Christopher Rowe

A written report from the Chair (please note the change from 'Chairman', approved by the last meeting of Council) again seems appropriate. Thanks to assiduous use of e-mail facilities, I have managed a good deal more consultation this year, and I know that many on my circulation list (mainly Heads of Departments, or ex-Heads of Departments, and Standing Committee members) make a habit of consulting their colleagues before responding to my circulars. However this is still likely to leave many out of the loop; moreover it is probably in any case a good idea to look back and reflect on the implications of what has been going on during the year.

What has certainly emerged, once more, is that CUCD as currently structured is not well-placed - either structurally or financially - to deal with the sheer quantity of business that, in common with other subject associations, it is now expected to handle. Although both the Funding Councils and the QAA appear regularly either to forget to contact us or to lose our address, both officially recognize the importance of consulting with subject associations, and fitfully use us as a conduit into particular subject-areas. In this new environment the old arrangements, with a single meeting of Council every year, and three meetings of Standing Committee, are just not adequate, insofar as - despite the benefits of e-mail - the Chair ends up having more of a say (or at any rate this Chair feels that he has ended up having more of a say) than seems healthy in what is meant to be a representative organisation. Standing Committee has discussed the issues, and will return to them. We probably need more meetings of Standing Committee (which would require a further significant rise in subscriptions), if not of Council; we probably also need a more formal process of election to Standing Committee, and to the offices of the association; and I think a case could well be made out for working groups to handle particular issues.

I may begin the main part of my report with two items mentioned in the Postscript of the report for 1997-8 (Bulletin 27, 1998, 16-17).

  1. Professor John Davies kindly attended the Subject Association conference organised by the QAA in Manchester on 8.12.98, and produced a very full set of reports on the occasion, later circulated to members.

  2. To HEFCE Circular letter number 36/98 (on 'Subject centres to support learning and teaching in higher education'), I replied on 27.11.98, as follows:

    'CUCD proposes to respond only to a very limited number of the questions in the consultation document, observing that the time allowed for consultation has proved far from sufficient for proper and systematic discussion of the issues by those directly concerned with them. Institutions may be able to respond quickly; subject associations, whose members are widely scattered, find it rather more difficult to do so, even with the benefits of electronic communication.

    'QA.5 We are in principle in favour of support for innovation and the spread of best practice in teaching and learning, but we see considerable difficulties in establishing such support in the case of multidisciplinary areas like our own. Insofar as different disciplines may involve differing strategies, they might need to draw on expertise developed in widely different areas. Thus while on grounds of economy one might prefer unitary Subject centres, in practice a distributed system (if of a rather different kind from the one described) might have to be devloped for such subjects.

    'QA.10 The grouping of 'classical languages' with ancient history, history and archaeology in Centre 16 makes a kind of sense if 'classical languages' means 'Classics'; if it means what it says, 'classical languages' ought presumably to be with 'languages', and then the remaining areas within Classics, apart from ancient history and classical archaeology, would be unaccounted for, unless they were taken as subsumed under related non-Classical disciplines. As the response to QA.5 indicates, Classics cannot easily be accommodated within any single coherent grouping, just because of its multidisciplinary nature. A centre which attempted to develop the strategies necessary for each of the constituent disciplines of Classics would itself be extraordinarily diverse; one ancient ('historical') subject is not made akin to another just be virtue of being ancient. (Philosophy appears to be one subject altogether missing from the list: here too Classics has an interest, insofar as it includes the study of ancient philosophy.)

    'QD.2 We raise here, once more, the inadequate time allowed for consultation.'

Further business for CUCD then came thick and fast:

  1. [strictly a continuation of (a)] I requested advice from colleagues about how we should proceed to set up the Subject Benchmarking Group for Classics and Ancient History - one of the key elements in the TQA structure the QAA presently intends to introduce as a replacement for the present one. Eventually, we were formally asked to set up this Group, and after canvassing member departments for nominations, Standing Committee proposed the following names (subsequently accepted by the QAA):

    Malcolm Schofield, David Braund, Christopher Carey, Philip de Souza, Ken Dowden, Chris Emlyn-Jones, Alan Lloyd, Charles Martindale, Elizabeth Moignard, Robin Osborne, Jerry Paterson, Tessa Rajak, Charlotte Roueché, Bob Sharples, and Chris Tuplin, with (representing Modern Greek) Elizabeth Jeffreys and (representing Byzantine Studies) Margaret Mullett (Modern Greek and Byzantine Studies were included with Classics and Ancient History at the request of the QAA: both subjects initially questioned the idea, but decided to go along with it).

    Malcolm Schofield has chaired the Group, with Gillian King acting as volunteer Secretary. We were probably the first subject-area to set up its benchmarking group, for which we earned the warm thanks of the QAA at the time. The result is that Standing Committee had a draft of our benchmarking statement before it at its October meeting, whereas I gather that e.g. the Philosophy benchmarking group was due to have its first meeting only at the end of September. Our promptness is not a sign of weakness, but rather of a desire to get and keep control of the process, so far as is humanly possible. It remains to be seen whether the group have actually been given a task which is conceptually coherent (and at the time of writing the QAA in general appears to be in some disarray in its relationship with the Funding Councils). Standing Committee was broadly in favour of the draft statement, evidently finding it at any rate coherent in itself; Malcolm Schofield will introduce it to Council. He and the other members of the group, and Gillian King, deserve a considerable vote of thanks for taking this job on and doing it with such evident effect and efficiency. We must now wait to see how the QAA and the Funding Councils receive it, and how it may be used in the promised new TQA regime.

  2. [a continuation of (b)] The process towards the setting up of a 'History' Learning and Teaching Support Centre has been one of the more colourful parts of my year. Early on, we and the archaeologists began to get together, on the understanding that the decision to lump both subjects together with History was irreversible, and that as smaller subjects we would be better off working in concert. I was invited to attend a meeting of the Standing Committee of University Professors and Heads of Departments of Archaeology (SCUPHA) in York; meanwhile the History at the Universities Defence Group, chaired by Anthony Fletcher, had begun planning for a Centre which would be not only put together but actually run by the relevant subject associations. In part this was a defensive move, to prevent the field being left to the CTI (Computers in Teaching Initiative) Centre for history, archaeology, and art history in Glasgow, which looked in a strong position to bid for the new Centre. There followed an extraordinary series of meetings of historians of different colours and affiliations, including not only HUDG and Glasgow, but History 2000, the Institute of Historical Studies, and the Royal Historical Society (and others). One or more of John Davies, Bob Sharples and I attended several of these meetings, and had reports of others. There was also a meeting between HUDG, SCUPHA and CUCD with the HEFCE officer responsible for the whole initiative, Cliff Allan.

    However at a fairly early stage both we and the archaeologists began to part company with HUDG, not least because HUDG appeared to us to be proposing a heavily management-orientated Centre, remote from any centres of recognized expertise in learning and teaching matters. We joined forces with History 2000, based in Nottingham and Bath, and ultimately supported a proposal for a distributed Centre based on these two universities, with archaeology (in the persons of Lin Foxhall, David Mattingly, and others) located in Leicester and Classics (in the person of Lorna Hardwick) located at the Open University. The main strength of this proposal, we thought, was that it was built around people who were in fact already working in the development of learning and teaching.

    An enormous amount of work was put into this proposal, especially by Lorna and Lin. In the event, the Funding Councils agreed that it should go forward into the second and final stage of the bidding process, along with a separate bid from Glasgow (which had its archaeology element based in Reading, and so far as I know no detailed provision for Classics and Ancient History); a third bid, from HUDG - so I am told - was rejected. At the same time, the Councils (in fact mainly SHEFCE, who are running this particular show) made it clear privately that they preferred the Glasgow bid, mainly because it involved a securer management structure - and clearly in general they had turned their backs on the idea of a distributed Centre. However, in the second stage (which came to an end on 30.9.99) Glasgow decided to try to amalgamate its bid with ours, largely because they needed the approval of subject associations. After much hard work, on the Classics side all done by Lorna, a new consolidated bid has gone in. If this is accepted, and so far as we know it will be the only bid, the new 'History' Centre will be based in Glasgow, but the Subject Director for Classics and Ancient History will be Lorna, in the Open University, with archaeology in Leicester. I should like to express my special thanks to Lorna for her part in what has been a pretty messy affair - and also to the archaeologists (especially Clive Gamble in Southampton) who have stuck with us throughout. I fervently hope that the bid will be accepted: based where she is, Lorna will have access to all sorts of relevant resources; there should also be funding to employ the equivalent of a whole person to run an office (to be provided by the OU) and to begin the sorts of initiatives that we think necessary. There will be some continuing input into the Centre from subject associations; so far we have identified problems of limited language teaching as a priority.

    For the record, I append the text of the letters which I wrote in support (i) of the first-stage bid (based on Nottingham/Bath/Leicester/OU) and (ii) of the second-stage bid.

    1. ' I write as Chair of the Council of University Classical Departments (the recognised subject association for Classics and Ancient History) to express the full support of the Council for the relevant part of the bid for Subject Centre 18 to which this letter is attached, i.e. the part relating to Classics and Ancient History.

      'Our support is based on a number of factors. (1) The bid proposes a scheme for a distributed Centre which provides for a management and staffing structure, and a division of resources, appropriate to the perceived needs of our subject area. It concentrates resources on staff who would be able to address those needs directly, with a relatively small amount devoted to overall management within the distributed Centre. This, rather than e.g. a top-heavy model concentrating resources on an expensive Director and single staff-members covering each subject, appears to us the most obviously cost-effective arrangement, not least because of the great diversity of the area labelled as 'Classics' (see below). A strong management committee for the Centre as a whole, drawn from the three subject associations, would at the same time provide for tight control of general policy and administration. (2) We began negotiating with Leicester (covering Archaeology) and the Open University (Classics and Ancient History) on the basis that these two institutions already contained individuals and groups with a proven track record in the Learning and Teaching area relevant to the two subjects, which are in any case in some respects closely linked. Indeed, the involvement of the Open University was originally at the suggestion of CUCD, precisely because it is in the Open University that the most systematic work of the relevant sort, for Classics and Ancient History, is currently being carried out. The coupling of the Open University with Leicester, a location which - as we understand it - has the support of the archaeologists, then looked obviously attractive, not only because of the geographical proximity of the two institutions, but because there is strong representation from both Ancient History and Classical Archaeology in Leicester.

      'We have throughout remained in close contact both with the main Archaeology subject association (SCUPHA), and with the main History subject association (HUDG). It is still unclear to us exactly what scheme HUDG will propose, although they have assured us that they are entirely in favour of a distributed Centre, and are happy to have the Archaeology and Classics and Ancient History arms of such a Centre based in Leicester and the Open University. In principle, then, we should be open to involvement in any bid that may emerge from HUDG. However our latest information suggests that they are likely to propose a division of resources that would not obviously permit the type of arrangement we have negotiated with Leicester and the Open University, insofar as it would retain too large a proportion of available resources for History itself. It is our view that the needs of subject areas in terms of the dissemination of good practice and the development of learning and teaching practice do not increase in proportion e.g. to the number of those teaching in a particular area, but rather in proportion to the diversity and complexity of subject areas. (In relation to Classics and Ancient History, it is worth noting that for the next TQA round, the subject has been divided into thirteen broad sub-areas.) We are also concerned that the whole Centre, as well as its distributed arms, should be based firmly in existing expertise in the development of learning and teaching: see (1) above. Our support for any overall bid must be conditional both on this, and on what we believe to be the proper distribution of funding between the three subject areas, on which the fulfilment of the first condition in fact partly depends.

      'I should add that we have also been in communication with CTICH in Glasgow, who have recently indicated that an institutional bid either for the whole Centre, or for the History part of a distributed Centre, might be forthcoming from the University of Glasgow. Were the first to materialise, notwithstanding that we have the greatest respect for our Classical colleagues in that institution, we have no confidence, or evidence, that Glasgow could in general offer our subject area what is offered by the Leicester/Open element of the present bid.'

      The contents of this letter were endorsed by the Standing Committee of the Council of University Classical Departments at a meeting on 22 May 1999.

    2. ' This letter is to confirm the approval of the Council of University Classical Departments, the relevant Subject Association for Classics and Ancient History, of those parts relating to Classics and Ancient History of the revised bid now being entered by the University of Glasgow for the proposed Learning and Teaching Centre for History, Archaeology, and Classics and Ancient History. The bid, as it stands at today's date, appears to us, and from the point of view of our own subject-area, to provide a good compromise between the original bids made respectively by Glasgow, and by Nottingham together with Bath, Leicester, and the Open University. Our approval is of course conditional on the appropriate settlement of any matters that may be outstanding (which will in any case now be relatively minor), and also presumes that the goodwill exists on both sides to ensure that not merely the letter but also the spirit of what has been agreed in the negotiations between yourself and Dr Hardwick (on behalf of Classics and Ancient History) will be observed in the development of what we must all hope will be a successful enterprise. We in the Classics community will certainly do our best to help it to succeed, and make best use of the public money involved.

      'I should like to take this opportunity of thanking you and your colleagues [sc. in Glasgow] for the splendidly positive way in which negotiations in the whole matter have been conducted over the last few weeks. This by itself may well make the penultimate sentence in the preceding paragraph look unnecessarily negative; but in a formal letter even the obvious probably needs stating.'

  3. 2001 Research Assessment Exercise: nomination of panel members. CUCD was asked to forward its list of nominees by 11.12.98; Standing Committee duly sent in a list based on nominations made by member departments. (We included a nomination to cover classical archaeology and art history: see below [will be reference under relevant item (report on response to RAE 4/99) to omission of such coverage on panel].)

  4. Following the informal address to Council by Paul Langford, the Chairman and Chief Executive of the new Arts and Humanities Research Board, I wrote to Professor Langford after the January meeting of Standing Committee as follows:

    'The Standing Committee of the Council of University Classical Departments met last Saturday (23 January 1999), with the AHRB as one of the items on the agenda.

    'First, I should like to reiterate our thanks for your generosity in giving up your time, at such short notice, to address our Council last November. Your presentation was both illuminating and reassuring, as was your subsequent letter to Richard Janko - which you kindly copied to me, and which formed part of the background to our agenda item last Saturday.

    'In fact, our Panel members are keeping us abreast of developments, and I think I may broadly say that we are thus far happy enough with the way things are proceeding. We particularly welcome the series of AHRB seminars, which will no doubt provide an occasion to raise specific issues.

    'I thought it might, nevertheless, be helpful just to mention two points which, for the moment, remain matters of concern to us. 1. While it is reassuring that funding for Arts and Humanities will be separately ring-fenced, it is not yet clear what kinds of criteria will be used to divide up the humanities' share of the cake. Maybe these have not yet been finally decided; and perhaps there should be no cause for concern, given all the indications that the new structures will be designed for fairness and transparency. However it is not altogether easy to see how fairness might be translated into practice: thus for example any quantitative measure, or so it seems to us, would need to take into account not just (e.g.) the number of research-active staff who were working in a particular area, but the proportion of staff in a particular area who were research-active, numbers of research students, and in general the level and quality of research activity in that area. 2. Your general letter of 25 November asks for nominations for the Board and for the panels from 'institutions, learned societies and professional associations'. We are anxious that the balance in any process of consultation should be tilted towards the 'subject domains' themselves, that is, towards learned societies and professional associations; institutions, after all, are competitors for research funding, while societies and associations (we hope) act out of concern for their subject itself. But perhaps this point is too obvious to be worth making.'

  5. QAA consultation paper on qualifications frameworks: postgraduate qualifications.

    After consulting member departments, I sent the following response to the consultation paper:

    'I write to give you the response of the Council of University Classical Departments - the subject association for Classics and Ancient History at HE level - to this consultation paper. (May I use this opportunity to ask once again that the change in the chairmanship of CUCD, from Professor Richardson in Edinburgh to myself, which occurred two and a half years ago, be recorded properly in the QAA's mailing list?)

    'We prefer to respond discursively rather than completing your 'pro forma sheet', because our concerns tend to cut across many of the issues on which the Agency requests a response.

    'Our chief concerns relate to taught MA programmes. The old Humanities Research Board of the British Academy, over the last few years of its existence, instituted a regime under which students going on (or hoping to go on) to HRB-funded research would normally be expected to complete a taught MA first. This was a major factor in the shaping of the new generation of MA programmes: they were to be in the first instance programmes of preparation for research, and usually contained specific elements/modules of training in research methods and resorces. This was the HRB's rationale for funding students on such courses - as it is now for its successor body, the Arts and Humanities Research Board. Many students of course take taught MA courses in the humanities without going on to research; nevertheless it is the requirements of intending research students that have tended to take priority.

    'All of this is familiar enough, and analogous developments will have occurred in other areas. The question then must be how well the conception of taught MA programmes as preparation for research fits with the conception of progression, and particularly of a hierarchy of levels, which informs the present consultation paper. It is easy enough to imagine subject-areas in which the fit might be good, or at least passable. However, in the broad area described as 'classics' (roughly what the QAA and HEFCE continue to call 'Classical Languages', with Ancient History), the fit is likely to vary only between the passable and the poor.

    'One of the underlying reasons for this is the very wide range of different sub-areas within 'classics' (languages, literature, history, philosophy, archaeology, art history, epigraphy, and so on), which has tended to give rise to an equally wide range of options within undergraduate programmes, and indeed to significant differences of balance between programmes. The consequence is that graduates in classical subjects will often still need to develop the full range and extent of specialist knowledge and skills required for independent research in particular fields. In one way there is nothing new about this. Many of us in the old days will just have got on in the early days of our doctoral research to make up any lost ground (e.g. by learning German, how to read inscriptions, or the Greek dialects). Now, however, this is specifically - and quite properly - identified as 'research preparation', and largely separated from research proper. At the same time the diversification and (often) increasing specialization of undergraduate programmes, together with the decline of provision for the teaching of the ancient languages in schools, have meant that even the best and brightest students, the ones who will be winning AHRB postgraduate awards, will have more skills and experience in some aspects of the field but more ground to make up in others. They are likely, in particular, to have had considerably less exposure than they require to Greek and/or Latin.

    'Our problem with the consultation paper is that it appears to disallow, or not obviously to allow, the kind of programme that the set of circumstances just described plainly requires: that is, a programme that combines progression with what in the terms of the paper might count as 'conversion' - and will, perhaps in the majority of cases, include a considerable body of material, the size of which is not independently specifiable, that could in principle be studied (and sometimes will have been studied) at undergraduate level. One of the glosses to Principle XIV, 'Use of a masters title for a conversion programme would only be appropriate where outcomes have been achieved at a postgraduate level', initially seems to offer some leeway here. But that is then put in doubt by the reference back to Principle I, ' ... may include no more than a defined maximum level of credit at undergraduate honours level'. Again, it is not quite clear, here or elsewhere in the paper, exactly how postgraduate and undergraduate elements are meant to be distinguished; but the very absence of clarity on this point (on which clarity is admittedly difficult to achieve, at least in the humanities) entails that we can build little that is positive upon it.

    'The core of the matter is that many departments/schools/faculties have developed extremely flexible systems precisely in order to cater for what is now almost always a highly diverse intake to postgraduate study. This diversity is increased further by the often considerable influx of students from other European countries (and elsewhere), who will frequently have been brought up in an academic culture quite different from our own. Most of us rely in such situations on a heavy, and individually tailored, tutorial input, which once again may have little to do with the language of 'levels' - but has everything to do with progression in the sense defined or implied by the AHRB. (Here too one might hope to get by through stressing the postgraduate nature of the 'outcomes'; once again this road appears to be blocked, or made difficult, by Principle I, with its corollaries.)

    'In short, the consultation paper seems to us to propose another change of culture which is not in the interests of our students, or of the subject. It is of course perfectly possible for departments to fudge, or obscure, the issues, e.g. by teaching the same material to undergraduates and postgraduates separately; but if much of the material being taught is in fact identical (which looks as if it is the fundamental criterion here, despite the unclarity of the paper on the issue: see above), this not only looks uneconomical, but a poor way to usher in a new era of transparency and fuller articulation of what we do and mean to do. The full logical consequences of the proposals in the consultation paper are, first, that we would be prevented from doing an essential part of what we, as practitioners in the area, see as not only perfectly legitimate and possible, but necessary for students and subject (i.e., where appropriate, to combine Dearing levels H5 and H6); that many taught MA programmes would have to redesigned from the ground up, in order fully to meet the new criteria, but at the cost of not meeting those based on the requirements of research preparation; and that therefore the AHRB would need seriously to consider whether it should be funding students on taught MA programmes at all.

    'Different departments and individuals in our subject-area have different perspectives on these issues, some seeing them as very serious, others as less so, but chiefly in proportion to the degree to which they have already, post-Harris, anticipated the need to observe what they think is the letter of Principle XX. We are apparently being asked to face in two directions at once: by the QAA and the requirement for standardization on the one hand, and by the AHRB and the requirements of research on the other. We wonder about the extent to which the HRB/AHRB (or the research councils) were consulted before the consultation paper was drawn up. More urgently, we would welcome discussion with the QAA about the way forward. It would be at the least odd if MA programmes were to be rendered incapable of fulfilling one of their chief functions for the sake of appearing to meet the concerns of some stakeholders - for after all, as the same stakeholders know perfectly well, differences of quality will continue to exist between programmes even if they are labelled and described in the same way, in proportion to the quality of the environment in which they are delivered.

    'The only other issue we wish directly to address is the recommendation under Principle XIX, that in order to avoid the award of qualifications 'as compensation for failure or by default', work would have to be resubmitted for reassessment at a lower level. While there is some disquiet about the about 'the principle of awarding the same degree for an unsuccessful attempt [e.g.] at a PhD and for a successful submission by a candidate not aiming at a PhD in the first place', our near-unanimous view (to the extent that we have been able to consult our members) is that such resubmission would normally be wasteful and serve no obvious purpose. It appears to be normal practice for examiners to consider separately, when a candidate fails to match up to the criteria for one degree, whether he or she matches up to those for another - and to describe the award of a lesser degree under such circumstances as 'compensation for failure or by default' would in our view be to misdescribe it. If the candidate meets the criteria for the award of a degree, that he or she may have failed to meet the criteria for another ceases from that point of view to be relevant.'

    Note: I subsequently raised the major issues contained in this letter at an AHRB symposium in London, and followed up with a letter to Michael Jubb; both he and Paul Langford agreed that these issues were of considerable concern to the AHRB, which at least by implication had a different agenda for taught Masters programmes from the QAA.

  6. On 16.3.99, I responded to a consultation paper from the new 'Institute for Learning and Teaching':

    'ILT Consultation: The National Framework ...
    'I attach the response to this consultation of the Council of University Classical Departments.

    1. There has been, to our knowledge, no consultation [on the matters at issue] directly with the subject areas or subject associations; even the present consultation paper, while inviting responses from 'groups of colleagues speaking for a particular subject area', has apparently not been sent to the most obvious such groups in existence (i.e. the subject associations). CUCD first acquired a copy of the paper from a senior member of another University who happened to be discussing it with high-level committees in that institution; more importantly, we acquired it too late to carry out any extended consultation with our members. The present response is based on a very limited consultation with as many members as I have been able to reach in the time available. This must at best be a matter of regret, and at worst a piece of mismanagement: so serious a matter deserves proper consideration, which we have not been allowed to give to it.

    2. One must also question whether the timing of the consultation paper in relation to the projected launch of the ILT is such as to inspire confidence in the seriousness which the ILTPG places on the consultative process. Comment is in any case apparently invited only on the proposed procedures for accreditation and CPD, not on more fundamental issues such as whether the whole anticipated structure is likely to help, hinder, or have a merely neutral effect on the development of learning and teaching in HE.

    3. On that issue, we presently remain agnostic, while tending towards a negative judgement; maybe we might have felt more positively had we been privy to the relevant arguments. As matters stand, we see little positive advantage in a set of expensive and time-consuming procedures for accreditation on an individual basis - procedures, that is, which run alongside a complex and developing set of procedures for institutional and subject-based reviews of teaching quality. At the very least one might have looked for some evidence of cooperation between the ILT and the QAA, to avoid a new proliferation of assessment structures at the very moment that the QAA is seeking to reduce or simplify them.

    4. At present, and again in the absence of any argument or evidence to the contrary, there would seem to be rather little benefit for the individual teacher in the whole process of accreditation in proportion to the time that would be required for amassing the 'portfolio' - and indeed for maintaining accreditation. We therefore have some difficulty in projecting immediate success for the ILT, unless membership became obligatory, and - especially in the light of the points made in the last paragraph - we would presently regard any move towards coercion as indefensible. The proposals bear signs of having been designed in part with an eye to membership procedures and CPD provisions for other professional organisations (e.g. in accountancy or law), where membership is in fact a condition of practice; the difference is that there is no other way of checking the competence of such professionals, whereas there is a wealth of checks on the competence of academics, ranging from student questionnaires, through internal reviews, to external quality assessment. In short: the benefits of accreditation remain unclear, while the costs would evidently be considerable. In general we regret the lack in the document of any cost-benefit analysis, or indeed of any explicit recognition of the cost implications, while the benefits are simply assumed.

    5. If in some respects the proposed procedures mimic those in other professional fields, in other respects they appear to have been framed with reference to categories of teaching other than those often found in HE. In particular, we miss any clear reference to the quality/standard of the content of courses (modules/units). On the face of it, it would be possible for someone to qualify for membership of the Institute who excels in methods of delivery, but actually has nothing to deliver of a quality appropriate to HE. Many if not most of us would wish to tie the measurement of quality in teaching in this context closely to the idea of research-led teaching. While we recognize that excellent researchers do not necessarily make excellent teachers, and that there are specific skills that all teachers in HE, as teachers, need to acquire, nonetheless the starting-point for the best teaching at this level (even in introductory modules) will almost always be an immediate and direct grasp of the state of understanding in a particular field. We are at a loss to understand how 'providing good teaching support for learning' can be separated from this crucial aspect of teaching in HE, in the way that the consultation document seems - if only by omission - to suggest.'

  7. Also in March, I attended a meeting in Bristol - both in a personal capacity, and as Chair of a subject association - on 'The Intellectual Consequences of the RAE' (partly organized by Charles Martindale). The meeting was attended by Drs Bekhradnia and Pilsbury as representatives of HEFCE, neither of whom appeared to believe that the RAE had any intellectual consequences at all (except beneficial ones). In response to a questioner who asked what he had learned from the day's proceedings, Dr Pilsbury - for Dr Bekhradnia had left, following lunch - said it was that he and his colleagues needed to present their case better. This caused an eminent classical colleague to exclaim at the implied complacency: had Dr Pilsbury heard nothing? Overall, the impression given by both HEFCE representatives was of complete immunity to criticism or even to comment: their view was that the system is necessary; that it cannot be shown to be damaging; and that if we think it is, it is up to us to come up with something better. The first and last points are fair enough, but it would be more encouraging if those in charge of the RAE were still able to retain a certain critical distance from the process.

    Subsequent to the meeting there was correspondence between Charles Martindale, Peter Wiseman, and myself with Dr Pilsbury, the intention of which was to follow up some of the points that had been made (my own letters concerned specifically the treatment by RAE panels of journal editorships). It cannot be said that the responses were encouraging, insofar as they tended once more to suggest that everything in the garden was lovely. If it is, some of us continue to miss the loveliness. [The most illuminating part of the correspondence was that between Peter Wiseman and Dr Pilsbury. The exchange of letters is included in this issue, with Peter's agreement.]

  8. At the Classical Association's Annual Conference in Liverpool in April, there was a useful panel discussion on the subject of 'Money, Money, Money: the Funding of Research'.There were four panellists: Mary Beard talked about her experience of assessing applications for postgraduate studentships for the old Humanities Research Board, and the lessons of her experience for those advising future applicants; John Richardson (AHRB Panel Convenor) and Dorothy Thompson (AHRB Panel Member) talked about the AHRB, with John speaking more generally about the emerging shape of the Board and its policies, and Dorothy particularly about the writing up of research proposals; and finally John Davies (a member of the Leverhulme Trust's Research Academic Advisory Committee) was also to have addressed general issues in relation to the composition of grant applications, but in the event gave up his slot to give us more time for discussion. My renewed thanks to all four panellists.

  9. CUCD had been invited by the QAA to nominate members of the Classics and Ancient History panel for the TQA round in 2000/01; after consulting Standing Committee, I decided not to respond, on the grounds that because membership of the panel would be likely to be extremely time-consuming, it must primarily be a matter of individual choice whether to put oneself forward or not; and that in any case a straw poll of departments seemed to suggest that there would in any case be sufficient volunteers. In June I received a letter from the Roman Society querying this decision, which I went on to defend in July - probably wrongly, as it turns out, since the QAA has let it be known during September (apparently only to certain institutions, and certainly not to CUCD) that both the Classics and the Archaeology panels required more nominations. Since it would clearly not be ideal if the QAA were to begin making its own nominations, I immediately circulated departments to seek further names; I then asked three individuals who put themselves forward in response to my appeal to ask their institutions to complete the relevant procedures for nomination (since CUCD has still not been asked, and may well not be, to assist in any late trawl for further potential panel-members).

  10. After discussion of responses from individual members at Standing Committee on 9.10.99, I sent the following consolidated response on behalf of CUCD to RAE 4/99 ('Research Assessment Exercise 2001: Consultation on assessment panels' criteria and working methods'):

    The comments of the Council of University Classical Departments in response to RAE 4/99 are as follows.

    1. In general, accepting the necessity of the RAE as a whole, the criteria as set out by the panel for UoA 57 seem to us judicious and sensible. Much depends on the intelligent application of these criteria in specific cases, and we have every confidence in the judgement of the panel members. There are only a few areas where we would like to register some concern or queries on detail.

    Specific points:

    1. There is strong concern at the apparent absence from the Classics panel (as originally constituted) of anyone whose principal specialism is mainstream classical archaeology and/or classical art history, despite the fact that 2.48.1 of the document makes it clear that these areas are quite central to the UoA. We note the intention of the panel (2.48.5) to 'appoint specialist advisers' in art; this would certainly be better than referring the relevant parts of the submission to the History of Art panel (which we would regard as inappropriate). Nevertheless, we strongly believe that classical archaeology and art should be fully represented on the panel, in view of their status within the subject and within the UoA. We understand that the issue is now to be resolved with the appointment of an expert in the field on Panel 57; if so, we should regard this as settling what is probably our single most important concern.

    2. However the issue of coordination between panels is also an issue of the greatest importance, which must be handled in a way that gives the academic community greater confidence in this aspect of the process than last time. To be fair, the general document (Appendix A, Section 1, at 1.3 b., and Section 2, at 2.6 and 2.7) does broach the issue, but the remit and powers of the envisaged "umbrella groups" are less than clear.

    3. (2.48.12) (a) We would like to see scholarly exhibitions, whether in physical museum space or online or both, included as a category; this affects art and archaeology in particular, but not exclusively. We also feel that the panel might reasonably consider media productions (TV, radio, or CD), where there is a substantial research input. It is not clear that these are covered by the categories "scholarly support materials" or "teaching materials". (History of Art might provide some useful guidelines in this area.) (b) We are pleased to see recognition for the contribution made by editors of volumes of collected papers when the editor has made a visible contribution to the research published. (c) We welcome the explicit statements that no form of output is seen as intrinsically superior, and that translations will be deemed worthy of consideration (which is a change from 1996).

    4. (2.48.16) There seems (second sentence) to be a error in "will share the reading the responsibility": add "and" after "reading"?'

    5. (2.48.17) (a) We would like an addition along the following lines: "The approach to evaluation will be pluralistic: no a priori judgements will be made about the validity and usefulness of the range of approaches adopted.' (b) We think the Panel, and HEFCE generally, should give more explicit recognition of, and more guidance in relation to, the difficulties for individuals/Departments of judging which items from intrinsically incommensurable genres of scholarly production to include in submissions. These difficulties are only mitigated, not removed, by the second sentence of 2.48.12; they will perhaps be less keenly felt e.g. in scientific subject-areas.

    6. (2.48.18) "The Panel will pay particular attention to externally funded studentships awarded on the basis of national competition." We would wish to see this explicitly extended to national competitions in other countries. (b) The useful and sensible distinction which the archaeologists make in 2.49.11 between PGTs and PGRs is not made.

    7. (2.48.19) We wish to stress that in our field this is an extremely unreliable criterion of quality: many scholars obtain no large research grants because the kind of work that they do needs no large research grants, and the obtaining of such grants is a sign not of how good a person's research is but simply of how expensive it is.

    8. (2.48.20/21) We feel that there is some tension between these paragraphs. The panel will be looking for "evidence of strategic planning for research" (20) but is aware that research of high quality is often carried out by individual scholars, and assures us that the absence of research groups, etc. will not count against an institution. It should be recognised that both individual and collaborative projects may produce first-rank research, and excellence should be properly acknowledged in both. This is a quite distinct point from fostering younger scholars' work and providing a favourable environment for development in research.

    9. (2.48.26-29) We were pleased to see emphasis given to staffing policies that invested in the development and support of staff research and especially the work of younger researchers. It seems essential to us that departments that invest wisely in human resources with an eye to future potential should not be penalised relative to departments that merely play safe.

    10. (2.48.32) We were pleased to see the wide range of indications of esteem accepted, and glad that on 2.48.33 the Panel explicitly recognised the list was not complete. We would, however, like to see FRSE's explicitly recognised alongside FBA's. We also hope that the panel will note that not all the indicators it lists are marks of equal esteem.

      Acting as a reader for publishers (or a referee for journals) seems less of an achievement than the award of a visiting fellowship. Possession of an FBA may also not be a good guide to achievement within the census period. We felt in particular that recognition from outside the UK ought to be regarded an important indication of esteem.

    11. (2.48.37) While we appreciate that the panel are explicitly stating that a department will not be disadvantaged by the fact that some members have not submitted the maximum of four published works, we feel that it should be acknowledged that the nature of research means that a single book of lasting importance normally takes more time to complete than four articles which may be of more limited value. We regret the assumption that failure to maximise sheer number of publications should be regarded as something that needs to be justified or explained away.

    12. (2.48.41-3) While welcoming the principle, we would wish to see the Panel exercise the same level of sensitivity here as in the selection of its own members. For that reason, it would seem proper that nominations of foreign experts should not be made without prior consultation with the relevant subject bodies (CUCD, Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies, SCOMGIU). In some areas, at least, of the field covered by the Panel, there are colleagues and competitors in other countries who hold, and have expressed in print, quite extreme views about the way in which the discipline is practised in the UK. We hope that the panel will take very seriously indeed the considerable task of briefing experts who work in countries with very different traditions of research and its assessment.

    13. (2.48.42) The relation of the first two sentences of this paragraph seems to need clarification. In the second sentence does "all relevant" mean all those in the categories stated in the first, or all parts thereof, or what?

Matters that are currently in hand, or need to be in hand:

Many of the items above will involve continuing attention and development over the next year(s). Among the most immediately pressing additional matters for action are:

  1. Bob Lister and Brenda Gay have been sending out consistent warning signals about the recruitment of the next generation of Classics teachers. Most immediately, there have been disappointingly low levels of applications for PGCE places. Bob Lister earlier in the year circulated a request to all departments to appoint a liaison officer to cover issues relating to teacher recruitment and especially to help raise the profile of Classics teaching among undergraduates. Standing Council felt the issues here to be so important that they invited Bob and Brenda to attend both the October meeting and the meeting of Council; they will make a short presentation to the latter, in an afternoon session (a new departure).

  2. We need urgently to look (with JACT) at the consequences for Classical subjects of the reduction in A-level syllabuses. It will also be more than helpful to many of us to have an early discussion of the government's reforms of sixth-form examinations : how should we react? What sorts of criteria are admissions officers going to set for 2002? I have already been asked by head teachers about this, as I expect others have; so far I have no idea how to respond. Probably this will, primarily, be a matter for individual departments/institutions; but a subject-wide discussion of a common problem would surely be useful.

  3. We also need urgently to look again at how to sell Classics in the schools. Charlotte Roueché reminds me that children and parents are making their decisions about choice of subjects earlier and earlier; we need to get to them. Minimus will help, but we may also need to think about a central publicity effort (Charlotte has some ideas here, both for sixth-form and lower levels).

  4. At the other end of the spectrum, a number of people have raised the issue about how we can provide the necessary training to get intending postgraduate students up to scratch in Greek and Latin (cf. (g) above). At present, the most promising developments seem to be taking place in Ireland (at Cork), though I have no up-to-date information at the moment about how far planning has progressed. (The proposal, as I understand it, is to set up a low-cost, intensive, summer language training facility, rather on the pattern of some US models.)

  5. There is yet another new consultation paper to which we must respond: this time on research policy and funding (post 2001), from HEFCE. The closing date for responses 15.11.99. I have sent round a circular about this, inviting members to visit under 'Research' for the details. May I invite colleagues once again to consider what they think CUCD's stand should be on this very important issue?

  6. There is also a parallel consultation paper on a similar set of topics from the AHRB. This - as one might expect - has a more civilized and helpful deadline (in January); either I or my successor in the Chair will circulate members about this in due course.

It remains for me finally to offer my warm thanks to my fellow-officers, and to the other members of Standing Committee, for their help and support over the last three years. It has been an interesting and busy period - but I have no doubt that the next three years will be no less interesting, or less busy.

Christopher Rowe
University of Durham
17 October 1999

CUCD Bulletin 28 (1999)
© Council of University Classical Departments 1999

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