Welsh medium education at university level

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Back in 2004 a few hundred of us camped out over night in-front of the Welsh Government building in Cardiff to show our protest about the lack of Welsh medium education in our universities. It's a blessing now to see all that campaigning over the years bearing some fruit.

A post today about one of the Welsh language campaigns I have been involved in over the past few years. One of the main hurdles that still faces the Welsh language today is the lack of Welsh medium education in the higher education sector, university level. Welsh universities over the years have been institutionally anti-Welsh; things are much better now but developing education through the Welsh language is still far down on the agenda of all institutions and some universities such as Cardiff University have no plans at all to move towards providing the education in Welsh. It is believed therefore that to increase the Welsh language provision in the sector we need to see a new institution established to oversee, maintain and develop the Welsh language provision in the sector. This new institution is needed because current institutions have failed to deliver over the decades.

The model written by Menna and myself, first put forward in November 2007, was conceived with the demise of the University of Wales taken into account. In formulating the model we had examined comparable situations such as Welsh language broadcasting where S4C had been established as a separate channel to provide focus and momentum.

The model’s four core principles can be summarized as follows:

i.) The Welsh Federal College should constitute a new independent academic institution that will bear the responsibility of overseeing, maintaining and developing the Welsh language provision in the sector. The independence of this new institution will bring a new and much needed impetus to Welsh language provision within the sector.

ii.) The Welsh Federal College should have ‘ring fenced’ funding. This funding would be used to implement a step change in the provision, development and marketing of Welsh medium eduction in the sector. Also, the ownership of it’s own ‘ring fenced’ budget will command respect towards the institution from the rest of the sector so that it’s not seen subordinate to other institutions but rather as an equal partner and provider. It should stand shoulder to shoulder and not under current sector institutions in a sector wide hierarchical sense.

iii.) The Welsh Federal College should work under it’s own charter, or other similar legal document, stating clearly its mission, aims and objectives; this will ensure the founding vision is kept central as the institution develops and expands over the coming years.

iv.) Finally, the Welsh Federal College should keep a register of students and academic staff. New appointments under future schemes and current sector personnel who are involved in Welsh language provision should be able to publicly show their membership to the College. This idea of ‘ownership’ from the student and teaching staff perspective is central to the ethos of the new institution – without this membership idea the institution will not be an academic institution but rather nothing more than a Welsh education funding council – this would not be fruitful in terms of creating a Welsh language academic sphere.

The provision itself would be catered through current sector institutions – the Welsh Federal College would work the provision through them. To implement and administrate this it is proposed that the Welsh Federal College would have a ‘branch’ in each sector institution. The size and workload of each ‘branch’ would differ from institution to institution but the long term aim is to have Welsh Federal College co-ordinated Welsh medium provision spread across the whole of Wales in all institutions. The paper makes it clear that this will not be achieved overnight but the model provides a clear framework, given appropriate Government funding, how to move towards this goal. The model can be read in full (in Welsh and English) on the website: www.colegcymraeg.org

The idea of establishing a Welsh Federal College have been adopted as Government policy and currently the Government is considering how best to implement the policy. I hope and pray that the Welsh government will see fit to establish a proper institution with proper funding, as we have argued for, so that the injustice suffered by Welsh speaking students over the decades can be bought to and end.

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