Tag Archive: class in classics

Class in Classics and the Women’s Classical Committee UK


By Cora Beth Fraser, WCC UK Co-Chair and working-class classicist

The Women’s Classical Committee UK welcomes the report today on Class in Classics, compiled by the Network for Working-Class Classicists and supported by the Classical Association and the EDI Committee of the Council of University Classics Departments.

The report draws attention to an issue which we have all been aware of in Classics: that working-class people are underrepresented in the discipline, from undergraduate study through to professional employment. We have always known this – but thanks to the large-scale survey conducted by the Network for Working-Class Classicists and analysed in the Class in Classics Report, for the first time we can see the scale and impact of the imbalance. The report also helps to illuminate how working-class underrepresentation intersects with other characteristics to produce even greater imbalances for particular groups – one of which is working-class women, who are at a ‘double disadvantage’ (p.22 of the report).

The Class in Classics report gives us at the WCC UK a useful lens through which to view our own initiatives. It highlights the areas in which we are ahead of the discipline as a whole in modelling inclusive practice, and it also points out areas where we should develop our activism further in the future, in order to benefit working-class women and non-binary people in Classics.

Financial support

The Class in Classics report authors offer a number of practical recommendations for addressing elements of socio-economic disadvantage. Many of these recommendations endorse (explicitly or otherwise) the existing procedures and policies of the WCC in relation to financial support.

Our Small Grants Scheme, offering grants of up to £150 to members, makes payment upon approval of the grant, in line with the report’s recommendation to ‘avoid reimbursement systems whenever possible’ (p.52). The WCC recognises that reimbursement culture is inherently discriminatory, accessible only to the people who can afford to pay up-front costs, and acting as a barrier to those most in need of financial assistance.

The report (p.52) also references WCC good practice in naming the Small Grants Scheme:

The report (p.52) recommends careful phrasing on grant application forms, to avoid off-putting language or the implication that applicants have to prove their poverty:

‘Hardship funds should be renamed. “Hardship” can be a stigmatising term and it can also deter potential applicants if they believe they are not experiencing sufficient hardship. Consider borrowing phrasing from Sportula Europe (‘microgrants’) or the Women’s Classical Committee (‘small grants’).’

‘Similarly, revise policies that require applicants to demonstrate extreme poverty and/or exhaustion of commercial credit schemes before being considered for funding.’

At the WCC, our Small Grants application process requires applicants to explain the purpose of their application, the nature of the event or activity and how the grant will be spent; but there is no requirement for the applicant to plead poverty or divulge details of their financial circumstances.


The Class in Classics report (p.50) draws attention to inequality of access, particularly to conferences and similar events, and the impact of that on belonging, networking and professional development.

‘Online or hybrid conferences improved accessibility, particularly for those with disabilities or caring responsibilities; but there is a concern that this mode of attendance is already being phased out, and that it does not provide adequate networking opportunities.’

The WCC has been very aware that online and hybrid access to events continues to be important, particularly for women who might have caring responsibilities. Our events continue to be either wholly online or hybrid, and there are no plans to remove that access option.

Access for those with caring responsibilities has been an issue of concern to the WCC for some time. In 2020 the WCC’s Caring in Classics Network published a set of guidelines for Supporting Carers and Organising Events, designed for the use of anyone organising either in-person or online events. In these guidelines we stated:

‘The provision of support for those with caring responsibilities is a central strategy for ensuring gender diversity, not only in practical provision that helps to get women in the room, but in empowering those who are not white, male, middle-class and able-bodied to feel that they are included and that they can productively contribute to the scholarly conversation.’

We welcome the renewed attention that the Class in Classics report will bring to the issue of support for access, which continues to be a key issue for the WCC.

Speaking out

The Class in Classics report (p.29) makes the point that it is difficult to talk about class:

‘Class has become such a difficult subject to broach that even in this anonymous survey there were concerns about saying the wrong thing.’

This is an important factor to emphasise, and perhaps suggests a need for a cautious approach to visibility, despite the report’s call for more working-class role models. It is difficult to speak out, and it also carries professional risks, because as many of the comments featured in the report highlight, people who talk about class in university Classics departments are often seen as disruptive or treated as outsiders.

In counterpoint to the report’s call for greater public visibility, the WCC recently lent its support to a confidential ‘safe space’ trial group for working-class women in Classics. Chaired by Dr Elizabeth Pender, Class Acts ran from 2021 to 2023 in the North of England, trialling co-operative peer support among a small group of working-class classicists with similar backgrounds. Its focus on individual and regional working-class experiences was designed to respond organically to the needs of participants. The Class Acts trial is currently being evaluated, with a view to embedding future versions of the group within existing WCC initiatives.


The Class in Classics report recommends a number of support strategies which the WCC UK put in place some years ago. We would like to see these becoming universal standards, reaching not just those classicists who have discovered the WCC, but everyone who comes into Classics.

Class is an uncomfortable topic for us to talk about in the UK, but the remarkable number of responses to the Class in Classics Survey (1,206) suggests that there is a real need to open up the discussion in Classics. At the WCC we look forward to playing a part in these essential conversations.