In recent weeks, I have been pondering the future provision of courses relating to Ancient History, Classics and Archaeology, as well as related subjects. It is clear that the current financial crisis and the ensuing cuts to education budgets will have a significant impact on teaching at all levels for years to come. Changes to higher education funding are already leading to structural changes within universities. Beyond the academy, even the Young Archaeologists Club is facing a grave financial threat.
The financial downturn will also impact on the courses which potential applicants can afford to study. The Ancient World has always been a popular topic for adult education courses, whether of a practical or theoretical bent. Now, however, funding for adult courses has been slashed across the sector.
Where do we go from here? How do we encourage new learners to engage with the ancient past?
Funding remains the key problem, but it is clear that our subjects will only survive if we are able to attract more people to study the ancient world at all levels. The easiest way to achieve this is through the provision of free (or very low cost) adult education courses. I do not underestimate the numerous obstacles in this plan. Nevertheless, I am certain that there is a real grassroots demand from the general public to learn about the ancient past. Boosting public interest in the subject will inevitably lead to greater student recruitment for courses teaching the ancient world across all educational sectors. Free adult education courses would, inevitably, require both the goodwill of relevant funding bodies and the services of willing teaching staff. I am convinced that only an innovative approach to the provision of courses on the ancient world will help the subject to weather the current financial storm.