Classics and Ancient History at University:
Shaping Future Directions in Teaching and Learning

Lorna Hardwick

It's a paradox that while universities in general are being squeezed between pressure for change and lack of financial resources, Classics and Ancient History now have opportunities to bid for funding for sizeable projects in teaching and learning. These could give added impetus and influence to the imaginative work that is already being done in curriculum development and in the creation of teaching and learning strategies that are responsive to the needs of new constituencies of students. Projects funded by LTSN Teaching Development Grants are now being completed and others are in progress.[1] Contributors to the LTSN panels at the next Classical Association Conference in Leeds in April 2004 will discuss the implications of these projects as well as focusing on the school-university interface.

The interest of classicists and ancient historians in subject-based practitioner-led teaching development projects was strongly evident in the report of the recent independent evaluation of the first phase of the work of the LTSN.[2] The evaluation was qualitative in approach and was based on nineteen interviews, seven of which were with academics in classical subjects. Of the three subject areas considered, academics in Classics Ancient History emerged as particularly committed to the idea that progress was best achieved through debate and exchange of information and ideas. There was a strong desire for rigorous subject-led research which would inform debates on classical teaching. Areas which were thought to be of particular importance included exploration of different approaches to seminar work around texts and the development of computer-assisted learning and on-line materials. Some of those interviewed thought that while small projects could show the way there was now a need for larger substantially funded research and development which would have wide application in classical subjects. This represents a substantial shift in opinion over the last few years and in particular a recognition that important research in teaching and learning can and should be undertaken by classicists and ancient historians, rather than being the preserve of educational researchers.

There are two forthcoming initiatives that will enable these aspirations to be turned into reality.

  1. Fund for the Development of Teaching and Learning (FDTL). The fifth phase of FDTL has now been launched by Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the call for bids has been published on their web-site.[3] Each phase of FDTL has covered subjects which were recently subject to QAA and this time it is the turn of Classics and Ancient History.[4] The closing date for the first stage of the bidding process is 5 December 2003. There is provision for three sized projects: large (up to £250k over three years, collaborative projects only), medium projects (up to £150k over two years), and small (up to £75k over two years). Bidding departments should have attained a maximum QAA score in the heading under which they bid (e.g. Curriculum Design, Content and Organisation; Teaching, Learning and Assessment; Student Progression and Achievement etc). The other point to note is that lead bidders should be departments in England or the North of Ireland. Colleagues in Scotland and Wales may be included as consultants or partners. LTSN has organised two information meetings for potential bidders (in Manchester on 15 October 2003 and London on 22 October 2003). Subsequently, informal subject based meetings will be arranged as needed to facilitate collaborative bids. LTSN Classics and Ancient History prepared background papers at the request of HEFCE summarising the comments of the QAA reviewers and listing the perceived needs and issues raised by the subject community. These papers were prepared in consultation with representatives of CUCD and other classical subject associations, the Benchmarking group and the Classics Ancient History Advisory Panel. This material is available on the LTSN subject centre website[5] and is (mostly) reflected in the subject based information included in the HEFCE call for bids. LTSN is a facilitator in the process but will not be involved in the assessment of bids.

  2. Centres for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (CETL). The second initiative which might provide potential for development work in classical subjects is the establishment of the CETLs. At the time of writing, this initiative is at the consultation stage.[6] The proposals have already been developed from the rather vague outline in the White Paper and there may be provision for more than seventy centres, funded at between £200k and £500k per annum for five years, with substantial capital support. The concept has still to be refined, but it seems that the CETLs will reward proven excellence and provide a basis for future projects. Bids will need institutional sponsorship and it seems likely that CETLs will be diverse in composition and focus. Dissemination will be an important part of their activity, probably in conjunction with the LTSN subject centres. It is likely that the call for bids will go out in January 2004, so now is the time to find out what kinds of bid your university is proposing and to make sure that work in classical subjects is well represented.

Currently the plans for the establishment of The Higher Education Academy are also being publicised.[7] This will be a UK-wide umbrella organisation incorporating the LTSN subject centres and the ILTHE (if its members vote to join) and is to be developed from early 2004.[8] The Academy prospectus indicates that it intends to work with a wide range of partner organisations, including subject and professional organisations, in order to further curriculum and pedagogic development and that it will promote and support relevant research and scholarship. It will also aim to 'facilitate the professional development and increase the professional standing of all staff in higher education'. The Academy's role is also intended to cover 'the leadership and co-ordination of national quality enhancement policy and practice'. The success of the LTSN subject centres so far has been based on their work for and as part of their subject communities and a good deal of determination may be needed to make sure that this distinctiveness and devolved activity is not weakened by incorporation in a much larger structure. The voices of the subject communities will need to be heard loud and strong in the forthcoming months as plans for the Academy are firmed up.

In the face of all these developments, my mood is one of cautious optimism. The Classics and Ancient History community is cohesive, with strong subject associations and excellent links between school and university sectors. It is well placed to prepare strong bids for FDTL5 and to contribute to the proposed CETLs. For the first time there will now be substantial funding available for sustained research and development work on the curriculum and on teaching and learning. In spite of all the other demands on academics' time, now is the moment to seize those opportunities. They will not come again.

Lorna Hardwick

LTSN HCA--Classics and Ancient History

The Open University


[1]Completed reports include 'The Flexible Electronic Ancient Greek Teaching and Learning Project' led by Dr Jon Hesk (University of St Andrews), 'Hellenizein: A Flexible Structure for Teaching Greek to Archaeologists and Ancient Historians' led by Professor Graham Shipley (University of Leicester), 'Study Skills: Plato's Protagoras' by Dr Catherine Osborne (University of Liverpool), 'Rethinking "Unseen" Translation: a Pilot Scheme for Developing Students' Reading Skills in Greek and Latin" by Dr Emily Greenwood (University of St Andrews) and Dr Elizabeth Irwin (University of Cambridge) et al. The reports are available on the LTSN HCA web-site, http://hca.ltsn.ac.uk/.
[2]James Wisdom, Evaluation of the History, Classics and Archaeology Subject Centre, July 2003. A copy of the evaluation is to be made available on the LTSN HCA web-site.
[3]The invitation to bid is on the HEFCE web-site at http://www.hefce.ac.uk/Pubs/hefce/2003/03_46/. Some subject specific information is on the LTSN HCA web-site at http://hca.ltsn.ac.uk/FDTL5/.
[4]As well as Archaeology, there is a very broad range of other subject disciplines. They are: Theology and Religious Studies; Politics; Philosophy; Celtic Studies; Economics; Business and Management; Hospitality, Leisure, Recreation, Sport and Tourism; Management; Education; Librarianship and Information.
[5]It is in PDF format at http://hca.ltsn.ac.uk/fdtl5/C-AH_state_of_nation_report.pdf.
[6]Details on HEFCE web-site at http://www.hefce.ac.uk/pubs/hefce/2003/03%5F36.htm.
[7]Its interim web-site is available at http://www.heacademy.ac.uk/.
[8]It seems that the LTSN will continue until the end of 2005 to allow a smooth transition from and integration of the various subject centres into the Academy.


CUCD Bulletin 32 (2003)
© Lorna Hardwick 2003

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