Richard Wyn Jones: The continuing failure to take Wales seriously

From a speech by the international politics lecturer to the Institute of Welsh Affairs at the eisteddfod in Newport

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The higher education system in Wales does the people a great disservice. Hearing some of my colleagues at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, half-suggesting that the grip of Welsh speakers is holding the institution back reminds one of those half-mad characters in Joseph Conrad's novels who blame the native inhabitants for their own shortcomings. Such racism is an ugly thing, be it in the Congo or in Wales.

The higher education system in Wales does the people a great disservice. Hearing some of my colleagues at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, half-suggesting that the grip of Welsh speakers is holding the institution back reminds one of those half-mad characters in Joseph Conrad's novels who blame the native inhabitants for their own shortcomings. Such racism is an ugly thing, be it in the Congo or in Wales.

If one looks at the research produced by Wales's universities, one is struck by how little work is done on Wales within our educational institutions. As a result, our knowledge of many aspects of the life of contemporary Wales is pitifully inadequate. This in turn constrains the task of creating policies which could deal successfully with the complex economic, social and cultural problems of our country.

However, the most damning evidence that can be produced against our universities are the figures regarding the numbers of gifted and talented young people from Wales who flock over the border to study in universities in England.

We know that there is no coming back for many of them; a brain drain that a small country can ill afford, but even so, a brain drain that neither our higher education institutions nor the Assembly Government seem to consider a problem.

The failure of Wales's universities to take Welsh- medium education seriously is but one aspect of a much broader failure: Wales's universities do not take Wales seriously.

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