Professor Layzell is concerned, he says in his letter, about the "academic portfolio" of Royal Holloway.. PORTFOLIO? like a set of investments? Indeed, he actually says he wants 'to invest in Royal Holloway's core strengths'; 'we are proposing,' he explains, 'a finely judged reconfiguration of our academic portfolio.' (This is a University, remember.. but nothing so far except about the uni's business model.)
He insists that the staff affected by this 'finely judged reconfiguration' were briefed ahead of Wednesday's meeting (well they were briefed on the Monday before a meeting that took place just two days later.. what kind of empowerment was that?). And he now puts all his eggs into the basket of 'internal consultation', saying that there will be no public statement until October (by which time it is presumably to be all agreed).
For Classics and Philosophy, the reasons for the reconfiguration are:
1) slipping student satisfaction scores (I wonder if students realise that sounding off in a questionnaire, which is what students are SUPPOSED to do, could result in the whole department being shut down... ironically it is some Classics courses devised by the Royal Holloway department that AC Grayling has borrowed for his New College, so someone thinks they are good! );
2) a lower than average research performance (it is true that the department did not do brilliantly in the last RAE, but just look at what is coming out of this department now...anyway, one thing is for sure: all the time these guys are going to be spending fighting for their survival will take their minds and energies off their research);
3) a substantial departmental deficit (here we see the danger of various Resource Allocation Models. You can easily make any department look as if it is making a profit or a loss, depending on how you decide to construct the figures. At one stage in Cambridge it looked as if the Facuty of Classics was going to be 'credited' with a vast deficit because we have so many square metres allocated to a Museum, one we have owned and used, in various forms, since the late 19th century -- but at that stage we were threatened with being 'charged' for every square centimetre we 'occupied'.) To break even, the Holloway Department would need to take twice as many students, and 'the College does not have the numbers to allocate'... and, he claims, isnt sure they could attract them anyway.
So the proposal is to cut all study of Classics in the original language, and invest entirely in History and Classical Studies ('where demand is still strong'...this is a demand economy obviously, not an EDUCATIONAL university). And the remaining 'classicists' will move to History, 'to enable the shared teaching of ancient history, leverage of research leadership and shared administrative support'. ('leverage of research leadership...'? what does that mean -- especially when you are cutting the whole linguistic side of this operation.)
Now, I know that outsiders like me can never really understand what is going on inside another institution. I have no idea what the student questionnaires are like, or the potential research submissions to the next Assessment Exercise. There will be all kinds of things going on that I know nothing off.
All the same, it doesnt take much to smell a commercial argument for academic change here.