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Education

Welsh Unis in crisis

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170 jobs could go: Bangor University • Pic: Denis Egan

A FURTHER Welsh University has revealed that it faces a financial crisis.

Bangor University has followed Aberystwyth, UWTSD, The University of South Wales, and Cardiff Met in announcing that it is seeking massive staff redundancies and will cut courses.

The University says it has suffered funding cuts totalling £8.5m since 2016 and faces ‘significant financial issues’.

Up to 170 jobs could go as the University seeks voluntary redundancies.

Reacting to the news that 170 jobs are threatened at Bangor University and staff are being asked to take a pay cut, Geoff Edkins, UNISON organiser said: “University staff are alarmed at the apparent state of Bangor University’s finances. They are angry that management of the university has put their jobs at risk and threatened their families’ livelihoods.

“We must protect the quality and breadth of student learning and support at the university and UNISON doesn’t see how the university’s proposals will do that. At best, the financial strategy of Bangor appears unrealistic.

“We will work with the university to seek to plug the gap in finances. One idea the trade unions have put forward is to sell the grace-and-favour property bought for the Vice Chancellor and which is scarcely used. We believe this could net the university one million pounds straight away.

“Staff are due to meet to consider the university’s proposals and we believe they will be thrown out. If implemented, they would force staff who are already low paid, into poverty.

“Faced with that, it is obvious many would choose to leave and the experience and dedication of hard-working employees would be lost forever. UNISON will be seeking a commitment for the lowest paid to be afforded the maximum protection.”

Wales’ higher education sector has come under increasing pressure, largely as a result of spending cuts and overcapacity within the system. In addition, the number of overseas students coming to study in Wales has declined, with a particularly sharp decline in students coming from the EU following the Brexit vote.

However, the problem of University cuts does not only affect the higher education sector. The closure of Lampeter University was judged to have the potential for such an adverse impact on the local economy that it was rolled up in to the University of Wales Trinity Saint David in order to prevent economic fallout. In Bangor, the knock on effect of job losses and a continuing decline in student enrolment could have a severe impact on the wider area’s economy and also upon scientific research across the UK.

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Education

Poison arrow frogs at New Scientist Live

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Dr Siu-Ting: Specialises in amphibians

​ABERYSTYWTH UNIVERISTY​ scientist Dr Karen Siu-Ting discuss​ed poison arrow frogs at New Scientist Live ​last Thursday ​(Sept ​28​).

Dr Siu-Ting is an IRC ELEVATE-MSCA Co-fund Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University.

Her research into poison arrow frogs feature​d​ as part of ‘Ask a Biologist’​,​ hosted by The Royal Society of Biology.

An evolutionary biologist from Peru,​​ Dr Siu-Ting specialises in amphibians and combines field work in the Amazon rainforest with laboratory and computational analyses to address biological questions.

She is currently working on a project on poison arrow frogs between Aberystwyth University and Dublin City University.

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Education

Apply for six-month traineeship scheme

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Applications open: Join the National Park Authority’s Skills in Action traineeship scheme

​IF YOU’D like to earn as you learn hands-on skills to prepare you for a career in practical conservation or estate management, apply now for Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority’s Skills in Action traineeship scheme.

The project, which is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Skills for the Future scheme, will provide two six-month salaried apprenticeships with the National Park Authority’s Ranger and Warden Teams.

Skills in Action Project Coordinator for Pembrokeshire Coast Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, Tom Iggleden said: “The successful candidates will be learning the skills and experience that are essential to be successful in obtaining employment within a highly competitive sector.

“The main duties of the placement will include practical hands-on work-based experience in conservation and estate management.”

The six month traineeship will see the successful applicants learn a wide variety of skills including traditional hedgelaying and modern conservation methods that are essential to the work of the National Park Authority.

This is an extension to the original three-year project which has helped many of the 15 previous trainees gain employment​.​

The closing date for applications is October 2​4 with interviews to be held on November​ 6​.

Application packs are available from the National Park Authority’s website ​at​www.pembrokeshirecoast.wales/jobs or by contacting contact Joanne Morgan by calling 01646 624856 or by emailing joannem@pembrokeshirecoast.org.uk.

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Education

Committee concerned at £12.7m error

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ALN Bill: Savings turn into costs

​A £12.7M alteration to the cost of the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Bill has been described as concerning by a National Assembly for Wales committee.

In the original figures submitted alongside the Bill the Welsh Government identified savings of £4.8m over a period of four years if the Bill was passed.

But the estimates were challenged by children’s charity SNAP Cymru which claimed the Welsh Government had misinterpreted figures it had provided concerning disputes and resolution services. The Welsh Government admitted the error and revised the figures from the original saving to a cost of £7.9m – a difference of £12.7m.

The Finance Committee asked the Welsh Government to delay the financial resolution on the Bill, the mechanism by which government gains support to spend the money enacting the law and the government agreed.

“A £12.7m swing from a saving to a cost is very concerning, as it shows a government which doesn’t fully understand the figures it quotes,” said Simon Thomas AM, Chair of the Finance Committee.

“It also throws into doubt any future costs connected to Bills which come before this committee as we are left wondering whether the government has done its sums right.

“We are grateful to SNAP Cymru for highlighting the inaccuracies and acknowledge the steps taken by the Minister subsequently, but we will need further reassurance that such errors will not happen again.”

The Bill’s aim is to improve the quality of support available to children with additional learning needs through a person-centred approach which would identify needs early on and make sure the right support, monitoring and evaluation was put in place to help them.

The Finance Committee welcomed the actions taken by the Welsh Government to address the situation. But Members were concerned and surprised that inaccuracies as significant as this were raised and that SNAP Cymru was not consulted on the final figures before they were published.

The Committee acknowledges that revisions have since been made and the Minister’s assurances that the revised figures are robust, however, it is concerned at the need to have made this level of changes to the original costings.

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