CUCD statistics 1995-6

CLASSICS AT BRITISH UNIVERSITIES,
1995-96: STATISTICS

Geoffrey Eatough

There has according to Table A apparently been a slight decline in the numbers of Honours students in Classics departments, of all students in Classics departments, of staff and of first year honours students, with a slight increase in the staff/student ratio. At the moment 1994 would seem to represent a peak, albeit a slight one, and slighter in regard to 1993 than the figures indicate, since the 1994 figures included for the first time an institution with some highly significant returns. (See CUCD Bulletin 24 (1995) p.13). The table shows between 1994 and 1995 a 2.1% fall in the number of Honours students with a 5.1% fall in the FTE figure. FTE figures in institutions which practice extreme forms of cost centre devolution are the more important of the two kinds of figures, though clearly the number of students who can be identified as Honours students in Classics departments is also important. In the figures for all students in Classics departments the fall is again slight and the FTE figure is almost identical with the 1993 figure, though the 1993 figure does not offer a sure basis of comparison, because of the institution newly included in 1994. There has it would seem been a sharp fall in the number of staff. The numbers of students who are identified as first year honours students is more or less the same in 1995 as 1994, but there is a fall of about 3.9% in the FTE figure. This may be a reflection of modularisation, with increasing numbers of students taking courses outside their parent department, a trend which can perhaps be detected from a comparison of the 1993 and 1994 first year figures where a significant increase in the 1994 student number yielded a FTE figure which was almost indentical with the 1993 figure.

So much for appearances. The figures which I present are dependent on the will and vagaries of departmental correspondents. Some are acutely aware of all the activities which are taking place in their department, and I have received returns which look like a page from a Renaissance book, with an intricate text surrounded by a mass of commentary. At the other extreme are those who use a broader pen, who are for example not too concerned whether there might be people from other departments doing courses within Classics. Within a department one type of correspondent might succeed the other. There are also problems of demarcation, whether a topic should be classed as Classical Studies or Ancient History, and increasingly, with modularisation, whether a particular group of students should be classed as Single Honours, Joint Honours or for the moment as Other. One of the constant problems is Ancient History. It can be located in non-Classics departments, and if there is some local antipathy between the Classics and Ancient History sections there can be problems. There has been one very recent case of Ancient History being hived off to another department, and the return from that department was minimal and difficult to use. Classical Ancient History also becomes entangled with other forms of Ancient History, and it becomes hard to determine what should be included. This is at the heart of this year's problems. A change of correspondent in one major university has led to a radically new perception of what might be called the legitimate activities of that department. Last year we were told that they had 107 Single Honours and 23 Joint Honours Ancient History students. This year they merely have 24 Single Honours Ancient History students. The staff numbers have gone down from 23 to 9. This is a conscious decision and represents the new truth for that department. We could therefore remove, on a rough basis of comparison, 106 students from the figure for Honours students in Classics departments 1994 to give us a figure of 5625 which is very close to the 1995 figure.

On the student front there seems then to have been little change. The staff figures are much more problematic. Besides the drop of 14 in staff returns for the institution just noted, the institution where Ancient History has been hived off now returns a staff figure of 10 instead of 18, and another institution has returned a staff figure of 10 instead of 16, and the new figure does indeed look the more plausible figure. This does however represent a drop of 30 staff in those three institutions, whereas the decrease overall between 1994 and 1995 was merely 17.4, which might suggest that elsewhere there has been an increase in staff.

I have in the past been happy to write about percentage changes in the various categories. There seems to be little point in doing that amid the present turbulence. I shall merely draw your attention to places where there is apparent major change. In Table B there is evidence of fairly sharp drop in Classics, Greek, Latin SH which is not really compensated by the rise in JH in those categories. In the Classical Studies, Ancient History and Archaeology category the drop in SH is almost balanced by the rise in JH though this not the case with the FTE figures, but obviously these figure are affected by the different policy of return by the institution mentioned above, and the underlying movement may still be upwards.

From Table C it can be seen that the drop in Classics, Greek, Latin SH is mainly because of a steep drop in the numbers being returned as SH Latin and SH Greek, though there are increases in both Latin and Greek in the JH categories. There is a steady and quite strong movement upwards in JH Classical Studies, but the Ancient History figures for reasons which will now be clear are much more volatile. The 1992 figures in last year's bulletin support these last two statements.

I suspect that we are for the moment on a plateau, but what the underlying structure of this plateau is, is difficult to assess. The competition for students in some parts of the sector is becoming fierce. There is evidence from this summer's university entrance exercise that departments are accepting students with lower grades. They have of course over the years been accepting students with lower linguistic achievements. My reasonable guess is that the present figures also include an increasing number of foreign students and perhaps we should try and elicit this figure from the departments. As always the returns from the individual universities, which must remain confidential, offer some of the most interesting facts. Departments whose futures were uncertain are solidly recruiting in areas where students are available, departments whose interests may have been mainly linguistic, are insuring themselves with Classical Studies and Ancient History. This is leading to increased competition in those areas. There are huge disparities in the staff/student ratio. Some major departments are now operating on ratios of 25:1 and above. This could lead to quite dramatic effects in two or three years time.

I end this year as last year with postgraduates. There has apparently been a sizeable increase in the number of postgraduates counterbalanced by a severe fall in the number of Taught MA students. This may be the results of careless accounting, but it probably points to a real problem and one which we may have to address, since Taught MAs should play an important role in the new scheme of things.

Geoffrey Eatough

University of Wales, Lampeter


CUCD Bulletin 25 (1996)
© Council of University Classical Departments 1996

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