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University appoints new Vice Chancellor

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screen-shot-2017-01-05-at-16-39-57ABERYSTWYTH UNIVERSITY has appointed a Cardiff-based non-Welsh speaker as its new Vice Chancellor.

On Thursday (Dec 15), Professor Elizabeth Treasure was confirmed as the University’s new Vice Chancellor, starting April 2017.

Professor Treasure’s appointment took place following a recruitment process led by the Chancerllor and Chair of the University’s Council, Sir Emyr Jones Parry.

The appointment follows the departure of Professor April McMahon, who stepped down from her post earlier this year. During Professor McMahon’s tenure as Vice Chancellor, the university was bedevilled by claims – denied by the University – that there was a ‘repressive relationship’ between management and academic staff. Economist John Cable resigned his emeritus professorship because university management was ‘disproportionate, aggressive and confrontational’ and there were protests over the university’s management of the Arts Centre.

During Prof McMahon’s tenure, Aberystwyth dipped from 49th in the 2011 Guardian University Guide to as low as 110th in the tables for 2015.

Professor Treasure is currently Deputy Vice Chancellor at Cardiff University, where she has responsibility for key areas including projects in strategic planning, resources and sustainable development as well as staffing and estates.

“I congratulate Professor Treasure on her appointment as the next Vice Chancellor of Aberystwyth University,” said Sir Emyr Jones Parry.

“She impressed the selection panel with her strategic vision for the future of the institution, her intellect and her integrity. At a challenging time for the higher education sector, I am confident that Professor Treasure will lead this very special university to new levels of success.”

Professor Treasure holds a BDS in Dental Surgery and a PhD from the University of Birmingham.

Following a range of clinical roles in the National Health Service between 1980 and 1990, Professor Treasure moved to New Zealand, where she concurrently held the roles of Public Health Dentist and Lecturer, then Senior Lecturer, at the University of Otago.

In 1995, Professor Treasure was appointed Senior Lecturer and Consultant in Dental Public Health at University of Wales College of Medicine, achieving promotion to Professor in 2000 and being appointed Dean and General Manager at the Dental School and Hospital in 2006.

She was awarded the British Dental Association’s John Tomes Medal for scientific eminence and outstanding service to the profession in 2006 and a FDSRCPS (special) in 2011.

In 2010, Professor Treasure became the first woman to be appointed Deputy Vice Chancellor at Cardiff University.

She is also currently an Independent Member (University) for the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board; a member of the Finance Committee of UCAS and the Health and Safety Committee of the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA); a trustee of the Penarth and District Lesotho Trust, and a Council Member of the Cathedral School, Llandaff.

“It is both an honour and a privilege to be appointed Vice Chancellor of Aberystwyth University,” said Professor Elizabeth Treasure.

“Aberystwyth University has a long and proud tradition of excellence in teaching, research and student experience. It is my aim to build on these strong foundations, working with both the public and business sectors to help drive forward the economic and educational impact of the institution.”

“I am very aware of Aberystwyth’s significant contribution to the development of Welsh-medium teaching in the higher education sector and to the cultural life of Wales as a nation. As the next Vice Chancellor, it is my firm intention to learn the language as a matter of priority to the standard specified in the job description so that I can embrace all aspects of Aber life.”

The person specification for the role included the words: ‘As a bilingual institution situated idyllically on Cardigan Bay, Aberystwyth University is fully aware of its duty to promote and encourage the Welsh language and culture’.

When Professor McMahon was appointed, she promised to learn the Welsh language but did not do so. On announcing her departure, Cymdeithas yr Iaith wrote to the university requesting that a Welsh-speaker be appointed to the post.

Responding to the news of Professor Treasure’s appointment, a spokesperson for Cymdeithas yr Iaith told The Herald:

“It is unfortunate that Professor Elizabeth Treasure does not speak Welsh. In a university like Aberystwyth, the language will be at the core of her work on a day-to-day level within the university and the community. We are, however, glad that she intends to learn Welsh.

“Seeing as Professor Treasure will not begin her role until April, she has time to begin learning Welsh in order to reach the level specified in the job description by then, as a foundation to build on. The most important thing is that she will be able, naturally, to use the Welsh language in formal and informal situations in her work and within the community.

“We also look forward to hearing her plans for working with the Welsh-speaking community, within the university and in Aberystwyth. The Welsh language, community and culture are an essential part of the university and of Ceredigion, and a clear commitment to strengthen the Welsh language within the university is needed, as well as carrying out the plan to re-open Neuadd Pantycelyn by 2019.”

Professor Treasure is expected to take up the post in April 2017 and until then, Professor John Grattan will continue as Acting Vice Chancellor.

“As a university, we owe a debt of gratitude to Professor Grattan for his commitment in steering the institution through this period of transition,” said Sir Emyr Jones Parry.

“As Pro Vice Chancellor with responsibility for the student experience since 2012 and then as Acting Vice Chancellor since February this year, Professor Grattan has played a key role in improving Aberystwyth University’s position in the league tables – including our best performance to date in the National Student Survey in August 2016.”

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Newtown: Online threat to ‘use of firearms at a school’ lead to swift police action

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE was made aware this morning, the force said, of “utterly irresponsible and scaremongering posts” on Facebook, suggesting that the authors of the posts were going to use firearms at a school in the Newtown area.

The posts were by individuals local to Newtown, and police acted swiftly to address this, which resulted in the arrest of three local men, aged 20, 21 and 27 on suspicion of malicious communications and public order. As part of the initial response schools were also given advice to be vigilant.

A spokesman said: “Understandably the posts caused serious concern in the area, and unfortunately the subsequent rumours led to misunderstandings. This is turn led to calls to the police alleging there was a man with a firearm seen outside Newtown High School.

“Police had to respond appropriately to these calls based on the threat allegedly posed, and a firearms unit was sent to the school. We can confirm that there was no man at the school, and when we have delved further into the detail of the calls, it has transpired that they were as a result of the rumours circulating, and not based on first-hand accounts.

“Police have also carried out thorough searches as a result of the arrests, and no weapons have been recovered. The local Neighbourhood Policing Team will also be present at the school at home time to reassure and inform parents, pupils and staff.

“We hope this clarification will reassure the community of Newtown that there is no threat to schools in the area, and the matter was dealt with seriously and swiftly. We would also appeal to everyone to stop sharing the posts and any associated rumours, in order to prevent any further unsubstantiated fear and alarm in the area.”

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The latest increase in coronavirus in Wales is ‘sobering’ says First Minister

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THE FIRST MINISTER, Mark Drakeford has criticised the lack of communication with the UK government as he gave a briefing on what he described as the “sobering” increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalisation in Wales.

The infection rate in Wales has risen to 23.6 infections for every 100k people as cases have spiked in areas including Merthyr, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Caerphilly and Newport.

Hospitalisations remain low but are rising, with five people currently in intensive care with Covid-19 and and 53 Covid patients on all hospital wards, according to the latest data from Public Health Wales from Sunday, September 13.

Mr Drakeford said that the number of people in hospital with coronavirus had risen to 41 with four people in intensive care.

He also said that the R number in Wales was almost certainly now above one – meaning the virus is spreading exponentially again. The latest estimate, he said, was between 0.7 and 1.2.

Mr Drakeford said: “In this most difficult week, there has been no meeting offered to First Ministers of any sort. Since the 28 May, there has been just one brief telephone call from the Prime Minister.

“This is simply unacceptable to anyone who believes that we ought to be facing the coronavirus crisis together.

“We need a regular, reliable, rhythm of engagement: a reliable meeting even once a week would be a start. I make this argument not because we should all do the same things, but because being round the same table allows each of us to make the best decisions for the nations we represent.

“There is a vacancy at the heart of the United Kingdom, and it needs urgently to be filled, so we can talk to each other, share information, pool ideas and demonstrate a determination that the whole of the country can face these challenges together at this most difficult time.”

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WASPI unaffected by appeal’s failure

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A CAMPAIGN group for women born in the 1950s, whose state pension age has increased from 60-65, lost an appeal against a decision to deny them compensation for lost pension income.
Backto60 brought two test cases to the High Court last year when those cases were lost the group appealed. The Court of Appeal released its judgement rejecting the appeal on Monday, September 14.
The group’s campaign calls for a reinstatement of the age of 60 for women’s state pensions and compensation of the pension women have missed out on.
The Court found making the state pension age the same for men and women did not constitute unlawful discrimination.

WASPI CAMPAIGN UNCHANGED

The case’s failure will not affect the far better known and more widely-supported Women Against State Pensions Injustice (WASPI) campaign.
WASPI has long campaigned on the issues regarding the increase in the state pension age for women. They argue that setting aside any claim of discrimination, the UK Government failed in its duty to inform affected women adequately of the changes to the state pension age and the effect those changes would have on their pensions.
A statement issued by WASPI after the Backto60 legal challenge failed said: “Many women will be disappointed today at the judgement from the High Court.
“Women Against State Pension Inequality (WASPI) will continue to campaign for what we believe is achievable and affordable. Compensation for women who have been unfairly disadvantaged with a rapid increase to their State Pension age (SPa).
“WASPI is not opposed to the equalisation of the SPa with men but it was done without adequate notice, leaving no time to make alternative arrangements. Women were informed directly some 14 years after the SPa was first changed, many only given 18 months’ notice, of up to a six-year increase, many others were not informed at all. This left their retirement plans shattered.
“The Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman is currently considering six sample cases of maladministration out of the thousands of complaints made to the DWP by WASPI women.”
Former Conservative Pensions Minister, Baroness Roz Altmann, said: “When Pensions Minister, I saw copies of letters written by the Government to millions of these women in 2003 and 2004 about their State Pension, which failed to highlight that their pension would not be paid at age 60. These official letters failed to highlight that these women’s pension would not start being paid at age 60. It merely informed them what State Pension they might receive when they reached State Pension Age, but they did not tell them what that age would be!
“Receiving a letter from the Pensions Department about their State Pension, which did not urge them to check what their State Pension Age would be, may have lulled them into a false sense of security that they would receive it from age 60.
“This looks like maladministration.”
During the election campaign last year, Boris Johnson pledged to place ‘fresh eyes’ on the issue and said he felt sympathetic to the WASPI campaigners. Asked on Tuesday about the progress of those promised considerations, he failed to answer.

THE APPEAL ISSUE

The main issue in the appeal was whether the changes to the state pension age brought in by Parliament from 1995 onwards, unlawfully discriminated against women. Backto60 argued, amongst other things, women born in the 1950s were less likely to have contributed to the state pension scheme or were disproportionately in lower-paid jobs than men.
The Pensions Act 1995 provided that a woman born before 6 April 1950 would still receive her state pension at age 60 but a woman born after that date would receive her pension on a specified date when she was aged between 60 and 65, depending on her date of birth. The Pensions Acts 2007, 2011 and 2014 then accelerated the move to age 65 as the state pension age for women and raised the state pension age for some men and women to 66, 67 or 68 depending on their date of birth.
Successive UK Governments made changes to address the massively-rising cost of state pensions.
When the state pension age was originally set, both pension ages were fixed at 65. When revised in 1940, women’s pension age was dropped to 60. At the time those ages were fixed, life expectancy meant the state pension was likely to be paid out for only a few years after retirement age. The lower age was fixed at 60 for women to reflect their then-dependence on a single male breadwinner in the family and the prevailing age difference between married couples.
In the post-war period, life expectancy increased, first gradually and then with increasing speed.
The boom in average life expectancy means the state pension is the largest single drain on the welfare budget – taking £111bn of it in the year 2018-19 (DWP figures). In comparison, payments for unemployment benefits totalled £2bn.
The UK Defence budget is around £28bn
In normal circumstances, the claims brought to the Court would have been barred due to the delay in bringing them. Time was extended to bring the claims. The question of the delay was, however, relevant only to the discretion whether to grant relief if unlawful discrimination was proved.
The long delay in bringing the claims made it impossible to fashion any practical remedy. The Court noted unchallenged expert evidence that the cost of reinstating pensions would exceed £200bn – more than seven times the total defence budget and around the same as the whole of the health and education budgets combined (Figures Office of Budget Responsibility).

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