Heads of Department of Mathematical Sciences


Introduction First I would like to express my thanks to the members of the organising committee for the hard work they have put in on your behalf. I will mention especially Dr Stephen Ryrie, Secretary, and Professor Martin Everett, Treasurer. I will also mention those others who are retiring from the committee this year and have indicated that they are not available for re-election - Professor David Brannan, who has served his two years as immediate past chairman, Dr John Erdos and Dr Trevor Gethins. Also I thank Professor Bill Bruce, who has been the LMS representative on the committee for the past two years. Dr Maurice Dodson, whom we warmly welcome, has replaced him.

The committee met on three occasions during the year, in April after the AGM, in September and in January. Between the meetings, business was conducted by e-mail. Several of the concerns of the committee are reflected in the programme for this conference including benchmarking and the transition from school to university.

Benchmarking and QAA After the work of the ad hoc benchmarking group last year, the "real thing" was established and has almost completed its work. Two members of HoDoMS committee served on the benchmarking team. Others in HoDoMS were invited to comment on an early draft of the benchmarking document, and, of course, all in HoDoMS were invited to comment on the second draft. A summary of these responses is being prepared and will be forwarded to Professor Robson. The committee also commented on the Draft Qualifications Framework document published by the QAA. We were particularly concerned for the future of the MMath degree.

Measuring the Mathematics Problem A conference on this theme was held in May 1999 and the report was published and circulated to Heads in June 2000. The report provides evidence for the decline and increased variability in mathematical attainment of university entrants. It recommends the use of diagnostic testing on entry followed by prompt and effective support for those whose background is found wanting, and the setting up of a National Centre for Diagnostic Testing. It also recommends that Government should establish a Standing Committee for Mathematics to include representatives from all sectors and stakeholders. This committee should have a strong and respected Chairman, and would develop and monitor a mathematics curriculum, which is appropriate to the needs of this new century and is fully integrated from primary to tertiary. A proposal for the establishment of An Advisory Committee for Mathematics Education has been presented to Government by the JMC (with further support from the Royal Society). Universities UK (CVCP) are also active in this regard.

School Mathematics HoDoMS supported an initiative by the Mathematical Association to promote the teaching of Further Mathematics in sixth forms. We also note that MEI, together with Warwick University and Colleges at Exeter and Gateshead, is piloting a distance learning scheme for Further Mathematics. These activities, together with Masterclasses and Olympiads are helping to promote mathematics as a career among the very best of our school pupils. HoDoMS has also met with the QCA on three occasions, May, November and March, during the year. The topics under discussion included GCSE mathematics, Advanced Extension Awards and Post-16 provision. Reports by Peter Saunders and Nigel Steel were circulated via Mathsheads. The Royal Society / JMC Working Group on "Geometry" will soon report and a member has spoken at this conference.

Subject Review This exercise has now been completed and the final report has been published. We note that "Student Support and Guidance" was our best feature, while "Quality Management and Enhancement" was the poorest.

Departments under Threat A survey is currently under way to determine the extent to which departments and courses are under threat of closure.

Learning and Teaching While the Institute of Learning and Teaching is not meeting with favour from all quarters, it continues to gain members, including myself, and it has exceeded its recruitment targets for the first two years. As a member, I have attended one of the two ILT events organised in Northern Ireland this year and found it interesting and useful. Their new journal is publishing a good selection of papers. The ILT is now moving to set up a scheme for CPD (Continuous Professional Development), and in this regard the MSOR LTSN and UMTC should be contributing players for mathematicians. It should be noted that the UMTC will be held in Birmingham this September, having been at Sheffield Hallam for four years. We congratulate Patricia Egerton (Teeside), current Chair of UMTC, along with Peter Edwards (Bournemouth) and Keith Hirst (Southampton) on being three mathematicians to be awarded National Teacher Fellowships last year. The British Congress of Mathematics Education will be held in Keele in July and it will include a session on tertiary mathematics education.

Communication The MathGate Project is well under way and I would encourage university departments to have their home pages indexed in the catalogue, and to explore the search and find opportunities afforded by the Project. Potentially this could be a very valuable EIS (Electronic Information System) for us. The Mathsheads mailing list currently has 152 recipients and the Mathsheads-Adverts mailing last has 150. This latter was introduced in response to comments from members who felt that they would prefer their secretaries to receive advertising material. These lists are intended to be a service to members. I am currently list owner and I keep them up to date in response to information from members. The treasurer attempts to keep the mailing list of names and addresses up to date, but this is a more difficult task given the annual turnover in membership.

Community Unity HoDoMS has been active in the past in encouraging the various professional associations and learned societies to work more closely together for the good of the whole community. So we are pleased to see the formation of the Council for the Mathematical Sciences by the IMA, LMS and RSS, which should lead to a stronger voice for mathematics in the country.

SK Houston

19 April 2001