Heads of Department of Mathematical Sciences

Minutes of Committee Meeting - Friday 12th January 2001, LMS


Ken Houston (University of Ulster), Chair
Neil Challis (Sheffield Hallam University)
John Erdos (King's College, London)
Martin Everett (Greenwich University)
David Fearn (Glasgow University)
Charles Goldie (Sussex University), Minutes
Adrian Lepper (IMA)
Nigel Steele (Coventry University)
Trevor Sweeting (Surrey University)

1. Apologies from Bill Boyd, David Brannan, Bill Bruce, Trevor Gethins, Stephen Ryrie

2. Minutes of Meeting of 29th September 2000 accepted as accurate, subject to the following corrections: David Fearn and Nigel Steele were present; Neil Challis has affiliation Sheffield Hallam University.

3. Matters Arising.

(a) QAA National Qualification Framework

Our views were submitted in the September consultation and acknowledged by both the Scottish and England/Wales/NI QAA bodies. The (essentially) final versions are now on the QAA website and have

- one fewer in number of levels

- MMath/MSci requirements less prescriptive in credit terms, but still to meet various criteria for an M title

- a statement from HEFCE that its funding for these awards will not be affected

- level descriptors no better (we had complained of their ill fit with the mathematical sciences)

- conversion Masters banned (as MSc degrees), which may force the EPSRC to alter or re-label its Masters Level Training Packages, which are all conversion or employment-related.

[More on MMath under AOB]

4. Correspondence

Sir Howard Newby, who becomes Chief Executive of HEFCE on Ist October, is unable to attend our Conference this April, but expressed an interest in coming next year if invited.

5. Chair's items: none.

6. 2001 Conference (Birmingham University 19-20 April) Intended sessions:

(a) Benchmarking, with participation by David Gale or another QAA official (JE to approach) to contribute ground rules on carpentry (how benchmarks are to be used).

(b) Geometry Working Group, involving Richard Bridges, teacher at King Edward's School, Birmingham.

(c) MSOR Network, involving John Blake and/or Pam Bishop.

(d) MSOR as a route to a career, with contributions from Mike Sewell (Reading) on Masterclasses, the RSS on their Careers initiative, possibly the Training Partnerships, and possibly the outgoing Director of Maths Year 2000, Barry Lewis.

(e) Departments under threat: agreed to enclose the draft questionnaire by Walter Middleton of Sunderland, for despatch to the (full) HoDoMS mailing list. Minor suggestions for improvement to be sent direct to Dr Middleton. Significant changes suggested were

- include MMath, MSc;

- conflate Questions 1-4, and other groups of questions, by using more columns;

- add a question on age structure of departments, this being easy for HoDs to complete.

(f) Mathematical thinking: Gary Davis (Southampton University).

(g) Science Council, if Jack Gow its Executive Secretary becomes free.

(h) Curriculum 2000 (QCA): Peter Saunders (JE to approach).

Agreed that a session on the QAA's New Subject Methodology would be premature (for MSOR) this year. Also no after-dinner speaker.

7. Reports

(a) QCA (David Brannan)

DAB had circulated a paper by Peter Saunders who had attended a November meeting with the QCA on HoDoMS's behalf. Content was UCAS new points scores, AS levels, Advanced Extension awards, GCSE changes, and Key Skills. [Some of these surface in the next report.]

(b) JMC (John Erdos)

In the new A/AS Level regime, an AS Level in Mathematics will not necessarily include Calculus, but an A level probably will.

UCAS's new scoring system for A Levels and various other things is imminent. Departments can impose subject grade requirements in specific A Levels, but note that data collected for the institution will employ the new UCAS points, with a possible poor fit. Should we suggest double points for Mathematics, in view of its importance?

Key Skills: the level 3 "application of number" module has multi-step problems, and might thus have a good influence on A Level, which need not have them.

(c) MSOR Network Advisory Committee (Ken Houston) There is a website at www.mathstore.ac.uk.

The Network was seeking researchers in December for small (£5K) projects on

- comparative analysis of QAA reports
- learning through workshops (group-based learning)
- After the Diagnostic Test - what next?

'Parity of Esteem' between research and teaching is a concern; institutional policies and practices on rewarding excellence in teaching will be monitored.

(d) Mathskills (SKH). It having finished, SKH will transfer residual funds back to HoDoMS. The website at Hull will be moved to Birmingham.

(e) UMTC (SKH) will be hosted at Birmingham for the next 3 years.

(f) QAA (SKH). A Code of Practice on (Industrial) Placement Learning is out for consultation until 16 February.

8. Reports from others

(a) ACME (Adrian Lepper). This stands for Advisory Committee on Mathematics Education, as suggested in "Tackling the Mathematics Problem", and has been a major concern of the Council of Math Sciences. The government has blown hot and cold but it is now going ahead fast, funded by the Gatsby Foundation, and will concentrate on the A Level curriculum.

(b) CPAM (Nigel Steele). The conference had been disrupted by weather. The EPSRC Mathematics Programme Manager spoke on applying for grants as a rolling process.

(c) Scotland (David Fearn). Advanced Highers are going ahead. The next QAA-type review will probably be delayed until the time of that for England, Wales and NI.

9. Subscriptions (Martin Everett). 46 in so far. HoDoMS will fund the excess over £20 each in the cost of the Conference.

10. RAE 2001.

Surrey is making HoDs assemble files of evidence on their RA6 esteem claims, in case of audit.

Research outputs (the 4 publications) may be required within 3 days of demand so HoDs should assemble them.

The Sussex RAE contact has established that items bearing publication date 2000 will be assumed to have appeared then unless doubt arises, when a signed letter from the publisher may be demanded. For items bearing publication dates 2001 which appeared in 2000 (typically books) a publisher's letter is required and should be submitted without being requested.

Noted that while publishing in high-status journals will help, work published in lesser journals is meant to be judged on merit and not condemned out of hand.

11. Benchmarking (John Erdos)

Rough drafts now exist. They include statements that all who graduate with degrees within the remit must have done some basic linear algebra and some basic calculus, though these may not have been present on entry.

Consultation is likely at our Conference.

Joint degrees are a subject of discussion.

What happens over departments that fail the benchmarks?

12. Heads mailing list database is at Greenwich with the Hon Treasurer, ME. The mathsheads e-mailing list is on JISC, maintained by SKH. HoDoMS web pages at Coventry, maintained by NS.

13. AOB

(a) EPSRC Doctoral Training Accounts. All HoDs should have received their (possibly nil) allocation notification by now, direct from EPSRC. The DTAs will allow early decision, unlike the pool system, but information is so far poor and it appears that much admin is being downloaded to departments. Recruitment will have to go ahead on guessed interpretations of the allocated sums.

(b) ILT: 4300 had applied by early January. SKH is in.

(c) MMath/MSc: forced revisions consequent on the National Qualifications Framework. Departments will not wish to have to re-invent the wheel individually. The CMS could organise a meeting of MMath providers.