CUCD statistics 1996-7

CLASSICS AT BRITISH UNIVERSITIES,
1996-97: STATISTICS

Geoffrey Eatough

The figures need little comment this year. If we look at Table A, the number of All Honours Students in Classics Departments is very much the same as last year both for individuals and for Full Time Equivalents (FTEs, the figure in brackets). There has been little movement overall for All Students in Classics Departments, though a more significant downward shift in the FTE figure. Staff in Classics Departments have drifted upwards slightly. The net effect of these minor shifts has been to produce a more noticeable drop in the Overall Staff/Student ratio, something which one would not expect to be tolerated in these days of financial restraints. The drop may however be more apparent than real, since there are various ways of calculating staff, because of part-time, temporary or shared appointments, and it also becomes increasingly difficult to track down the large numbers of students who may receive some teaching within a Classics department. One department has self-confessedly given up the attempt; other institutions either run unusually tidy departments, or they too do not have the energy to track down all their students.

In Table B, where the Honours Students are analysed in the broad bands of what are still thought of as linguistic and non-linguistic courses, though this demarcation will not hold in some institutions, both SH and JH students in Classics, Greek and Latin have declined, but unalarmingly. The number of SH students in SH Classical Studies, Ancient History and Archaeology has declined, but the more important FTE figure, more important if one is having regard for the financial implications, has gone up. There is also a rise in both figures, that is actual persons and FTEs, in Classical Studies, Ancient History and Archaeology (CSAHA) Joint Honours. If one looks back over the last ten years CSAHA Joint Honours has been the category where there has on the whole been persistent, steady growth, and indeed one could say the same of the CSAHA Single Honours, since the 1994 figure looks increasingly anomalous.

Table C gives finer detail. The suspicious figures in both Single and Joint Honours are in Archaeology. The Single Honours figure could well be unique in the history of our statistics, since the FTE figure is the same as the number of actual people taking the subject. What makes this more noteworthy is that there has been a considerable drop from 1995 in the figure of students taking SH Archaeology, but the FTE figures are virtually the same, a statistical lesson in the value of FTEs, but also on the probable unreliability of some figures. JH Archaeology also declines. Given however the buoyancy of Archaeology nationwide, which must include a good deal of Classical Archaeology, these figures are indicators of the difficulties of identifying or extracting figures in Classical Archaeology. In Table C, which enables one to pass over Archaeology, and Classical Studies which is in a steady state, one can see that the real growth in these non-linguistic subjects is in the category labelled Ancient History, SH and JH. Some of the growth however this year in these categories is due to the reforming statistician of last year who eliminated a considerable number of Ancient Historians from his statistics. He has so to speak called them into existence again. I prefer correspondents who are clearly thinking about their figures. Their figures are more reliable, and only a dull person would say that, if he was right this year, then he was wrong last. Even so I might agree that an organisation such as ours can only afford one or two people who think, certainly in any one year.

One institution has this year refused to send in its figures. The person who speaks on their behalf is emphatically dubious about the value of the exercise. I have pointed out the value of the exercise, since we have in the past been able to help departments in distress, and in one instance the whole subject which was under threat in one of our European neighbouring countries. We have in a previous time had to live with what we thought of as a major department not sending in its figures. I have in the recent case simply entered the figures from last year. It is preferable at this stage to do this rather than to make hypotheses, even if one could reasonably hypothesise.

The basis of these figures, the individual institutional returns, would in some cases offer the most interesting analysis. I simply note, because the evidence shows up so clearly on the computer screen, that the remnants of three once thriving departments, one of which to my knowledge was unable to die because vast numbers of students from other departments simply wanted to do Classical Studies, have finally ceased sending in returns. One hears of other departments under pressure, but at the same time notices the subject threatening to emerge in places where we did not suspect that there was a university institution. The emergence of new centres of learning has caused chaos in some of the main stream subjects which have never known the horrors of rationalisation. Classics, perhaps because of its position in the oldest universities, is for the moment, taken as a whole, fairly stable. It may not always remain so, as institutions or departments battle for survival.

Geoffrey Eatough

University of Wales, Lampeter


CUCD Bulletin 26 (1997)
© Council of University Classical Departments 1997

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