University Admissions the South African Way; Flourshing Numbers Choosing Classics.

A very interesting chat with my friend from Durban. He told me that the system is that anyone can register for a degree, but if they deemed to be able to afford it, they must pay up front, which must be a barrier for some. Clearly this is likely to create a student population with very mixed ability. It is also difficult to predict the numbers of students until term has started.

Whilst courses in Latin and Greek are not compulsory, they are offered, and it is pointed out, at least to the students best able to cope with them, that it is not possible to take a doctorate without three years of Classical languages. A reading knowledge of modern language is also expected. He also told me that there is a translation prize for translations into or out of classical languages, from or to any of the official languages (that is, not only English, but African languages too. That sounds like an exciting project.

The encouraging point is that Classics, which in the past struggled to attract students, now has a high applicaion rate. Quite why Classics has become popular with students in an environment where Afro-centric studies are encouraged, and Classics risks being seen ‘officially’ as Eurocentric, is not clear to me.

There is of course plenty of scope for an Afrocentric study of the ancient world, and the ancient Mediterrean. Clearly the focus must be on North Africa, but it is still the African world, and this culture has the virtue (from the point of view of Classicals generally) of encouraging an enriching diverstiy of perspective.

It would most interesting to have reports of trends in application levels for Classics from elsewhere. The figures are published for Oxford and Cambridge. How do other universities compare, and is anyone saying?

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