Recently the University of Roehampton announced that it is to close its Classics department. Leaving aside the surprising revelation that such a small and undistinguished seat of learning actually boasted a Classics department, this is part of a trend towards abolishing certain disciplines in the Humanties, principally ( one supposes) due to lack of interest from prospective students. We have also learnt that graduate with degrees in English Literature are now finding it harder than their fellow graduates in most other branches of the Humanities to secure jobs. In view of this, the ultra-vocationally inclined Sheffield Hallam University, has decided to abolish its department of English Literature. Doubtless, many other Universities that were former polytechnics, will follow suit.
The reassessment of the Classics as an academic discipline worth sticking with has been going on in and outside the Academy for a hundred or more years. Sometimes an insistence on a qualification in Latin seems absurd. When your Jotter was being groomed for Oxford at a State grammar school in Wales by his history master, it was discovered that if he wished to study English, an O level in Latin was the minimum requirement. Because he had switched from the Science stream to the Arts after ‘O’ levels, he had no such qualification, unlike those who had remained in the Arts all their school careers. Had he wished to study English at Cambridge, however, a qualification in Latin was not stipulated, thanks partly to the efforts of people like F. R. Leavis. In the end, your Jotter opted for Cambridge, but failed to get in, mainly because, unlike those from public schools preparing for Oxbridge, he was not offered special guidance on past exam papers etc. Not that he is bitter in any way! Continue reading