Graham Shipley

I have a number of acknowledgements to start with. First, to Geoffrey Eatough for helping to make the handover of the statistics portfolio an easy transition, and above all for setting an example of accuracy and professionalism that is hard to follow. Second, to those colleagues who contributed to the design of the new data entry form and helped clarify what data we need and how best we should gather them. Third, to all member departments, including our two new Hamptons (Roe and South), for enabling me to start my innings with a gratifying 100 per cent return. Even one, sadly, closing department made its final submission with a happy flourish.

By way of introduction, I remind readers that the data are divided into (a) 'straight' classics degrees such as BA Classics, Greek, and Latin, (b) 'modern' variants such as classical civilization, classical studies, ancient history, and classical art and archaeology, and (c) various important but disparate groups such as combined honours, supplementary, and non-honours students, all subsumed under the traditionally enlightening rubric 'Other'. Within (a) and (b) a further distinction is made between single and joint honours degrees.

Recent changes in the presentation of the data result from the integration of statistics from the Open University, which patently works with a rather different kind of programme from most of us. With Geoffrey's encouragement I have made minor adjustments to the collection of the data, such as subsuming the former 'non-classical' category into Other, emphasizing the levels of courses rather than the year in which they are taken, calculating separate figures for beginners' languages without asking departments to remove them from the main totals (though with no significant impact on the final presentation of the data), and asking for more detail of staff and postgraduates. Readers will notice, in the tables, that certain figures include OU data; as time passes, it will probably be a good idea to integrate these into the general dataset as far as possible.

The millennial dip in registrations for single and joint honours degrees does not now look like the start of a trend (see Table A). Student numbers in these programmes have oscillated contentedly either side of 5,600 head of students and 4,000 FTE for half a decade now, and ever since 1993 they have been sitting at about 30 per cent above the 1991 figure. These figures are almost exactly paralleled by those for first-year honours students in the last four columns. One may wonder whether a steady state is the optimal picture in the current climate.

The figures for classical degrees conceal contradictory tendencies (Table B, especially italicized columns). On the one hand, single and joint honours degrees in the 'modern' varieties of classics (as defined above) forge ahead, showing an increase in most years since 1991. The lean years were 1994, 1998, and 2000, while 1999 was, perhaps not coincidentally, a thinnish year for applications (CUCD Bulletin 30 (2001), 24). These degrees now stand some 70 per cent higher than a decade ago, and anecdotal evidence suggests that applications have been running even more strongly in 2001-2. On the other hand, the more traditional courses undeniably remain under pressure, showing a more or less steady erosion of numbers. If, for an archaeologist, three stones in line (which from another viewpoint means one stone and two in line with it) make a wall, can the same be said of recruitment figures across three years? At the most recent end of the process there are, it is true, only two successive years of decline, and both 1997 and 1999 were good years in some respects. Joint classics degrees, though a small part of the total, sometimes do better than single honours, and they recruited well in 2001. The broader pattern since the early 1990s, however, is undeniably in one direction. The real worry is single honours classics, Greek, and Latin, where the cohort of around 1,200 a decade ago has declined more than it has risen, has now fallen in three successive years, and has dipped below 1,000.

This pattern, of course, is not new news. The figures for UCAS applications, discussed in last year's Bulletin, showed particular strength in joint degrees in which ancient history partners a non-classical subject. Those degrees also appear to recruit from a wider social and geographical range, and would seem to offer some hope of increasing the numbers of people who partake of classics somehow at university level. It almost goes without saying, for it has been said often and bears repetition, that the Open University data (hinted at in Table A, despite our standard practice of not identifying specific universities) are phenomenally encouraging in the latter regard.

Equally important, as they have been for some time since, especially in certain departments, are the numbers of students who read for degrees that do not have classical titles, but who take a greater or smaller element of classical study. (Incidentally, some of the data come from non-classical departments in which classicists are lodged. Despite its title, CUCD's members are universities, not departments; our remit extends beyond classical departments as such.) Even allowing for the large OU contingent (again hinted at, this time in Table C), it is worth stressing that whichever way you view the dataset a large part of it is made up, both individually and in terms of teaching loads (and hence funding), by these most welcome participants. Several departments have groups of over a hundred, or even two hundred, students tackling first-year classical civilization or ancient history, albeit at one-sixth or one-third of full-time. This cohort, however, may be fickle. If we discount the OU, there has been serious erosion in this area since 1999: the reported FTE is around 600, a 40% drop since 1999. That is why the figures for 'All including Other' (Table A) show a downturn in each of the past two years, despite the strong recruitment in the 'modern' degrees noted above; not even the substantial OU data are enough to offset it. Possibly it reflects tuition fees and their claimed deterrent effect on certain groups of applicants, though this was mitigated for mature students in 2001-2. It may, perhaps, also reflect a tendency for departments (I have in mind non-classical ones) to corral students into doing only their own modules in order to make their income stream more predictable. Although the 'leaking' of students into other budget centres may be reciprocal, classics might suffer more than many from any such tendency, having always been a welcoming community. Colleagues may be able to offer further possible explanations. Whatever the reasons for the change, it should not go unnoticed, as these non-specialist 'customers' could help make the difference between steady-state recruitment overall and a situation in which classics, including staff numbers and hence research, benefits from a long-term increase in the take-up of higher education.

Although most departments find it difficult to state accurately how many mature students they have, the available estimate for mature students at non-distance learning universities is c.494, some 6 per cent of all undergraduates in classical courses.

Staff numbers continue to hold up well (Table A). Changes in the recording method have elicited details of sub-categories (Table D). Full-time permanent staff (335.4) represent 57 per cent of individuals and 76 per cent of FTE staff (ignoring the matter of staff on leave). Full-time temporary staff, presumably mainly holding fixed-term lecturerships, amount to 7 per cent of personnel (9 per cent FTE). The dataset offers no evidence of trends, for example towards or away from casualization; they may emerge in future surveys.

The figure used in calculating the student-staff ratio was the 'effective total', i.e. the FTE of those staff not on leave last session. The SSR improves, inevitably, as student FTEs decline while staffing remains more or less constant. It is higher than it was in 1991, however, and it varies (where it can reasonably be calculated) from below 10 in a very small number of places to over 20 in three.

Beginners' languages continue to show strongly (Table E). (Note that the undergraduate figures are not additional to those in the main tables, but are a subset of them.) A new question on the form elicited the heartening discovery that over a hundred taught and research postgraduates were starting Latin or Greek last session.

Finally, departments were most helpful in providing detailed breakdowns of postgraduate numbers (Table F), which as time goes by will give a firm basis for identifying trends and developing recruitment strategies. In view of previous worries about under-recording, it would be unwise to base too much on the apparent increase in taught postgraduate numbers. Yet it is worth noting that no fewer than eleven universities have an active MA student community of ten or more. Research students, too, are more widely distributed than one might have expected (numbering in double figures in half of member institutions). If, however, there was (as has been suspected) some under-reporting of PGRs in recent years and if, at the same time, the new figures are sound, then the downward trend is even steeper than the figures in this year's table suggest.

Graham Shipley

University of Leicester

CUCD Bulletin 31 (2002)
© Council of University Classical Departments 2002

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