Classics Threatened …. at Oxford?

Just saw this in the Australian (originally in the Sunday Times) … I think we need a few more details, but here’s the plan, apparently:

OXFORD UNIVERSITY has turned to wealthy philanthropists to raise tens of millions of dollars needed to rescue 75 key academic jobs threatened with the axe because of government cuts.

The university argues it will be unable to fund the posts, mainly in the humanities, such as classics and modern languages, unless wealthy philanthropists step forward to provide more than £1 million ($1.5m) each one.

The scheme is the latest example of universities relying on philanthropists to save endangered subjects.

They include Glasgow, which is to revive a professorship in ancient Greek this autumn. It emerged last month that Douglas MacDowell, the last holder of the chair who died in 2010, had left £2.4m in his will to endow the post, which had fallen victim to cost-cutting.

Under the Oxford scheme, donors will be approached to provide a total of £90m, with the university contributing £60m from the profits of its publishing arm. Each position will be allocated a £2m endowment with its income used to pay the academic’s salary.

Fellowships in ancient history and German at St John’s College, alma mater of Tony Blair, are among the posts that are part of the rescue plan.

Edward Hocknell, a partner at the Edinburgh-based investment manager Baillie Gifford, who studied at St John’s, and other donors have given £1.2m towards the ancient history post, with £800,00 coming from the university.

“The much-admired fellow, Nicholas Purcell, moved to another college. With the government’s emphasis on funding science and technology subjects, the university and college were unwilling to replace him,” said Hocknell.

“This is a big issue for less obviously utilitarian subjects like classics. The literature fellow is retiring soon; we might have to pick up the tab for him as well.”

Sir Michael Scholar, president of St John’s, who is also chairman of the UK Statistics Authority, said: “We were already getting into difficulties before the funding cuts were announced and those difficulties were greatly exacerbated by the government’s announcement that the funding for humanities teaching was ceasing.

“We have filled a post in German literature and language in the same way. It would not have been filled but we were fortunate to find a very generous donor who provided £1.2m to keep it going.”

Hocknell now plans to broaden his fundraising among other classics alumni to raise funds that could go towards expanding Latin and Greek teaching in schools.

The subjects have been enjoying a mini-revival in state schools. Figures released last year showed 511 comprehensive schools were teaching Latin, a fourfold increase since 2000.

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