Heads of Department of Mathematical Sciences
MINUTES OF ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING HELD IN SHEFFIELD UNIVERSITY ON 3RD APRIL
There were about 60 members present
Apologies were received from Dr PE Kopp and Dr PA Egerton
WELCOME TO SHEFFIELD
Members were welcomed to Sheffield University by Professor I Dunsmore, Head
of School of Mathematics and Statistics
MINUTES OF AGM HELD AT KEELE UNIVERSITY ON 24TH MARCH 1997.
The minutes were approved
There were no matters arising not otherwise on the agenda.
The Chairman, Professor DA Brannan, presented his report on the year's
activities by the committee. This is attached as Appendix 1. Note that
responses are requested from HoDoMS members to item no 4 and item no 5.
The Treasurer, Professor MG Everett, presented his report for the period 1
Sept 1996 to 31 August 1997. It was noted that no subscriptions for the
year had been credited. This arose because the date of the AGM had recently
been switched from September to March and the date of requesting
subscriptions had changed. All subscriptions received just before 31 August
1997, and subsequently, will be included in the next annual statement. The
report is attached as Appendix 2.
Following the resignations of Professor Chris Wright (Hon Sec) and
Professor David Clegg, there were two vacancies on the committee. Within
the committee, during the year, Professor Ken Houston had taken over as Hon
Sec and Professor Graham Wilks had taken over as Vice Chairman from
There were three nominations for the vacancies
Dr Nigel Steele (Coventry)
Dr Leslie Fletcher (Salford)
Professor Roy Moffett (Sheffield)
Noting the willingness of Prof Moffett (Sheffield) to stand for the
Committee, Prof Alan Zinober (Sheffield) relinquished his position. The
three candidates nominated where duly elected nem. con. to the committee
for a period of two years.
It was noted that the 1999 Conference and AGM had been arranged for 7th and
8th April at Keele University.
CHAIRMAN'S REPORT to HoDoMS
3rd April 1998
1. Welcome to first One-Day Conference of HoDoMS outside London.
2. Teaching Quality Assessment
QAA has appointed about 85 Subject Reviewers for the TQA of Mathematics /
Statistics / OR. Training will take place in Birmingham between March '98
and October '98; with the visits taking place between October '98 and
In view of other developments, it is hard to be sure whether this may be
the end of the present style of TQA visits. However apparently Scotland
is currently preparing for a restart of visits in 1999 (ahead of Wales and
England), with Mathematics and Statistics in the first round. At the
present moment, it is difficult to foresee the future of TQA and TQA visits.
3. Meeting of HoDoMS representatives with QCA on 26th February 1998
Present: Jack Abramsky (QCA), Mary Griffin (QCA); David Brannan (HoDoMS),
John Erdos (HoDoMS),Martin Everett (HoDoMS) and Peter Saunders (HoDoMS/LMS).
a) QCA (Qualifications and Curriculum Authority) structure
QCA succeeded SCAA recently. It has six main divisions:
1 Corporate Policy Division, dealing with National Curriculum Core
Subjects, Research, ICT, EO and access; Jack Abramsky belongs to this
2 National Curriculum and Assessment Division, dealing with KS1-3, national
3 General and GNVQ Division, dealing with 16+ qualifications, including
4 VQ and Occupational Standards Division, covering apprentices, etc.;
5 Communications Division, covering PR, etc.;
6 National Curriculum Review Division.
b) Numeracy matters
Various new numeracy documents will go to schools in September (such as
'Numeracy and Literacy' and 'Mental Strategies for Calculation'); these are
likely to determine the primary school Maths syllabus.
The National Numeracy Project started in January 1997 & will continue for 5
years. This is run by DfEE and a special Task Force. The success of NNP
should affect teaching in secondary schools.
c) Influence of QCA in school education
QCA has no influence on funding to ensure take-up of advice, training,
d) National Curriculum
In future each pupil will have an ID number, so that their progress can be
monitored by an analysis of data from National Curriculum tests -
impossible at present.
DfEE has set 2002 as target date for improvements in National Curriculum
test results, so there will be no significant changes in National
Curriculum before 2002.
Jack Abramsky would like to receive comments on the mathematics curriculum
for the National Curriculum Review. He thinks that Maths may holdback
changes to 2002 to 'get it right'.
We agreed that a much higher percentage of pupils go onto HE than 10 years
ago - 92% of those with 2 A-levels.
The core of the proposed new mathematics A-levels will be only Pure
Mathematics. It was said by QCA that pupils find Statistics easier than
Mechanics. Problems at A-level include the competence of teachers at
teaching the subject and the overloading of the curriculum. In 1998-2000
there will be a 2-year trial of post-16 framework, getting ready for a 2002
introduction. Current QCA thinking is that all A-levels will be in 6
modules (1 resit of the first 3 will be allowed), with AS in 3 modules.
HoDoMS representatives emphasised that HoDoMS wished to be involved in the
A-level revision activity, as A-levels are important to the Universities.
The HoDoMS Committee had thought that it might try to involve the
Engineering Council etc. In this effort, in order to have sufficient muscle
not to be easily ignored.
f) New qualifications
QCA is working on a number of free-standing units of GNVQ type for post-16
students; these will have 3 levels: level 1 comparable to the lowest GCSE
level; level 2 comparable to the highest GCSE level; and level 3 beyond
GCSE and into AS standard. These will be aimed at GCSE 'repeat' students,
adult returners, A-level students in other subjects who want particular
topics in mathematics. Each module is equal to 60 hours' delivery time, 45
hours of which will be teacher led. The new units will follow GNVQ
Level 1 units will be on:
Making sense of data
Level 2 units will be on:
Solving problems in shape and space
Handling and interpreting data
Making connections in mathematics
Modelling with algebra, functions and graphs
Level 3 units will be on:
Understanding mathematical thinking
Modelling with algebraic and graphical techniques
Applying and understanding statistics
Modelling with Calculus
It was not clear to the HoDoMS representatives how these qualifications,
welcome as they are in exposing more pupils to more mathematics, will be
received in the market-place.
g) Next meeting
There will be another HoDoMS-QCA meeting in September, to be called by QCA.
This will address the A-level revisions, Diagnostic Testing results, etc.
h) Contact information for Jack Abramsky is:
Tel: 0171-243-9383 (direct)
4. Consultation document from QAA about QUALITY ASSURANCE
QAA (Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education) has issued a
Consultation Document ("Higher Quality", March 1998, Volume 1, no. 3)
concerning quality assurance, and on which responses are due by 22nd May.
The Committee of HoDoMS intends to respond to QAA, and solicits input from
members. Could comments on the QAA document please be send to David Brannan
by email by the end of April 1998?
QAA wants to develop a system for assuring
# efficient, economical, minimises the burden of external scrutiny on
# satisfies the information needs of stakeholders;
# enables funding bodies to ensure VFM (value for money);
# enhances quality through continuous improvement;
# promotes public confidence in UK HE.
QAA aims to follow a modified Dearing model for QA. QAA wants the
academic community to comment on its consultation document.
The whole QA process that QAA hopes to end up with is intended to lead to
the publication of information on:
# HE qualification awards;
# subject threshold standards;
# nature, purpose and intended outcomes of programmes;
# reports on external examiners' reviews of provision by subject and
# reports on institutions' management of quality;
# thematic reviews and reports;
# dissemination of good practice (linking with the activities of the
proposed ILT [Institute for Learning and Teaching"]
'Benchmarking of standards' by subject is intended to play a key role in
all of this - the current state of play in this area will be reviewed by
Professor Houston in a moment. (Summarised in Appendix 1 of minutes of
committee meeting held on 2nd April
The HoDoMS Committee has discussed the various questions on page 19 of the
Consultation Document, and is of the following opinions at this stage (but
they will respond to QAA along the lines that the membership prefers should
that be different):
1. HoDoMS agrees that "Mathematics / Statistics/ OR " is the right subject
grouping for QA purposes. However we wish to emphasise the very great
width and disparity of this subject area and provision, the importance of
handling 'service teaching' sensitively and realistically in the review
process, and the need for research work to be commissioned on a rational
approach to dealing with QA in the area.
2. We propose that HoDoMS be regarded as the lead body / subject
association for the purpose of QA in Mathematics / Statistics/ OR; and that
the research into QA proposed in #1 build on the activities of the
DfEE-funded 'Mathskills' activity in 1995-97. (The HoDoMS Committee is
thinking of trying to support this activity financially until further
external financial support becomes available.)
3. We believe that it would be sensible to plan for a quinquennial review
of each Department by an REE to verify the Department's practices and to
report to QAA; together with a strengthened role for external examiners
(who should be paid an adequate rate for the work and responsibility
expected of them) who should look at results and at details of courses and
4. We believe that the "College" of REEs in Mathematics / Statistics/ OR
should meet annually, to discuss standards, to ensure uniformity /
consistency of approach / academic support for its activities; that it
should have both a significant continuity of membership and an adequate
measure of turnover [to prevent fossilisation of what could otherwise
become a 'set of power brokers']
5. We believe that the report on a Department or programme should consist
of factual information plus one of two possible summary outcomes:
satisfactory OR unsatisfactory
and should NOT be on a numerical scale.
6. We accept the notion of a "programme specification template" (as
outlined on pp. 20-21 of the Consultation Document);
7. We accept the need for and the benefits of significant changes to the
present external examiner system, particularly in relation to:
# the mode of appointment of external examiners;
# the duties of external examiners;
# the time (and payment) allocated to the carrying out of the duties of
# the extent of the permanency of the influence of an external examine.
5. 1999 HoDoMS conference
The HoDoMS Committee met on 2nd April, and recommends to the AGM that the
1999 conference be a two-day conference at the University of Keele, on
Wednesday 7th April and Thursday 8th April 1999. Keele was the very
successful venue in 1999.
The Committee would welcome proposals for topics and speakers, preferably
by email to the Chairman by the end of August 1998.
The Committee's current thinking on possible topics include the following:
# TQA and any possible replacement of TQA by QAA;
# HEFCE funding and methodology;
# RAE 2001;
# A-level revisions;
# The proposed Institute for Learning and Teaching.
David A Brannan
3rd April 1998
ACCOUNTS FOR PERIOD 1 Sept 1996 to 31 August 1997
Balance brought forward from 1995/96 £19,754.28
Subscriptions for 1996/97 * 0.00
Correction to 1995/96 subscriptions £100.00
Committee expenses £2,530.64
JMC subscription £80.00
Keele conference, March 1996 £447.14
Balance carried forward to 1997/98 £16,596.50
* Subscriptions for 1996/97 were suspended. Those universities who had paid
before 31 August 1997 had their subscriptions carried forward to 1997/98