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Education

Swansea University appoints new Chancellor

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New Chancellor: Professor Dame Jean Thomas

PROFESSOR Dame Jean Thomas is an Emeritus Professor of Biochemistry, University of Cambridge, immediate past Master of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge, and current President of the Royal Society of Biology.

Professor Thomas carried out her first duty as Chancellor this week, when she presented degree awards to graduates on Monday, during Swansea University’s winter degree ceremonies (Jan 8-10) to be held at the Great Hall at the University’s Bay Campus.

Professor Thomas is an alumna of Swansea University (then known as University College Swansea, University of Wales). In 1964, she graduated with a First Class BSc in Chemistry, and in 1967, she was awarded a PhD in Chemistry.

She immediately took up a Beit Memorial Research Fellowship at the Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge and two years later joined the academic staff of the Biochemistry Department, University of Cambridge, where she has worked ever since and become Professor of Macromolecular Biochemistry in 1991.

In 2007, she was elected as the 38th Master of St Catharine’s College, Cambridge and served for 10 years –the first (and still only) female Master since the College was founded in 1473.

She has received numerous awards and honours throughout her career, and has served on many national bodies. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society, elected in 1986, of the Academy of Medical Sciences and of the Learned Society of Wales; and a Member of the European Molecular Biology Organization (EMBO) and of the Academia Europaea.

She holds honorary degrees and fellowships from several Universities and Colleges, including an Honorary Fellowship from Swansea University, awarded in 1987.

She served as Biological Secretary and Vice-President of the Royal Society for five years from 2008, as a Governor of the Wellcome Trust for seven years from 2000 and as a Trustee of the British Museum for 10 years from 1994, and has also served, inter alia, on the Councils of SERC and then EPSRC. She is currently President of the Royal Society of Biology (and previously President of the Biochemical Society), a Trustee of the Wolfson Foundation and a member of the Scientific Advisory Council for Wales.

She became a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 1993 for services to Science, and in 2005 a Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (DBE) for her services to Biochemistry.

Speaking of Professor Thomas’ appointment, Swansea University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Richard B. Davies said: “We are extremely honoured to welcome Professor Dame Jean Thomas as our new Chancellor. Professor Thomas’ academic reputation precedes her; her career has been exemplary, and inspiring.

“Swansea University continues to grow and develop, in terms of its high-quality facilities and in terms of its reputation as an internationally-renowned research-led university.

“As we approach our centenary, in 2020, and commence the next stage of the University’s development, Professor Thomas is ideally placed to reflect our values of academic excellence innovation, and great ambition.”

On her appointment as Chancellor, Professor Dame Jean Thomas said: “When I first graduated from Swansea University many years ago, I could not have imagined that one day I would have the honour of serving as its Chancellor. The University continues to achieve and expand, and I am very much looking forward to being part of this exciting ambition as we move towards the Centenary in 2020.”

Professor Dame Jean Thomas succeeds the late Rhodri Morgan, First Minister of Wales, who was Chancellor of Swansea University between 2011 and 2017.

Education

Apprentices deserve better financial support

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More and better funding: Committee calls for better deal for apprentices

APPRENTICES in Wales should have similar access to financial support as University students.

That’s the main finding from the Assembly’s Economy Infrastructure and Skills Committee, which published its latest report on Apprenticeships in Wales on Thursday​ (Feb 14)​.

Committee Chair, Russell George AM, said: “Parity of esteem between vocational and academic routes needs to be underpinned by parity of support for learners.

“There is a strong moral case for the Welsh Government to apply similar levels of support to apprentices as would be available to their peers in full-time education.”

The Welsh Government has this week launched an advertising campaign to promote a new package of measures for university students which it describes as ​’​the most generous student support package in the UK​’​.

While apprentices receive a wage while they train, they are not eligible for the support available to students, which can make being an apprentice seem less attractive.

The Committee heard that some young people are deterred from entering apprenticeships by the initial costs involved. These can be relatively minor sums of money to travel to interviews, or the first few weeks of work before they get paid.

The Committee’s work found that while there is much that is positive about Apprenticeships in Wales there were a few surprises.

Mr George added: “We were surprised that the number of disabled apprentices in Wales was far below the rate achieved in England.

“We were also concerned that a lack of providers may be preventing young people undertaking apprenticeships through the medium of Welsh.

“There is still a stubborn gender segregation when we talk about apprenticeships. Both the Welsh Government and stakeholders are committed to address this, and are taking steps to do so, but progress has been slow. This issue is not unique to Wales.

“We are recommending annual publication of figures to maintain pressure and ensure that apprenticeships in Wales are available to all.”

The Committee also looked at the role of careers guidance for young people – particularly in schools – to ensure they are being made aware of vocational as well as academic options.

Mr George added: “During the course of our investigation we heard concerns about the way careers advice is delivered in schools. Our additional scrutiny in this area has given us assurance that Careers Wales has a credible plan, and is working closely with the Welsh Government and schools to address these issues. We will keep an eye on whether this proves successful.​”

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Education

Minister visits adult learning initiative

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Eluned Morgan: Inspired by visit to Monkton School

WELSH Language and Lifelong Learning Minister, Eluned Morgan visited Monkton Primary School in Pembrokeshire on Friday, February 9, to hear more about a successful community adult learning initiative run from the school.

Started in September 2012 with support from the Welsh Government, the Launch Project aims to raise adults’ skills standards and education attainment within the community by making learning accessible to everyone.

Both accredited and non-accredited courses and workshops are delivered at the school and other community venues and have been specifically designed to remove barriers so that people in the community can gain the confidence and skills needed to seek employment.

The provision has also been designed to cater for a wide range of learner needs, from basic skills and IT courses to various accredited courses including a foundation degree in Education and Social Inclusion.

During the visit the Minister met with some of the adult learners who have benefitted from the project and heard their personal accounts about how it has helped them to turn their lives around, gain new skills and seize new employment opportunities.

Speaking after the visit, Minister said: “This project is a great example of a community-driven learning initiative that has been designed by the community for the community and I applaud Monkton Primary School for its pivotal role in that.

“The school is clearly committed to lifelong learning and building an ethos of working and learning together, built on mutual respect between adults and children.

“It was also inspiring hearing from those who have benefitted from the project and seeing first hand the positive impact it has had on their lives and their confidence.”

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Education

Extra investment in 21st Century Schools

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Announced £100m extra: Kirsty Williams

£100​M ​is to be invested over the next three years to accelerate the delivery of the flagship 21st Century Schools and Education programme, Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams and Minister for Welsh Language and Lifelong Learning Eluned Morgan ​has said.

An extra £75m, has been allocated to the 21st Century Schools and Education Programme a major, long-term and strategic capital investment programme to modernise education infrastructure.

In addition, £30m will be released from the programme in future years for immediate investment in capital projects that will contribute to the goal of reaching a million Welsh speakers by 2050. This is a shared priority with Plaid Cymru.

The money will bring the total invested over the life of the programme to almost £3.8bn. The first phase of the programme will finish in 2019 having invested £1.4bn to support the rebuild and refurbishment of more than 150 schools and colleges across Wales. The second phase will see a spend of £2.3bn.

Kirsty Williams said: “Our national mission is to raise standards, reduce the attainment gap and deliver an education system that is a source of national pride and confidence. Our 21st Century Schools and Education Programme plays a key part in this and is the largest investment in our schools and colleges since the 1960s.

“Having a comfortable, modern, fit-for-purpose environment in which to learn is vital to ensuring young people have the best possible education. This extra funding will mean that even more of our students will be able to benefit from having the best possible facilities in their schools and colleges.​”​

Eluned Morgan said: “Reaching a million Welsh speakers by 2050 is a significant challenge and education is key to the success of this ambition. This means we need to invest in new Welsh medium schools and improve and increase the teaching of Welsh in English medium schools. Bringing forward this funding for immediate investment allows us to ensure there is no delay in the work to achieve this target.”

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