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Vice Chancellor contemplates her future

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Vice Chancellor April McMahon

Vice Chancellor April McMahon

THE EMBATTLED head of Aberystwyth university may be forced out, journalists at The Herald’s partner organisation, The Eye, have revealed.

As storm clouds gather over Vice Chancellor April McMahon, sources have confirmed to us that she could be leaving the institution, which has plunged down university rankings, by the end of the year.

Dr McMahon was paid £228,000 for 2012/13, after a pay rise award of 9.57 per cent, butpensioncontributions took the figure to £252,000.

Officials at the university insist this salary, which is 60 per cent higher than that of the Prime Minister David Cameron, is “performance-related”.

Yet Aberystwyth have dropped several places in key performance tables, and a plunge in student applications has led to a severe financial crisis, even as they have opened a new campus on the tropical island of Mauritius.

The university have fallen four places to 110 (out of 119) in The 2016 Guardian University league table.

In May last year Aberystwyth dropped 17 places to 87 in The Complete University Guide.

In The Times and The Sunday Times guide they fell 11 places to 93.

A damaging profile of the university stated: “Aberystwyth has set itself the goal of becoming one of the top 30 universities in the UK and the top 250 in the world by 2017.

“It is a tall order where The Times and The Sunday Times league table is concerned, with the university presently in danger of falling out of our top 100, dropping 11 places this year after last year’s 35-place fall.”

Meanwhile a petition demanding the resignation of Dr McMahon was started by angry students who are worried about their degrees.

It now has almost 2,000 signatories, and declares: “Staff work in what they often describe as a ‘culture of fear’.

“Students came to Aberystwyth when it was a top 50 University and will leave with a degree from an institution flailing at the bottom of the league tables.”

The revelation about Dr McMahon is set against a backdrop of controversy.

Just over two years ago dozens of protesters stopped traffic on a road at the entrance to the university, in support of two staff members who had been suspended.

The director of the university’s arts centre Alan Hewson and the operations manager, Auriel Martin, had been suspended from their jobs since February.

FIGURES

Aberystwyth have also been beset by financial trouble caused by falling rolls.

They have seen their first year student-enrollment figures drop by almost a quarter since 2011.

Their director of finance, Peter Curran, said: “The financial implications of under-recruitment have never been so significant”

It is obvious that deep dissatisfaction exists, after the university dropped in educational rankings and a financial crisis has hit.

But officials remain defiant, saying: “We would rather be higher in the league tables – yes, and we will be; but they are really only a small part of the story.

“We are a university built on a proud tradition of extending a university education to all who are able to benefit from it, committed to excellent teaching informed by high-quality research, and passionate about the success of our students.

“We are delivering outstanding results and look forward to another year of high achievement for students and staff.”

Despite the growing controversy, the university have announced the establishment of a new campus on the luxury holiday island of Mauritius, and the appointment of David Poynton as founding dean.

Aberystwyth say he will be responsible “for the establishment, operation and development of the campus as well as its academic portfolio and engagement with the Mauritian and international communities”.

Perhaps the academic community may now be satisfied once Dr McMahon moves on.

Or perhaps not.

[To read more quality investigative journalism from around Wales visit http://walespolitico.uk/waleseye/ ]

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Ben Lake MP stands up for Ceredigion’s hospitality sector in Parliament

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A WESTMINSTER Hall debate, brought about by an online petition signed over 200,000 times, saw MPs on both sides come together to shine a light on the challenges currently faced by restaurants, pubs, bars, cafés and supply chain businesses across the UK.

During his contribution to the debate, Ben Lake MP emphasised the importance of the hospitality industry to Ceredigion’s local economy. Ceredigion is home to nearly 400 food and accommodation businesses, including 75 pubs, and together hospitality businesses employ 4,500 people in the county. This equates to over 16% of all employees, without accounting for the many supply chain jobs that are dependent on the sector, such as those found in breweries, food wholesale, and catering equipment hire businesses.

Figures published by UK Hospitality have shown that approximately 41% of hospitality businesses suggested that they would fail by mid-2021 and only one in five sector businesses have enough cash flow to survive beyond February.

Ben Lake MP said: “The vaccination programme of course offers some hope that we will see the level of Covid disruption reduce significantly this year, but hospitality businesses across Ceredigion tell me that they are deeply concerned about their immediate prospects for survival.

“I support calls for the Treasury to provide additional funds so that businesses can be supported to bounce back once restrictions have been eased, and to pause employer national insurance contributions for furloughed employees as a way of alleviating the burden on businesses that are still, in many instances, required by law to close. I also urged the Treasury to consider extending the business rates holiday for the forthcoming financial year, as well as extending the hospitality VAT reduction scheme into 2022.

“Not only would these support measures give businesses the support they require to see out this pandemic, it would also avoid the terrible situation whereby businesses that have previously received Government support are forced to close for good – leaving their employees without a job and previous Government support in vain.”

While there will be no direct action as a consequence of this Westminster Hall debate, it is hoped the result will put increased pressure on the UK Government to consider the proposal more seriously.

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Lifeboat Operations Manager in New Year’s Honours list

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Richard Llewelyn Griffiths the Lifeboat Operations Manager of Aberystwyth Lifeboat Station has been recognised for services to the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in Wales.

He has been awarded a BEM.

Having served as a RNLI volunteer for an impressive 47 years, it is his role in the last 21 years as Lifeboat Operations Manager (LOM) which has earned him the most respect.

His local knowledge has provided reassurance to casualties and crews alike when launching in difficult conditions.

His operational decision-making and station management skills are outstanding, and he is greatly valued by crew, management, volunteers and coastal personnel both past and present.

He has contributed greatly towards Aberystwyth being recognised as a ‘benchmark’ Inshore Lifeboat Station, serving as an example to the whole institution of how a station could and should be run.

Richard said: ‘I’m very surprised but honoured to be receiving a BEM – the news still doesn’t feel real. My father was awarded a BEM in 1988 and I still have his medal at home, so to be awarded one myself for my work with the lifeboats is a great privilege. I’ve been fortunate to work with a number of characters during my time with the RNLI – both at Borth and Aberystwyth – and continue to volunteer alongside a good crew today.’

Nationally, a total of six Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) volunteers have been recognised for their vital role in helping the charity save lives at sea through the New Year’s Honours.

Mark Dowie, RNLI Chief Executive said: ‘Following a challenging 2020, it is particularly pleasing to see these RNLI volunteers recognised in the New Year’s Honours list. Together, they personify the RNLI’s ‘One Crew’ ethos, representing the variety and diversity of roles from a former full-time mechanic to shore crew and fundraisers to station managers, who collectively deliver a shared vision to save every one. On behalf of everyone at the RNLI, congratulations to you all for being recognised for your longstanding service, hard work and selfless commitment. And thank you for everything you do to help the RNLI save lives at sea.’

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Temporary closure of Minor Injuries Unit in Cardigan confirmed

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AS PART of its response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Hywel Dda University Health Board says it has temporarily closed the Minor Injuries Unit (MIU) in Cardigan in order to redeploy clinical staff to support the COVID 19 response within Ceredigion.

The MIU, which is based in Cardigan Integrated Care Centre and normally operates from Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm, will temporarily close with immediate effect. The situation will be under constant review and normal service will be resumed when it is safe and appropriate to do so.

In the meantime, minor injuries help and advice is available as follows:

– visit the 111 symptom checker (https://111.wales.nhs.uk/)
– visit your local pharmacy
– call 111
– please do NOT self-present to the GP reception in Cardigan Integrated Care Centre as they do not deal with minor injuries.
– for emergency care the A+E departments are as follows:
· Glangwili Hospital A+E Carmarthen SA32 2AF
· Bronglais Hospital A+E Aberystwyth SY23 1ER
· Withybush Hospital A+E Haverfordwest SA61 2PZ

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