Digest of conference discussion

Summing up from the chair, John Richardson identified two key issues fingered by the papers: (i) we need new structures for PG training, fair practice &c.; (ii) we need to develop procedures to help PGs into the profession. If PGs are to be used as cheap teaching to relieve staff load, there is a professional obligation to consider these structures and procedures extremely carefully.

Under (i), John Davies noted that the HEQC auditors ask both a group of PGs and a group of deans and other senior figures what PGs are used for, and what kind of training they get. His own view was these issues should be thought about independently of the subject matter: that the primary level of discussion should be the basic aims and methods of undergraduate teaching. We need to decide what should be passed on before we can decide the skills and responsibilities of teachers, and we need benchmarks - both general and specific - of intended achievement to enable the role of PG teaching to be defined. (Should an undergraduate degree, for example, be a training for postgraduate research?)

There was discussion of the Edinburgh system, under which PGs contract for 70 hours teaching in a year, with followup seminars. The main reservation was that the scheme was not departmental, and thus could be too general; but John Richardson outlined the role of "Departmental mentors" in trying to meet this. Among particular problems of training identified were beginners' language teaching, large-group teaching, and library skills. (Postgraduates often come in undertrained in library use, and - as Ian Martin vigorously argued - need to learn from specialist subject librarians rather than jutst from academics.)

Under (ii), Philip de Souza suggested that the Oxbridge stranglehold on posts could be read as implying that other universities aren't doing their jobs and turning out the right product; against this, it was suggested the situation arose largely because the Loxbridge triangle is simply where most PhDs are done. PGs do need to be pushed elsewhere than Loxbridge; Richard Seaford supported this, holding up Exeter's policy as a model, and rebutting the myth that Loxbridge has better resources, noting that PG culture in Exeter is widely felt to be better.

One issue not directly addressed by the papers was the predicament of part-time teachers, whose numbers have grown rapidly. Sue Blundell pointed out that the European courts have now ruled that hourly-paid workers have to have pension rights; something her own institution (Birkbeck) cannot afford - effectively putting pressure on part-time staff to sacrifice themselves in order to avert the closure of Classics altogether. Richard Seaford noted that few part-time teachers join AUT; all should be encouraged to, and the Exeter branch have recently put together a code of practice on the subject.

last updated 26/1/96

CUCD Bulletin 24 (1995)
© Council of University Classical Departments 1995

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