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Education

Brexit threat to Welsh universities

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Screen Shot 2016-08-11 at 14.06.36MORE THAN 100 prospective European students have withdrawn applications to study at a Welsh university following the European referendum result. 

Professor John Grattan, acting Vice- Chancellor of Aberystwyth University, said about half of those pulled out the day after the Brexit vote.

“I won’t hide it from you that Brexit poses a challenge to the university,” Prof Grattan told students during one of the graduation ceremonies this week.

“Over 100 European students have withdrawn their applications to us at this point, 50 by the end of Friday on Brexit day.

“That’s a stunning impact on our finances. There are 120,000 European students at British universities.”

The BBC has reported that Prof Grattan’s concerns do not exist in isolation, and that other Welsh Universities are also concerned about both the short -term and long -term effects on their finances.

THE CHALLENGE OF BREXIT 

‘Leaving the EU will create significant challenges for Welsh universities’. Whether one considers that comment, made by Wales’s Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams, as unnecessary doom-mongering or a significant understatement of the size of the problems ahead, the decision to leave the EU will have a significant impact on the Welsh higher education sector.

The reliance of some institutions and some courses on relatively significant numbers of EU students to ensure viability of provision could cause considerable pressure on the already-squeezed budgets of higher education institutions.

While leaving the EU will not happen overnight – to the apparent amazement of some Brexit supporters – there will be a gradual exit process and it is that process which presents Welsh Universities with the best chance to ensure that they do not lose out as the tide of EU students studying in the UK reduces – as it surely will – and the opportunities available to Welsh students to study in the EU recede.

The EU referendum outcome will not lead to any immediate change to the immigration status of current EU students or those about to start a course in the coming academic year (2016–17). This has been confirmed in a statement from Jo Johnson, UK Minister of State for Universities and Science.

Ms Johnson said: “EU and international students make an important contribution to our world-class universities, and our European neighbours are among some of our closest research partners.

“There are obviously big discussions to be had with our European partners, and I look forward to working with the sector to ensure its voice is fully represented and that it continues to go from strength to strength.”

However, the longer term implications for EU students who want to apply to study in the UK (ie from 2017–18 onwards) will depend on the outcome of negotiations and what kind of relationship the UK agrees with the EU.

An immediate priority for Welsh universities is to urge the government to take steps to ensure students from EU countries can continue to study at UK universities on the same terms after the UK leaves the European Union and beyond.

‘EU STAFF VITAL’ 

Kirsty Williams has sought to address concerns raised in the aftermath of the referendum: “There is no escaping that the recent referendum has unleashed uncertainty and worry. In some cases, it may have roused the spectre of racial tensions. I want to send a message loud and clear that students and staff from across the European Union are still welcome at Welsh Universities. Those already studying here, and those who are planning to come, are still welcome – our places of learning are still there for you.

“Welsh universities will continue to recruit and teach students from across the world. The long, proud tradition of European students coming to Wales has helped us foster our relationship with many countries. There are thousands of people who have a special place for Wales in their hearts after studying here. Our country will remain a tolerant, accepting and safe place where people from any nation can pursue their academic ambitions. Let me be clear, we will not tolerate any form of racial abuse whether on our campuses or within the wider communities in which we are rooted.

“Let’s not forget EU staff are vital to the operation of our universities. We attract some of the best minds from across Europe to teach here and importantly carry out research that will benefit the people of Wales, from developing life-saving medicines to clean energy. This will not and must not change. Our universities are central to our social and economic future and they thrive through the diversity of the people who come to them.

“The Welsh Government is determined to protect Wales’ reputation as a friendly and tolerant place to study and carry out world-class research. Whatever the long-term implication of the vote, we remain an outward looking and welcoming nation where we are committed to sharing knowledge across national borders.”

STUDENT FINANCE 

EU students attending universities in England and Wales who are eligible under current rules to receive loans and grants from the Student Loans Company will continue to do so for the duration of courses they are currently enrolled on, or are about to start this coming year. This has been confirmed by the Student Loans Company for England, and by Universities Wales for Wales.

Under EU law, students from EU member states applying for undergraduate degrees at Scottish universities are currently eligible for free tuition. For EU students attending a university in Scotland, the Scottish Government and Universities Scotland have confirmed that there has been no change in current funding arrangements and that eligible EU students already studying in Scotland or commencing their studies in the coming months will continue to benefit from free tuition and, for those who meet the residency requirement, associated living cost support.

EU nationals or their family members, currently in higher education, and who are assessed as eligible to receive loans and/or grants from SFW, will continue to receive these loans and grants until they finish their course. This applies to all student finance from SFW for students in Wales for which EU nationals are eligible. This includes grants and loans to cover tuition fees (for those resident in the EEA for three years), loans and grants for maintenance (limited to those resident in the UK for at least three years), and some other grants and allowances.

The rules applying to EU nationals, or their family members, who have applied for a place at university from this August to study a course which attracts student support are unchanged. SFW will assess these applications against existing eligibility criteria, and will provide loans and/or grants in the normal way. EU nationals, or their family members, who are assessed as eligible to receive grants and/ or loans by the SLC will then be eligible for the duration of their study on that course.

RESEARCH OPPORTUNITIES THREATENED 

While there will be no immediate change to the UK university sector’s ability to participate in EU research and innovation programmes, such as Horizon 2020, the long term future of UK participation in European science programmes will be decided as part of the UK’s exit negotiations. These talks are expected to take up to two years. The UK will remain an EU member during this time and as such will be entitled to participate in EU programmes and apply for EU research grants.

After that point, the situation is uncertain. Although Universities UK is committed to making sure that the UK government takes steps to ensure that the UK can continue to participate in EU research collaboration and funding programmes after the UK formally leaves the European Union, the UK will be reliant upon either the goodwill or self-interest of its former EU partners. What it will be keen to avoid is the sort of relationship Canada has with the EU where it gets to participate in research but not have access to all of that research’s results.

The issue of research funding was raised during the Brexit campaign, but nobody on either side of the referendum debate appears to have given the matter any real thought or made any real preparations for the consequences of Brexit upon Britain’s research sector.

STAFFING 

The UK government has confirmed that there has been no change to the rights and status of EU nationals in the UK as a result of the referendum, and that it ‘recognises and values the important contribution made by EU and other non-UK citizens who work, study and live in the UK’.

The UK remains a member of the EU for the time being and the government has confirmed that there will be no immediate changes to UK visa policies for university staff currently in, or contemplating coming to, the UK from the EU.

In terms of recruiting EU staff in the longer term, any changes will depend on the kind of relationship the UK negotiates with the EU. Universities UK (UUK) is urging the UK government to guarantee that those currently working at UK universities can continue to do so in the long term. UUK is also calling on the UK government to make a clear and unequivocal statement that any changes to immigration status will only apply to new entrants to the UK.

However, as long as the UK remains a member of the EU – that is until the end of the Article 50 process intended to manage the UK’s withdrawal – there is likely to be stasis on the issue and accompanying uncertainty.

UK STUDENTS IN THE EU 

While EU students are a source of finance to UK Universities, small numbers of UK students elect to attend European universities, some because tuition fees are lower in some high quality institutions in Europe than they are (regardless of the quality of the teaching) in almost every UK higher education provider. In addition, UK students enjoy access to European Universities as part of academic exchanges as part of their courses and the Erasmus+ programme.

The Erasmus+ Programme is a European funding programme established in 1987, offering university students the possibility of studying or doing an internship abroad in another country for a period of at least two months and maximum 12 months per cycle of studies. After completing a first year of studies any student can benefit from the Erasmus+ studies and Erasmus+ placement programmes. Each student receives a grant which covers partly the costs of the stay abroad. Grants differ from sending and host countries. The grant can often be complemented by regional or national grants.

Students from UK universities currently overseas on an Erasmus+ placement, and those considering applying to participate in Erasmus+ next year (2016-17), will not be affected by the referendum result. The European Commission has confirmed that EU law continues to apply to the full in the United Kingdom until it is no longer a member. This therefore also applies to the projects financed through the Erasmus+ programme.

In the longer term, Universities UK will be urging the government to seek assurances from the EU that the UK can continue to access this valuable exchange programme. However, there are no guarantees and whether the issue will even figure as anything but a footnote in the Brexit negotiations remains to be seen.

Back to Kirsty Williams who, speaking at a graduation event at Swansea University on July 14, remarked: “Our universities are central to our social and economic future and they thrive through the diversity of the people who come to them.

“The Welsh Government is determined to protect Wales’ reputation as a friendly and tolerant place to study and carry out world-class research. Whatever the long-term implication of the vote, we remain an outward looking and welcoming nation where we are committed to sharing knowledge across national borders.”

Whether those fine words convert into educational reality is, however, very much out of the Welsh Government’s hands.

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Gweinidog yn agor Canolfan Addysg Iechyd newydd Aberystwyth

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Gweinidog yn agor Canolfan Addysg Iechyd newydd ym Mhrifysgol Aberystwyth
Bydd Gweinidog Iechyd Cymru yn agor canolfan newydd gwerth £1.7 miliwn i hyfforddi staff y gwasanaeth iechyd ym Mhrifysgol Aberystwyth heddiw (dydd Gwener 30 Medi).
Mae’r Brifysgol wedi creu ystafelloedd ymarfer clinigol ansawdd uchel, yn ei Chanolfan Addysg Gofal Iechyd newydd, sydd gyferbyn ag Ysbyty Bronglais yn Aberystwyth. Cafodd y datblygiad gwerth £1.7 miliwn ei gefnogi gyda grant o £500,000 gan Lywodraeth Cymru.
Rhan ganolog o’r safle newydd yw Uned Sgiliau Clinigol gydag ardaloedd efelychu ansawdd uchel sy’n adlewyrchu taith y claf o’r cartref a gwasanaethau cymunedol i asesu, gofal wedi’ i gynllunio a gofal acíwt.
Mae’r offer addysgu newydd yn cynnwys dyfeisiadau realiti rhithwir ar gyfer profi heneiddio a modelau dynol sy’n efelychu ystod eang o gyflyrau iechyd.
Dechreuodd y garfan gyntaf o fyfyrwyr nyrsio ar eu hastudiaethau yn y Ganolfan ym Mhrifysgol Aberystwyth ddechrau mis Medi.
Disgwylir y bydd y datblygiadau newydd yn hwb mawr i ymdrechion i gadw a recriwtio staff i’r gwasanaeth iechyd, yn enwedig yn y Canolbarth.
Dywedodd y Gweinidog Iechyd Eluned Morgan AS: “Rwy’n falch iawn o agor y ganolfan newydd hon ym Mhrifysgol Aberystwyth. Mae’n gydweithrediad ardderchog rhwng y byrddau iechyd a’r Brifysgol a bydd yn hwb o ran recriwtio nyrsys yn yr ardal yma.
“Rwyf hefyd yn falch iawn y bydd myfyrwyr yn cael y cyfle i astudio drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg, a fydd yn helpu i gyflawni ein cynlluniau i gynyddu’r defnydd o’r Gymraeg yn y gwasanaeth iechyd, fel y nodir yn ein strategaeth Mwy na Geiriau.”
Datblygwyd addysg nyrsio ym Mhrifysgol Aberystwyth gyda chefnogaeth nifer o bartneriaid, gan gynnwys byrddau iechyd Hywel Dda, Betsi Cadwaladr a Phowys yn ogystal â defnyddwyr gwasanaethau a gofalwyr.
Fe ddyfarnodd Addysg a Gwella Iechyd Cymru gytundeb i Brifysgol Aberystwyth hyfforddi nyrsys ar gyfer oedolion ac iechyd meddwl sydd wedi ei ariannu gan Lywodraeth Cymru.
Caiff y myfyrwyr sy’n astudio ar gyfer y graddau newydd a gychwynnodd eleni y cyfle i ddilyn hyd at hanner eu cwrs drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg.
Ychwanegodd yr Is-Ganghellor yr Athro Elizabeth Treasure:
“Anrhydedd fawr yw cael y Gweinidog yn ymweld i agor y Ganolfan, sydd yn fuddsoddiad arwyddocaol iawn i’r Canolbarth. Rwy’n ffyddiog bydd hyn yn hwb o ran recriwtio a chadw staff yn lleol ac yn rhanbarthol. A, thrwy gynnig llawer iawn o’r hyfforddiant drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg, bydd yn fuddiol i’r ddarpariaeth iaith yn ein gwasanaeth iechyd yn ogystal.”
“Rydym yn ddiolchgar iawn i Lywodraeth Cymru am gefnogi’r prosiect. Hoffwn i ddiolch hefyd i’r holl bartneriaid sydd wedi cyflawni hyn, gan gynnwys y Byrddau Iechyd lleol, Cyngor Sir Ceredigion ac Addysg a Gwella Iechyd Cymru“
“Dros y blynyddoedd i ddod, ac wrth weithio gyda phartneriaid, rydym yn awyddus i gyfrannu mwyfwy at gwrdd ag anghenion hyfforddi ein gwasanaeth iechyd. Rwy’n siŵr bydd y Ganolfan newydd yn adnodd pwysig yn hyn o beth. Dyma ni heddiw yn gosod sylfeini ar gyfer twf darpariaeth addysg gofal iechyd yma yn Aberystwyth ar gyfer y dyfodol.”

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Minister opens new Healthcare Education Centre at Aberystwyth University Wales’

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Health Minister will open a new £1.7 million center to train NHS staff at Aberystwyth University today (Friday 30 September).The University has created a suite of high-quality clinical practice rooms within its new Healthcare Education Centre, which is located opposite Bronglais Hospital in the town. The £1.7 million development was supported by a grant of £500,000 from the Welsh Government. A central part of the new site is a Clinical Skills Unit with high-fidelity simulation areas that reflect the patient’s journey from home and community services through to assessment, planned and acute care. The new teaching equipment includes virtual reality headsets for experiencing ageing and life-size human models that simulate a wide variety of health conditions. Aberystwyth University’s first ever cohort of nursing students began their studies at the Centre at the start of September. The new developments are expected to be a big boost to retain and recruit NHS staff, particularly in mid Wales. Health Minister Eluned Morgan MS said: “I am delighted to open this new centre at Aberystwyth University. It is an excellent collaboration between the health boards and the University and will provide a boost to nurse recruitment in this area.“ I am also really pleased that students will have the opportunity to study through the medium of Welsh, which will help deliver our plans to increase the use of Welsh language in the health service, as set out in our More than Just Words strategy.” Nursing education at Aberystwyth University has been developed with the support of several partners, including Hywel Dda, Betsi Cadwaladr and Powys local health boards as well as service users and carers. Health Education and Improvement Wales awarded a Welsh Government-funded contract to Aberystwyth University to educate both adult and mental health nurses. The new degree courses offer students who started their studies this year the opportunity to study up to half of their course through the medium of Welsh. Aberystwyth University Vice-Chancellor Professor Elizabeth Treasure added: “It is a great honour to have the Minister visit us to open the Centre, which is a significant investment for mid Wales. I am confident this will boost the recruitment and retention of staff both locally and regionally. And, by offering much of the training in Welsh, it will also benefit the language provision in our health service.“ We are very grateful to the Welsh Government for supporting the project. Thanks go to all our partners who have helped make this happen, including the local health boards, Ceredigion Council and Health Education and Improvement Wales.“ Over the years ahead, and working with partners, we are keen to make an increasing contribution to meeting the needs of our NHS. I’m sure that the new Centre will be an important resource in that effort. We are today laying the foundations for the growth of healthcare education here in Aberystwyth into the future.”

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Extreme droughts sparked cultural leaps in human evolution

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EXTREME droughts lasting tens of thousands of years played a critical role in human evolution by forcing Homo sapiens to develop the culture and tools to cope, according to new research.

An international team of researchers, including academics from Aberystwyth University and across a wide range of disciplines, extracted two 280-metre cores of sediment from the Chew Bahir basin in southern Ethiopia. This area boasts a large concentration of human fossils and is where early humans lived during the Ice Age between 2.5 million and 11,700 years ago.

The cores give the most complete record across the longest period for humans living in this area and provide unprecedented insight into how climate influenced their biological and cultural transformation.

In a paper published today in the journal ‘Nature Geoscience’, the research found that between 620,000 and 275,000 years ago, humans lived in long-lasting and stable conditions in southern Ethiopia alongside a range of closely related groups.

However, between 275,000 and 60,000 years ago, the area was rocked by extensive natural climate changes which transformed areas of lush vegetation and deep lakes into deserts and small salty puddles.

The research demonstrated that these changes in climate forced humans to adapt culturally, socially and technologically, developing enhanced language, sophisticated hunting methods, and stone tools such as blades and spear points.

The period between 60,000 and 10,000 years ago contained the most extreme drought and likely forced humans to move to wetter regions in north east Africa and the Mediterranean.

However, while Homo sapiens were able to develop strategies to help them adapt, other human species like Homo habilis and Homo erectus were unable to do so, which led to their extinction.

The extracted cores are among the most detailed obtained from the region, giving researchers the opportunity to examine every single decade’s climate for the past 620,000 years every half a centimetre of sediment.

Professor Helen Roberts and Professor Henry Lamb, both from Aberystwyth University’s Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, worked on the project, which involved researchers from 19 institutions in six countries.

Professor Roberts said: “These findings take us a step closer to understanding the links between past climate, the environment and human evolution. The period we studied was one of great human innovation in how people interacted with each other, their culture, and their use of stone tools. Because of our findings we can further understand the conditions in which humans lived, how they evolved and developed as societies.

“It also has resonance today as our project helped us explore how different climate drivers interacted in the past. This is something that can be translated into the modern day and help us to understand climate and climate change now.”

Dr Verena Foerster at the University of Cologne’s Institute of Geography Education, which also took part in the research, said: “In view of current threats to the human habitat from climate change and the overuse of natural resources through human activity, understanding the relationship between climate and human evolution has become more relevant than ever.”

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