Heads of Department of Mathematical Sciences



There were about 60 members present


Apologies were received from Dr PE Kopp and Dr PA Egerton


Members were welcomed to Sheffield University by Professor I Dunsmore, Head of School of Mathematics and Statistics


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 Professor Houston.

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.

SK Houston
Hon Secretary
April 1998.



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 September '00.

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 Division;

2 National Curriculum and Assessment Division, dealing with KS1-3, national testing;

3 General and GNVQ Division, dealing with 16+ qualifications, including A-levels;

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, INSET, etc.

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'.

e) A-levels

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 assessment criteria.

Level 1 units will be on:

Money management
Making Measurements
Making sense of data

Level 2 units will be on:

Financial calculations
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:

Email: abramskyj@qca.org.uk
Tel: 0171-243-9383 (direct)
Fax: 0171-221-2233

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 d.a.brannan@open.ac.uk by email by the end of April 1998?

QAA wants to develop a system for assuring standards and quality that is

# efficient, economical, minimises the burden of external scrutiny on institutions;
# 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 programme;
# 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 http://www-theory.dcs.st-and.ac.uk/~mda/hodoms/minutes2Apr98.html)

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 programmes.

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 external examiners;
# 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;
# Assessment;
# 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

Income 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

MG Everett
Hon Treasurer
April 1998.