Classics at UK Universities, 2004-5

Paul Millett

Thanks are owed to all those colleagues who found or made time to complete the annual statistical return. Only three sets of figures were unforthcoming. Fortunately, it proved possible in these cases to substitute reasonably accurate estimates, so that the reliability of the overall figures has been maintained, at least for the current year. We are only too well aware of the increasing administrative demands being made of Departments and their staffs, but there is a general feeling that annual collection of statistics by CUCD has a practical purpose beyond any intrinsic interest. Apart from making it possible to dispel at a glance the popular and enduring myth that Classics in universities is in general decline, the more detailed returns held by CUCD have twice been deployed over the past year in defence of classical posts which were under threat. The Statistics Officer would be glad to hear of any other cases where figures as presented in the Bulletin have proved helpful.

As in previous years, data are divided into (a) 'traditional' Classics courses (BA Classics, Greek or Latin), (b) 'modern' variants (classical civilization, classical studies, ancient history, and classical art and archaeology, and (c) 'others' (combined honours, supplementary students and non-honours students. Open University data are fully integrated.
The 'Overview' provided by Table A continues to offer encouragement, with increases in recent years in Full-time equivalent student numbers being maintained. We are surely now entitled to identify this as a 'trend'. Gains were registered in both 'traditional' and 'modern' Classics, with the only slight falls occurring in joint-honours courses (the absolute numbers involved are small). In 'traditional' single honours courses, there have been in the past two years, for the first time, more students than in 1993 4. In 'modern' single honours there are about half as many again as twelve years ago. The figures are presented in Table B with Table C adding further detail.

Reports for the past two years have noted a worrying decline in ab initio language teaching: it seems crucial that we maintain the 'core business' of supporting language-based Classics courses. It is therefore encouraging to note in Table E modest increases in numbers of undergraduates being taught Beginners' Greek and Latin.

Table D shows small reductions in almost all categories of Staff, but colleagues regularly note in their returns the problems in providing precise figures for these categories. In Table A, a figure to watch next year will be the effective student staff ratio, which reflects staff on leave as well as their replacements, if any. This figure has crept up in the past three years from 12.6 to 14.3, an increase of 13 per cent, which seems significant enough not to be the product of inaccurate recording.

Several Departments added to their returns general comments about Classics courses offered to the wider public by way of Continuing Education. To gather systematic data about this important category of Classics teaching would create an additional administrative burden, but the figures may well be significant. A quick calculation suggests that Madingley Hall, the Cambridge centre for Continuing Education, last year supplied residential courses in Classical subjects (including Greek and Latin) to more than three hundred individuals, the majority of whom were awarded credits. No doubt other Universities have a similar story to tell.

Paul Millett
Downing College, Cambridge

CUCD Bulletin 34 (2005)
Copyright © Council of University Classical Departments 2005

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