Mid Wales

Aberystwyth University non-Welsh speaking chief opposed

Aberystwyth University
Image caption The university's current vice-chancellor Prof Noel Lloyd announced his retirement in July

Language campaigners say they are "strongly opposed" to plans which could see a non-Welsh speaker appointed Aberystwyth's new vice-chancellor.

A university document says making the language essential would narrow the field of candidates "excessively".

The Welsh Language Society accused the university of following the "dangerous precedent" set by Bangor University.

Aberystwyth University said it recognised its responsibility to the Welsh language and culture.

Its vice-chancellor Prof Noel Lloyd is to step down next year.

University president Sir Emyr Jones Parry, the UK's former ambassador to the United Nations, has sent a confidential document to senior officials explaining the "language requirements for the post of vice-chancellor".

In it Sir Emyr writes that the selection committee looking at appointing a new vice-chancellor has given full consideration to the university's bilingual skills strategy.

"The selection committee is of the view that now making Welsh speaking essential for the post would narrow the field excessively when the requirement is to recruit an outstanding individual who can address tomorrow's challenges, " he said.

"The language requirements for the post (and that of any deputy vice-chancellor) need to be considered in the context of the capacity of the senior management team of the university who must have, and do have, full capacity to be able to deal and communicate fluently and effectively in both Welsh and English."

Sir Emyr said the new vice-chancellor should "be sympathetic to and comfortable with" working in a bilingual environment, and a non-Welsh speaker should learn the language to a modest standard before starting work.

He said he had also met the Welsh Language Board to discuss the linguistic requirements of the post.

But the chair of the pressure group the Welsh Language Society, Menna Machreth, said she strongly opposed the move, adding the university was not "respecting" its Welsh language scheme.

She said: "Bangor University set a precedent and Aberystwyth University is following suit, and this is a dangerous precedent.

"Communicating through the medium of Welsh is crucial in this area and Aberystwyth is not fulfilling its duty to the local community or the university.

"The right person for the job is the person who can lead the university and ensure the university contributes to Wales and the local community."

Welsh culture

The Welsh language students union, Undeb Myfyrwyr Cymraeg Aberystwyth (UMCA), accused the university of breaking its bilingual policy.

President Rhiannon Wade said: "The university should stick to its bilingual policy. It's been traditional for the vice-chancellor at Aberystwyth to be a Welsh speaker and this should not change.

"The university's council claims it doesn't want to restrict the field, but how do they know that there's not the talent in Wales to do the job?"

An Aberystwyth University spokesman said: "Aberystwyth University fully recognises its responsibility to the Welsh language and to Welsh culture and will maintain that responsibility. The process will unfold as it is approved by the (university) council."

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