Cynhadledd Ysgolion Cymru dros Heddwch | Wales for Peace Schools Conference

By  Mushfik Khan

The 4th Wales for Peace annual school conference was held this year on the 20th of September at the Pierhead in Cardiff Bay.

Wales for Peace itself is a 4-year heritage lottery funded project located in the Temple of Peace at the Welsh Centre for International Affairs in Cardiff. The main aim of this project is to learn about Wales’ peace heritage over the last century and to inspire the youth of Wales to research and discover the ‘hidden histories’ on how Wales as a nation over the decades has worked towards securing peace. This year’s event named ‘Young People Voicing Peace’, was primarily focused on young people from a total of nine schools located in Cardiff and surrounding areas who shared digital stories they had produced with Ffotgallery on different themes relating to peace. The conference therefore began by asking the question,

“In the 100 years since World War 1, how has Wales contributed to the search for peace?”

 Elin Jones, Presiding Officer of the National Assembly for Wales opened the conference with a welcoming speech.

David Hughes the European Commissioner for Wales then gave a short speech in which peacehe spoke of Wales’ voice in Europe. Mr Hughes emphasised how not only are we living in uncertain and “dangerous times” globally due to ongoing conflicts but in the United Kingdom, young people face an uncertain future due to Brexit. He explained how important cooperation and openness were in maintaining peace not only now but in the future as he stated, “those who forget history, are condemned to repeat it”.

The next stage of the conference involved the students sharing their digital stories in front of the audience of volunteers, teachers and fellow students. The stories touched upon a number of topics such as refugees and asylum seekers, women, war and peace and the voice of young people. One of the digital stories involved the students asking younger students what the word peace meant to them and one student responded with, “when everyone is happy and gets along” whereas another took a completely different approach to interpreting the word peace and stated, “I think when you be quiet, like in a library”, which received some chuckles around the room.

Before the break for lunch, the students had a chance to aytend various workshops and to explore themes such as, Wales as a nation of sanctuary, Wales and international cooperation, women’s role in peace making and the voice of young people in creating a peaceful Wales. The workshop which I attended was the voice of young people in creating a peaceful Wales and this workshop contained a series of activities which were designed to educate the students on the governmental process within Wales and it also encouraged them to be vocal and share their opinions. The students were asked questions like, “are politicians doing enough for peace” to which the majority responded no, stating that there are “still wars going on” and that the politicians could “always do better”. After the workshops, the groups regathered and shared what they did in their workshops and what they have learnt from them.

poppioes

The lunch break took place in the Senedd where there was an opportunity for the students to view the Poppies Weeping Willow exhibition and the Wales for Peace exhibition on Women, War and Peace which featured photos taken by photojournalist Lee Karen Stow.

The exhibition featured stories from women who had been affected by war or from those who had campaigned for peace.

To finish off the conference, there was a panel event which also included a member for the National Assembly for Wales, Ann Jones. The students were able to ask any questions displayregarding what they had learnt or heard throughout the day. This was a great way to end a great conference which allowed the students to  learn about Wales’ peace heritage and got them to think about what they as the future generation can do to ensure that Wales continues to strive for peace.

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Temple Tales #3 “The Whole Package”: from Pembroke Dock to Mandela thanks

Bert banner

By Kathryn Evans

Bert Pearce is the true definition of a hidden history.  Why did I start researching Bert Pearce?  Here at the Temple of Peace we have a tree and plaque dedicated to him in our Garden of Peace so naturally, intrigue followed.  This commemoration is here because not only did Bert visit the Temple of Peace, it was believed he would respect and appreciate many of the campaigns we support here.  Another reason I wanted to delve further into the life of Bert Pearce is because he was personally thanked by Nelson Mandela in his 1998 speech at Cardiff Castle; a magnificent recognition and indication that he was a key individual in Wales’ fight for peace.

Bert Pearce gave a lifetime devotion to active politics. He was born in Pembroke Dock, Wales, to a Christian minister and an enthusiastic Co-operator.  What influenced Bert considerably  was the closure of Pembrokeshire Dockyard in 1926.  In the documentary A Welsh Life by Patrick Hannan, Bert explains there was, “like an eerie silence, unemployed workers and people being sent away and friends disappearing,” concluding that there must be something wrong with the system for this kind of devastation to be brought among them.  His parents were both members of the Labour party, and in 1936 Bert became a clerk at the Labour Exchange.  In 1938 he moved to Birmingham where he became fully integrated with political activism, the Communist party and fighting for the people’s democracy.  He was employed by the Communist party where he eventually became the party’s full time organiser.  Bert was also Birmingham’s City Secretary and was actively involved in a number of projects for Birmingham that were extremely productive.

Bert returned to Wales in 1960 when he became the secretary of the Welsh Communist Party. He was also heavily involved in National Union of Miners (NUM), Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the fight for a Welsh parliament alongside the Communist Party.  Noticeably from his mention in Nelson Mandela’s speech, Bert  was also an active participant in the Wales Anti-Apartheid Movement (WAAM). He was a proud Marxist and on the editorial board of Marxism Today where writings consisted mostly about the Nationalisation of Wales, where he argued we needed to devolve government and unify Britain and Europe.

Bert lived through the times of the Communist party when it was very much following the line of the Soviet Union.  When Czechoslovakia reformed Bert was one of the people in the party who was in the forefront of questioning the Socialism that they seemed to be following.  Bert believed that politics developed and you have to question to take things forward, and this is where he stood politically.

In A Welsh Life he proudly talks about how he lived to see the exposure of his mistakes and strategies that were wrong in the Soviet Union, and a new development of a Marxism which is green, humane and feminist.  Patrick Hannan asked Bert if he thought fighting for Socialism and Communism had been a waste of his life given its failures. Bert replied beautifully, laughing:

“I don’t see how I could have wasted my life better. I took part in all the key struggles of my time. Fighting for real causes: the creation of a real popular people’s democracy. Those of us who have learnt through the struggles, like the Welsh miners, clung to fact they were strong enough to stand up to anybody and fight for cause, many brilliant analysts and politics.”

 

 Embed from Getty Images

Picture caption: office of a communist party branch in Wales in the 1970s.

In the documentary Bert also made the perfect statement portraying his motivation towards politics: “a communist is there because you believe in the people.”

 I also discovered that the founder of the Wales Anti-Apartheid Movement (WAAM), Hanef Bhamjee, was put in contact with Bert to help lift off the WAAM campaign.  I got in touch with Hanef who very kindly wrote an emotive statement describing his relationship with Bert:

“I met Bert Pearce in early 1973. He was a very committed Socialist and anti-racist and supported Revolutionary Causes. I discussed the idea of the formation of a Wales Anti-Apartheid Movement with him. When I spoke at meetings on South and Southern Africa in various parts of Wales the level of support was very high compared to other Parts of the UK. I was surprised that there was not an all Wales movement.

 He was very helpful and provided various peoples across Wales who would be supportive to the idea of WAAM. He knew people across the political spectrum, and in different forums. This was very useful. He ‘opened’ many minds and doors for WAAM. In the beginning I needed contacts that I could rely on to help in various cities in Churches, Trade Unions, Trade Councils etc. and in the cultural fraternity.

 Our friendship was a very close political one and lasted ‘til he died.  When Mandela visited Wales to receive the ‘freedom of the city’ in Cardiff, he asked me to single one Welsh person as a key activist. Without hesitation I provided the name of Bert, whom he then mentioned at the award speech. Bert was involved with anti-apartheid and anti-racism all his life as a dedicated Communist. He is and was well remembered in CND, Working class politics, and Solidarity movements associated with areas on the 5 continents. He was instrumental in assisting third world politics that I was involved with in Africa, Asia and South America. When we finally launched the WAAM in April 1981 after painstaking work in Wales, we already had 22 branches in towns and cities, all church groups and religious groups supported us. We had branches in nearly every college. WAAM was regarded as the most powerful pressure group in Wales – Bert’s involvement was well recognised.”

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Anti-apartheid demo in Wales; you can see the communist party’s banner in the background

As I mentioned before I found it an enjoyable challenge searching for information of Bert’s life, and I was lucky enough to have Bert’s daughter Marian get in touch with me. A life-saving moment as my conversations with Marian opened up a whole new side to Bert that I wouldn’t find in any library which has led me into this more personal article about Bert Pearce and why he is relevant to Wales’ fight for peace. In one question I asked Marian what she believed would be Bert’s proudest moment:

“It’s a difficult thing to say, because I think he wouldn’t be proud in that sense, he would just look at the broad brush of how he got on with the people that he worked with. I think one of the things he would be most proud of, that I ended up as the Chair of the Communist Party, you know as that was like carrying the mantle. The Nelson Mandela moment would have to be a proud moment. Mandela had obviously asked, who shall I pay tribute to? And all these people in the anti-apartheid movement said my dad! And that just has to be the most stunning tribute. Mandela had said in the speech, ‘there’s somebody here in the audience who is even older than I am..’ and when Mandela came over to meet Dad to be introduced to him all dad could say was ‘um I actually don’t think I am quite as old as you.’ Even in a moment like that, he was very sort of genuine and rounded.”

It’s very easy to understand how Bert Pearce was an ordinary, jolly man who was naturally charismatic, and had the capability to apply his passion to politics and make a difference.

Bert was a very influential and well respected man and I was extremely keen to delve further into this side of Bert. It wasn’t until I had a conversation with Marian that it came to light exactly how much of a people person he was, and how it was this personality trait that sprung him forward into a politically active life and made campaigns such as WAAM a success. Marian went into teaching along a similar career path to her mother, and also became Chair of the Communist Party as her life had always been involved with the Communist movement. I asked Marian how she thought Bert had influenced her:

“In a very real sense, what my dad influenced me in was an interest in people – he was very much a people person. His politics were very people orientated rather than dogma orientated and I learnt a lot from that. So that was kind of my approach to my parents politics – it was all about people so I took that with (me) and all those good principles.”

Marian spoke about how much of an ordinary man Bert was, he was never unwilling to engage with somebody because of differing perspectives.  He was always very intrigued to hear about people’s views and was incredibly open-minded about religion and politics and believed everyone was entitled to make their own mind up.

It’s easy to understand then why Bert was so well respected by a wide range of movements. Marian told me he was never the ‘cog’ but he was always there – at every speech, every demonstration and every activity he was one of the key individuals behind it. Marian proudly states how Bert was an incredible organiser, always there helping to support organise and publicise actions. That was essentially what he did for his career, his life – he was an extremely good organiser and strategist. I enjoyed listening to Marian as she described her father:

“He was a brilliant man.  His range of interests were phenomenal.  He knew such a lot about classical music, literature, poetry.  His mind was just stunningly broad, a fantastic person from that point of view. He was just so proud of his kids and his grandkids.  A lovely people person, his funeral was just stunningly wonderful.”      

In a very pleasant chat with Marian I also enjoyed learning about Bert’s past that didn’t involve politics, the fun loving side to him. On his plaque at the Temple of Peace it says, “a lover of music and mountains of Wales,” which Marian talks fondly about.  Describing one of her memories walking up Cadair Idris Mountain with her father:

“He packed our rucksacks and we were all climbing up Cadair Idris and I was very tired and thought ‘this bag’s heavy.’ He says, ‘come on come on we’re nearly there!’ Then I discovered that I’d carried a bottle of his Drambuie all the way to the top, so he could have some Drambuie at the top.”

Another enlightening anecdote from Marian was about the unique Community Camping Club that she is now secretary of that began in 1952 and is still active today. It was formed by a group of people with similar interests, all Communists which the Pearce family joined and enjoyed many holidays with.

Marian’s words conclude this article perfectly so I will end with one last comment from his daughter, whom I thank enormously for the insight into Bert Pearce’s life:

“I wouldn’t say he had a career, he devoted his life to the cause that he believed in and he just happened to work for the Communist Party. For him it wasn’t a career it was how he could best contribute to what he passionately believed in. What makes his life extraordinary was ‘the whole package’. How he managed to be so important in so many people’s lives. I think he would struggle to say one thing that he did because there was so many bits of things that he did.”

Further reading:

If you are interested in watching Nelson Mandela’s speech at Cardiff Castle accepting the Freedom of the City, and finding out more information of the day please follow the link below. It is at 41 minutes in that Nelson Mandela begins his speech, and at 44:40 he begins his acknowledgement to Bert:    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IYBcIHTBDxs

Telephone interview with Bert Pearce’s daughter Marian Darke 30.08.2017

A Welsh Life, documentary by Patrick Hannan (with thanks to Marian for this reference).

Bert Pearce has a collection of Communist papers, minutes, and newspaper clippings on various actions he took in his life and his efforts toward WAAM held at the National Library of Wales.

Obituary in the Guardian, September 16, 2002: https://www.theguardian.com/news/2002/sep/16/guardianobituaries

Wikipedia, Bert Pearce:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bert_Pearce

Graham Stevenson:

http://www.grahamstevenson.me.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=454:bert-pearce-&catid=16:p&Itemid=119

National Library of Wales:

http://anws.llgc.org.uk/cgi-bin/anw/fulldesc_nofr?inst_id=1&coll_id=20102&expand=

UNZ.Org for Marxism Today articles:

https://www.unz.org/Pub/MarxismToday-1977dec-00358?Author=Bert+Pearce&Action=Search

No vote? Don’t sweat!

By Olivia Richards and Rhiannon Jones 

As the recent turnout of the general election increased by 9.3% compared to 2001, there has also been an increase among individuals who are under 18 and want their say in future elections. Here are some ways to get involved and make sure that everyone has a right to contribute politically:

  • Form a debating group – Each of you can represent a different party and talk about global issues. You might even see another side to the argument and change your mind on certain topics.
  •  Volunteer for charities such as health charities that want to make changes to laws and policies. This is a great opportunity to meet other people who are passionate about the same things as you!
  •  Host a mock election in school – This is beneficial for the whole school, as it lets everyone contribute and form opinions. Having your own polling station will prepare you for the process of voting when you turn 18.
  •  Sign online petitions – There are petitions to change all kind of policies, for example: legislation regarding animal testing. If there are 10,000 signatures to the petition, the government will respond. You could help make up these numbers if there are issues you are passionate on any of these topics.
  •  Campaigning – You could create posters and post on social media to raise awareness of issues that are important to you.petition

There are many benefits towards younger individuals taking part in such activities. One of which is having the ability to develop your own opinion. This ensures that more people will engage in political decision making and vote, as more and more will have a better understanding of how democracy works. Imagine the confidence you will develop by practicing the election process. Creative thinking is also an essential skill for everyday challenges therefore, representing different parties is a good way to come up with various ideas on how to improve the future of others.

Even though you might not be old enough to vote, campaigning is a great way to contribute and make your opinion heard. You never know who you might persuade or influence.

Whatever your age, there are opportunities for everyone. Currently, ‘Youth Parliament for Wales’ are planning to form a youth parliament where younger individuals can express their opinions on various topics that concern us all.

Interested in volunteering for the WCIA like Olivia and Rhiannon? Read about their experiences here.

Volunteering with the WCIA

By Mailys

Being a masters student in international relations and geopolitics and having spent one year studying in North Wales in 2016, the Welsh Centre for International Affairs (WCIA) was the perfect place to do my internship. For three months, I have been given many projects to work on such as:

  • Global Steps project — a project in collaboration with Erasmus + which aims at providing evidence of the skills and competencies developed through volunteering experience in order to facilitate access to quality employment using those skills.
  • Wales for Peace school workshops —I visited Welsh schools in order to run creative workshops and helping pupils to cover their Hidden History.

I also had the chance to attend several events such as Wales as a Nation of Sanctuary conference and Africa Day. Nation of Sanctuary conference was a coalition of charities, debating what and how to improve the lives of refugees and asylum seekers in Wales. The idea being pushed forward was to make Wales as a Nation of Sanctuary status, with an emphasis on creating a welcoming safe space for all. Such things as ‘welcoming’ or improving living conditions etc may seem small but a change in attitude and perceptions can create huge differences.

I am so glad for my experience at the WCIA. As a student, I have always been told how international institutions are important for national and international cooperation, to maintain peace. However, when at university, it seems like we are only taught about the United Nations, the OECD and other famous and massive institutions. But no-one seems to be emphasising smaller organisations that have an actual impact on these issues at a local level — like the WCIA. This is why my involvement in the WCIA has been a significant experience for me as it taught me a lot about how charities work and about the impact they can make on social, political and global issues and the extent that Wales is contributing to a greater global community and a fairer nation. To me, creating a change seems difficult by only working at an international level. However, by changing the focus to smaller everyday activities of interactions, at a local level first is what matters and what can work on the long run.

In the WCIA offices, the friendliness of everyone has been amazing. It was  also interesting to see how passionate people are on local and international subjects, on politics… Besides, I figured out there are always new ideas, skills, projects and events to be learnt, to work on and improve.

I am currently applying for my second year of masters emphasising on ‘peace studies’ and I think the internship will be an asset for my upcoming year and my future, especially when I consider the idea and objectives of the WCIA that everyone contributing to a fair and peaceful world.

After this three month internship, I have acquired several skills which improved my way of working, thinking and interacting with other. I also feel more confident about how to implement change, have an impact, talk about global issue and taking initiative than I was before the internship. The knowledge and skills I gained during my time volunteering are extremely useful and the range of opportunities I was offered in the WCIA was great.

If you are interested in finding out more about volunteering opportunities with the WCIA, click here.

 

How to affect policy change: engaging your political representatives

By Mailys Andre 

The step between acknowledging an issue and deciding to do something about it is significant and can be daunting. But it should not be.

Below are tips and recommendations for anyone and everyone to inform themselves about the do’s and don’ts of effective policy change. These notes were compiled from a recent Refugee Conference.

Key messages on Who does What:

1. Target the right people — With a specific problem start locally and work up. Talk to the agency delivering the service. Write to the responsible minister or Department. Use your Assembly Member to influence policy in Wales such as on health or education. Your MP can influence UK-wide asylum policy.

2. Think and do research — Before you lobby, search, for instance for Welsh Refugee Coalition papers, Welsh Refugee Council and City of Sanctuary evidence.

3. Form alliances — For issues that affect many people. Use existing policy positions.

4. Limit you request — To what that person is responsible for and build relationships. Be ready to influence several bodies to change their approach before you achieve a solution.

  • UK Government — Immigration, asylum decisions, legal aid, asylum support, repatriation, asylum seeker housing, human trafficking, resettlement programmes with local authorities, right to work, policy and legal framework, funding and contracting for migrant support, wider welfare and employment support.
  • Welsh Government — Health, education and skills services, economic development, poverty and social inclusion, local transport and housing (except asylum housing), policy, law, funding… Can influence local authorities and others.
  • Local authorities — Implementing resettlement programmes, education, environmental health, social services, homeless prevention, transport, other local services after grant asylum.
  • Members of Parliament — Can raise policy concerns on your behalf eg. with Ministers, or through commons debates, bill amendments, questions, early day motions or inquiries. They can potentially help raise profile of ‘hard’ cases or help change their party’s policy. The All Party parliamentary Group on Refugees including MPs and peers can press for change on specific issues (eg. unaccompanied children, human rights in different countries…).
  • Assembly Members — Can similarly raise profile of policy concerns on your behalf or through questions to Welsh Ministers, Send debates, amendments or inquiries and influence their party’s policy.

 

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Getting in touch: 

1. They work for you. MPs represent their constituents who have the power to vote them back in or boot them out, so they do care about what you think.

2. Find who your MP is — They often have a website where you can find out when they hold surgeries around the constituency and then get in touch to book an appointment. MPs will only deal with people who live in their constituency so make sure to include your address (postcode) when you get in touch.

3. Send an email. MPs get large volumes of emails every day on a range of issues so do your best to make yours clear and concise, clearly setting out what you’d life them to do. If you’re taking part in an ‘email your MP’ action, make sure to personalise your message to increase the likelihood of your email having an impact.

4. Get in touch via social media. Many but not all MPs are on social media. This can be an effective way to publicly press them on certain issues but be careful to ensure the tone is not too confrontational or to go down the ‘naming and shaming’ route as this can jeopardise a future relationship. Social media is a good way to highlight your MP’s support for a campaign and give them public recognition for their work.

‘If your issue is urgent, a phone call could allow them to take action sooner rather than waiting for a meeting.’

5. Pick up the phone. While you are unlikely to speak to your MP directly, you can book a meeting. It’s usually best to call the constituency number provided (rather than the Westminster number). If you have an issue you want to discuss, sending an email is often a good first step to allow your MP to consider the issue and their response. But if your issue is urgent, a phone call could allow them to take action sooner rather than waiting for a meeting.

6. Meet in person. MPs hold regular surgeries where constituents can come along and raise issues of importance to them. Don’t be intimidated by the prospect of a face to face meeting.

Do: 

  • Go to the right person. Your MP can push for change in the UK policy or take up a specific case. If the policy is devolved to Wales you should talk with your local or regional Assembly Member. You can also write directly to the responsible Minister.
  • Come prepared. Be sure to use arguments that make sense to them, not just you. Make sure you know about your MP including the issues they particularly care about. This should help you to understand their position on the issue you want to talk about and allows you to consider the messages which could resonate best.
  • Be clear on how they can help. Be clear on what you would like your representative to do about the issue you’ve brought to them.
  • Keep to time. MPs have very busy schedules so make sure to ask at the start of your meeting how much time you have and stick to it. Try and get your top messages across as quickly and simply as you can.

‘Offer them the ‘hero’ opportunity’.  

  • Offer them the ‘hero’ opportunity. Consider how backing your issue will play out for your MP in terms of impact on voters, important constituencies and local press. If you can frame your issue as an opportunity for your MP to step in and ‘save the day’ while gaining sature and visibility, they may be more likely to back you.
  • Bring the experiences of refugees and asylum-seekers. MPs don’t often hear from people who have been through the asylum system, and sometimes hearing from them directly can have the most impact. Consider how you can provide a platform for refugees ans asylum-seekers to ensure their voices are heard — whether by attending a meeting directly to share firsthand experiences or by using anonymised anecdotes ans stories.
  • Work with others. Consider bringing a group of people to your meeting who represent a diverse group of constituents. MPs are more likely to take notice if varied members of the community unite behind an issue.
  • Follow-up immediately. Send a follow-up email or letter after you’ve met summarising your key points and the action your MP agreed to take, as well as asking them to feedback on the outcome of their action.

Don’t: 

  • Assume knowledge. While MPs may come across confidently engaging on a number of issues, it is impossible for them to now them all in depth. Rather than launching into detailed policy discussions, think about how to introduce your issue clearly and simply.
  • Spam your MP. Personalising emails increases the chance that your MP will read and respond to your message — note that you are a constituent and make sure to add why the issue is important to you.
  • Ask for the impossible. Make your request as clear and practical as possible. If yours is a specific ask that can be carried out fairly quickly then use it as a stepping stone to your next ask. If you want to change a whole policy area consider the series of actions that can be taken and be prepared to find allies who will work on a sustained campaign.
  • Expect them to do all the work. Think about ways you can help your MP achieve your goal.They have limited resources to think about what you can offer to make supporting your issue even easier — e.g. offering to collate relevant research, draft key messages or questions to raise in Parliament, etc…
  • Give up if you hear no. If your MP disagrees with you, ask why and make sure to understand their motivations. Then you can go back to the drawing board, try to sport flaws in their arguments and consider how to build a more compelling case.

 

Having difficult conversations about/with migrants

by Mailys Andre

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At a Refugee Conference held last month, attention was drawn to having conversations with migrants or those who think differently to ourselves.  Below are the recommendations provided by HOPE not hate Cymru.

When having a difficult conversation with a migrant or asylum seeker, try to use the ‘listening wheel’:

  1. Open questions : How? What? Where? Who? Why?
  2. Summarising : A summary helps to show the individual that you have listened and understood their circumstances and their feelings.
  3. Reflecting : Repeating back a word or phrase encourage the individual to carry on and expand
  4. Clarifying : Sometimes an individual may gloss over an important point. By exploring these areas further we can help them clarify these points for themselves.
  5. Short Words of Encouragement: The person may need help to go on their story — use words like ‘yes’ or ‘go on’.
  6. Reacting : We need to show that we have understood the situation by reacting to it — “That sounds like it is very difficult”.

Don’t forget :

  1. Story/narrative is powerful (inspire people)
  2. Try to change the dynamic of your conversation (listen, question…)

What if you are facing the opposition?

Ask agitating questions such as :

  1. Has this happened to you before?
  2. What make you believe that?
  3. What makes you angry? (This involves a conscious question with conscious pause)

Try “Empathetic listening”:

  1. This should be your instinct.
  2. Be genuine.
  3. Engage with the person behind the opinion.

You can find out more about HOPE not hate and its current research here.

What does Brexit mean for the future of Welsh universities?

By Joe Crombie

The 21st century has seen Welsh universities flourish as student enrolment and campuses grew seemingly without limit. The higher education sector in Wales now directly contributes around £1.4 billion to the economy and indirectly powers around £1.4 billion through dependent industries. This growth was in part facilitated by the European Union, through funding grants or loans to Welsh institutions or through the student mobility and research collaboration that freedom of movement allowed. Brexit will have profound effects on Wales, but the higher education sector will feel particularly exposed as an industry heavily linked to the EU.

In recent years, British universities have embarked on a building binge. At the end of 2014, annual capital expenditure by British universities had reached £2.5 billion, with 500,000 square metres of new space being added. The rough equivalent area of around five new universities. european-union-155207_960_720

Welsh universities were no exception and saw major expansion. Swansea University recently opened its Bay Campus, which has allowed the university to double in size and further act as an engine of economic growth for the region. The funding for this huge expansion came from three chief sources: the Welsh Government, EU and European Investment Bank. Indeed, the funding from the EU amounted to £95 million. To the east, the opening of the prestigious Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre was made possible in part by £4.5 million of European funding. Welsh universities have been expanding dramatically and while the rise in student fees has resulted in a drive to energise facilities to improve student satisfaction, the money to turn proposals into reality has often come in contribution from EU institutions and there is no certainty that an alternative funding stream will be created after Brexit.

Funding for campus expansion is not the only place that Welsh universities have benefited from European cash. Funding for research to British institutions from the EU amounts to around £1 billion a year. In Wales the EU contributes around £35 million annually towards research or about 16% of the total Welsh institutions receive. In the rest of the UK the private sector is responsible for around 45% of total research funding but in Wales this drops to around 10% highlighting a greater dependence by Welsh institutions on European money compared to their British peers. The quality of research an institution puts out is a key barometer for its quality and any loss of research funding could detrimentally effect the quality and global standing of our universities.

While the financial connection of Welsh institutions to the EU is clear, the human link is just as valuable. Around a sixth of researchers at British universities come from elsewhere in the EU and any change in visa arrangements could make Wales look less attractive and result in a drain of academic talent and a difficulty to cooperate on future European wide projects. Around 17% of Cardiff Universities academic staff are EU nationals and the presence of academic talent from across Europe has been vital to the success of Welsh institutions. Student applications have already seen a decline, with an over 8% decrease in applications to Welsh universities from EU students. A fall in EU students has the potential of reducing the roughly £130 million they put into Welsh universities and their local economies. Indeed, the onset of Brexit is a factor that Prof Colin Riordan, Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University has acknowledged will “probably” lead to a decline in applications.

The support Welsh universities will receive post-Brexit is unclear and this situation is likely to continue in the short term. But what is clear is that the expansion of universities in Wales has in part been driven by the financial and human input of the European Union. If higher education in Wales is to continue to thrive, it needs the support of a state that recognises the huge impact it plays in contributing to the prosperity of Wales and its people.