Coleg Ffederal i Gymru

According to the new Heritage Minister, it will be a big year for the language, with a Welsh language education strategy being the most important development in Wales over the next 12 months.

I sincerely hope that this includes plans for some sort of Welsh Federal College, as I believe it is largely pointless to develop provision for Welsh education opportunities at a primary and secondary level if students then do not have the opportunity to undertake their degree through the medium of Welsh at a tertiary level.

Given this, it is important that the market demand is determined so that a proper case for funding can be made to the Assembly.

I would also examine the potential to set up a scheme to strongly encourage staff who join Welsh institutions to learn the Welsh language, especially within those institutions such as Bangor or Aberystwyth where there is a large concentration of Welsh language students.

From my own personal experience, I was always amazed that on joining Bangor Business School, the vast majority of staff didn't speak Welsh, despite the fact that many had been living in the area for over twenty years.

It was only because of the staff from the old Coleg Normal that I ever got to speak my own language within the school (and most of them have been kicked out by now). Indeed, I now get the opportunity to speak more welsh on a day-to-day basis in Cardiff than I ever did in Bangor.

Surely, if only Welsh language speakers are allowed to apply for the post of vice-chancellor, then the university must be consistent in ensuring more staff are encouraged to learn the language as well.

In fact, any plans to encourage Welsh language competence are mild compared to the rule of the National University of Ireland, Galway, which has been required to appoint people who are competent in the Irish language, as long as they meet all other respects of the vacancy they are appointed to and normally, candidates are given a period of time, as a requirement of their job, to learn a basic competence in the language if they don't speak it .

I would never support such a draconian scheme as I believe the carrot works better than the stick, but clearly more needs to be done to ensure that there are opportunities for staff to learn Welsh and this can be done through the provision of more funding for courses where there is a clear demand for such courses.

Therefore, any strategy for a Welsh Federal College must include a proper level of funding which reflects the market need for such courses across Welsh institutions which can easily be determined.

As the only thing that talks these days within university management circles is cash, the universities will take this very seriously if the the Assembly can provide the money.

Indeed, given the economic significance of the Welsh language, there is no reason why any core funding could not be used as matched funding to develop a European Convergence Fund bid for a Welsh language federal college.

If the Assembly is committed to developing the Welsh language as a living entity, then we must develop bilingual education at a university level in Wales. It could be the making of the Welsh nation and the Welsh language.

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