Heads of Department of Mathematical Sciences

Annual General Meeting held on 28 May, 1996, in the Department of Mathematics, University College London


The Chair welcomed Prof Chris Robson (Chair of JMC) as a guest of the Meeting.

1. Apologies for absence

Prof D Crighton (Cambridge), Prof R Carter (Warwick), Prof P Smith (Glasgow).

2. Minutes of previous Annual General Meeting held on 14 September 1995

The Chair apologised for the lack of formal minutes but informal notes had been tabled at the meeting.

3. Matters arising

There were no matters arising from the notes.

4. Chairman's report

Against a background of fragmentation of responsibilities for promoting the health of mathematics nationally, Graham Wilks stressed the importance of continuing collaboration with the LMS and JMC, and he hoped to develop a more effective role for HoDoMS in relation to the government Research Assessment Exercise.

HoDoMS would also promote the MATHSKILLS project, school competitions and integration of activities among LMS, IMA and UCAS. It was maintaining representation at SCAA and UMTC.

Consultations were continuing with HEQC over the definition of 'graduateness' and with UCAS on promotional literature.

5. Treasurer's report

Because of the re-scheduling of the 1996 AGM, Martin Everett had based his report on the 1994-95 accounts with the costs of the 1995 conference added.

The Chairman asked for views on how funds could usefully be spent to be passed to Committee members in time for the next meeting.

The remaining items on the agenda were rescheduled to allow some important topics to be dealt with explicitly.

6. MATHSKILLS update

Ekkehard Kopp outlined progress with the MATHSKILLS project, which had been funded by the Department for Education and Employment as one of 20 network projects in different subject areas that addressed the issue of how employees' core skills could be improved. He thanked members for the subvention that they had agreed as additional support from HoDoMS.

7. AGM and Conference 1997

Graham Wilks (Chair) outlined preliminary ideas for a 2-day event on 24-25 March 1997, one theme of which would be overcoming fragmentation in the mathematics community. He was hoping to involve some or all of the following bodies:

Learned Societies
Royal Society
London Mathematical Society Royal Statistical Society
Edinburgh Mathematical Society
Research Councils

Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council
Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council
Natural Environment Research Council

Professional bodies

Institute of Mathematics and Its Applications
Committee of Professors of Applied Mathematics
Committee of Professors of Statistics
Joint Mathematics Council
Institute of Physics
Engineering Council

Government agencies

Higher Education Funding Council for England
Higher Education Quality Council
Office for Standards in Education
Universities and Colleges Admissions Service
Department for Education and Employment
Schools Curriculum Assessment Authority

8. MMaths and MPhys Regulations

Prof Chris Robson summarised the concerns of the Department for Education and Employment about the way regulations were framed and interpreted in relation to student transfer between 3 and 4 year degrees. Transfers at the end of 3 years effectively defined the fourth year as postgraduate, which did not attract mandatory LEA funding.

Modular frameworks and CAT added to the difficulty of drafting the regulations.

During the ensuing discussion it was pointed out that transfer was more about switching weaker students from the 4 year degree to a 3 year degree than vice versa; the latter were exceptional cases.

9. Research Assessment Excercise

Martin Everett reiterated his concern about the possible use of RAE assessments in league tables, and other aspects of the grading process, especially where a particular submission went to more than one panel.

It was also pointed out that while books were not recognised as research output, there were cases where they should be.

Members were disappointed that the government had not made it clear which assessment grade represented the minimum level for funding. A straw poll revealed a majority in favour of pressing for recognition of research activity at all levels, and for clearer information to HEIs beforehand about the rules of the game. The quality of the input software provided was poor. All these points would be raised at the next committee meeting.

10. Policy directions for 1996/97

(i) Chris Robson suggested a response to the Dearing report on 16-19 year olds maths qualifications as a priority item.

(ii) SET 97 was an opportunity for HoDoMS to influence national publicity to promote mathematics.

Both these items would be taken up at the next committee meeting.CCW