associations and representatives of the European Science Foundation (ESF) would be arranged.
  2. Research Excellence Framework. There was little concrete to report on this: there were few signs of radical approaches going substantially beyond RAE2008, and there had been some hints that metrics might not play such a large role in Humanities disciplines.
  3. AHRC Annual Meeting with Subject Associations. The Chair had attended this on 28 May 2009. Issues discussed had included research themes and partnerships, and training and support for PG students. On the training of research students, the emphasis now was on specific training needs tailored to individual subjects. There had also been discussion of impact and the problems of defining and demonstrating it to government, which were concerns across the range of funding councils. It was also noted that the subject associations with which AHRC was engaging were somewhat variable in scope and size.

5. ICS and the Joint Library

The Director reported his hopes that some resolution of major issues was in prospect. Negotiations with the Librarian of the UoL had achieved ring-fencing of ICS from the University's convergence policy. Both Societies would be contributing sums of c. £20K per annum to cover costs, with the ICS responsible for the shortfall. The most recent figures showed higher costs, but the balancing of finances appeared to be easier than at previous stages in the negotiations, as a result of the contributions from the Societies. A meeting was planned for 24 June between the Director, the VC of the UoL, and the two Presidents of the Societies. The ICS would be paying a figure of £225/m2 in rent for space.

The move back to the South Block was scheduled to begin on 6 July 2009, with the library reopening on 27 July, with the customary annual closure to follow later in August. Some changes to the configuration of the library would be necessary: the new University policy on Senate House library meant that the basement would be vacated, there would no shelving in staff offices on account of Health and Safety, and there was still uncertainty about the presence of an entrance desk.

The SC reaffirmed its support for the huge contribution made by library staff. It was noted that Sophie Fisher was retiring, and that the staffing level would fall from six to five as a consequence, the same level of staffing which the library had operated with when it had been in Gordon Square.

6. HEFCE banding and language teaching

The Secretary reported that only one institution had reported that its language teaching was rated as being in HEFCE band C. It was agreed that language teaching should be treated as a major issue at the November Council meeting and this might be the occasion to take the issue forward in a concerted fashion.

7. Subject Centre Business

Prof. Rowe, the Director, was thanked for his huge contribution on the occasion of his last appearance at a CUCD SC. He reported that he and colleagues were winding up the activities of the Centre in Durham, and were putting in place a skeleton events programme for the coming session, and adding materials to the website. Eleanor OKell would be continuing in post for three months to handle the transition. The Mapping Project was approaching its main outcomes, and the data and preliminary report were expected in due course. The proposed idea of a language 'boot camp' for PG and PGCE students was beginning to attract momentum, and a feasibility study had been undertaken by Cressida Ryan; interested institutions would be able to see documents on how equivalent schemes were operated in the USA, and there was also a likelihood of funding from a donor which would replace the sum of £5K originally earmarked for this project by the Classics Subject Centre (CSC). The Director also reported that a second phase of the Classics in the Marketplace initiative was in prospect, with Peter Jones and Jeannie Cohen expressing interest in taking this forward.

On the future of the CSC, the Director noted that funding had only recently become available, and for one year rather than three years, and that this had caused a delay in advertising for the next Director (it was noted that the History Subject Centre would have to wait even longer, until a review of HEA had been conducted by HEFCE).

In discussion it was noted that while History, based in Warwick, was seeking its own separate Subject Centre, any split was likely to be de facto than de iure, since HEA, which itself was under review, was not seeking to increase the total number of Subject Centres. From the point of view of Classics, it was essential to advertise as soon as possible, and this was now moving forward, with the funding likely to permit a part-time secondment at up to Senior Lecturer level. The selection process would involve the past and present Chairs of the Advisory Board, and the CUCD Chair. The post of CSC Director could be held anywhere, though the CSC itself (and the post of co-ordinator) would be based in Liverpool It was also suggested that a revision of current arrangements for Classics and Archaeology would see a Classics and Archaeology advisory board which would oversee both financial and academic issues, though the contingent nature of any decisions based on the uncertain financial climate, especially after the next general election, was noted.

8. College Greek Exam in the USA

Dr McHardy reported on the College Greek Exam which was being developed as a nationwide test in the USA, and was designed as a standard qualification. It was suggested that the scheme might be of potential use in PGCE courses in the UK, though it was recognised that participation by UK students in the test might be a complex process. Dr McHardy agreed to look at the possibility of piloting the test at Roehampton.

9. Graduate Funding and the AHRC Block Grant Partnership (BGP)

It was noted that the hasty implementation by the AHRC of the first year of the scheme's operation had seen a mass of un-coordinated advertisements offering local funding from UK departments; potential graduate students would be better served by a less haphazard process of advertising additional opportunities for funding. It was agreed that it would be useful to have statistics on arriving graduate students, including details of funding from the AHRC and elsewhere. Concerns were also expressed about the way in which the BGP was being administered, and how internal strategic decisions might have affected the available opportunities in Classics.

10. CUCD Elections

The Secretary reported on the membership of SC. There would be four vacancies, three for membership of SC, and one for the Chair. Dr Millett and Prof. Morgan would be completing their second term of three years in November, and were not eligible for re-election. The Chair would complete his first three-year term in November, and had indicated his willingness to stand for election as Chair, and Dr Isayev was also eligible for re-election in November as a member of SC. It was agreed that Dr Green would be invited to act as Elections Officer [an invitation which he accepted subsequent to the meeting], and that members of SC should encourage individuals to stand for election.

11. Treasurer's Report

The Treasurer reported a balance of £3658.44. Subscriptions had been requested for the current year without any increase on the previous year's rate. It was reported that the invoice for last year's Bulletin had been paid, and that there was a safety net of around £3.5K. It was agreed that the October meeting of SC would consider ways in which CUCD could use its current funds, and that possible priorities such as a one-day conference on language teaching would be considered.

12. Webmaster

It was noted that the CUCD website now contained a link for downloading the annual statistics form and accompanying instructions.

13. Bulletin

The importance of sending in the statistics as soon as possible was noted. The content of this year's issue would include discussion of special needs students and the role of podcasting. Further submissions would be welcomed, and the Editor would contact Will Griffiths to invite an article on WJEC Latin. It was agreed that Dr Lowe would help the Editor with distribution, and that contacts should be reminded that they would be carrying copies back for distribution to their departments at the November Council.

14. Date of next meeting

It was agreed that the next meeting would take place on Saturday, 17 October, at 2 pm.


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