14 October 2019

Shwmae, Su’mae – Towards Cymraeg 2050: HEFCW and Welsh language in higher education

As a Welsh speaker I find that the ability to use the language in the workplace is a joy, and also something that is becoming common practice in HEFCW. That is why we have decided to celebrate – in the ethos of Shwmae Su’mae – the work we have done as an organisation to support the use of Welsh in the higher education sector.

Despite Welsh Government’s initiative, Towards Cymraeg 2050: A million Welsh speakers, it can sometimes be challenging to use the Welsh language on a daily basis. However, implementing the Welsh Language Standards in March 2018 provided HEFCW with an opportunity to reaffirm a lot of the good work we were doing and to explore ways to strengthen our current practice. As an organisation we also continue to do the little things, like answering the phone bilingually, attending ‘Cymraeg Gwaith’ courses and wearing Cymraeg and Dysgwr lanyards. However, these have led to bigger things, such as giving us opportunities to engage with the public, stakeholders and the higher education sector as a bilingual organisation.

We have worked closely with Y Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol since its establishment, first in a monitoring capacity and now through close partnership working. We have supported Y Coleg to invest in new staff and provision, focus on key target areas and support the take up of the Welsh language skills certificate. As funding Y Coleg has now passed on to the Welsh Government, we are proud of our legacy, and will continue to work with Y Coleg to enable it to continue its vital role in growing opportunities for students to study through Welsh. We also work closely with the National Centre for Learning Welsh, and Estyn to support the Welsh language. We recognise that learning and speaking the Welsh language is a skill in itself which in education can open doors to many different sources of knowledge and enrichen the education experience – and change your life.

We are encouraged that the number of students choosing to study part of their higher education courses in Welsh has grown over the past eight years. Increased opportunities and awareness at higher education providers have contributed significantly to this increase. From 2017, we have also been working with higher education providers to develop degree apprenticeships in priority areas. These proposals had to include a sufficient element on which part of these courses could be delivered through the Welsh language or bilingually.

We have also commissioned research on how to further enhance meaningful partnerships between educators, students’ unions and students (due early 2020!) This research will also consider the impact of bilingual provision and how groups of students and educators engage with the Welsh language in education and further afield. We hope that this will provide us with examples of good practice and guidance for how we can further promote and encourage this work in the future.

In Wales, every institution produces a student charter, which provides links and signposts to detailed information about courses, student support and regulations. In addition, they include specific information about higher education providers’ engagement with the Welsh language. We monitor the charters regularly to ensure that students have access to information on what is available to them in terms of the Welsh language at their higher education provider.

Today, aligned to the many acts of celebration across the country, we have launched our publication Towards Cymraeg 2050: HEFCW and Welsh language in higher education, and encourage you to join us on this journey. Ymlaen â ni!

Savanna Jones, Student Experience Manager, HEFCW