From this September, the University of South Wales (USW) will be the first higher education institution to run a pilot project offering bespoke Welsh-language employability modules to business and creative undergraduate students at all levels.
The new project, funded by the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, offers the 5-credit Welsh-medium employability provision to USW students, with the aim of offering more students the opportunity to study some of their course in Welsh, and building a larger community of Welsh speakers at the University.
USW has traditionally had a significant number of Welsh speaking students, spread over a large number of degree courses. Therefore, this module will bring together Welsh speakers from a wide range of disciplines. It will be available as a bolt-on module for all Welsh speaking students in the Faculty of Creative Industries and South Wales Business School.
Rebecca Bowen, acting Head of Welsh at USW, said: “Between 10-15% of students at USW indicate that they are either fluent or non-fluent in Welsh, which is one of the largest Welsh-medium student populations in Welsh universities.
“Despite this, only a very small percentage can access, or are studying, provision in Welsh at USW. To address this issue, USW commissioned an independent review in 2017 of its Welsh-medium provision, which proposed recommendations that would enable the University to plan appropriately for the coming years.
“The Feasibility Study showed that students wanted to study some of their course in Welsh, primarily to maintain or develop their linguistic skills. Many come from homes where Welsh is not the primary language spoken, and this project will ensure that students are equipped with the relevant skills to work bilingually in their future careers.
“Employability was a key theme that appeared consistently throughout the report. There was a feeling among University staff and employers across various sectors that the demand for Welsh language skills will increase over the next few years, particularly with the requirements of the Welsh Language Standards. Therefore, this offered real opportunities for USW graduates, in terms of graduate employability and its potential implications for the University.”
Siân Harris and Megan Jones, Welsh Employability lecturers at USW, are the academic staff leading the project.
Siân said: “The new employability modules are set to bring huge benefits to our students. As well as increasing their employment opportunities by equipping them to work in Welsh or bilingual organisations, the project will provide additional qualifications by simultaneously preparing students for Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol’s Tystysgrif Sgiliau Iaith – evidencing their ability to communicate professionally in Welsh.
“It will also help to widen social experiences by bringing students together from across a range of courses, and will enable them to apply for scholarships to continue studying in Welsh, internally from USW and externally from Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol.”
Dr Dylan Phillips, senior academic manager at the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol, welcomed the scheme.
He said: “The College is delighted to support this exciting scheme which will help greatly in maintaining students’ Welsh language skills during their time at university. Too often, students who have developed their skills throughout their time in school will not be able to study part of their degree scheme through the medium of Welsh, and then get out of the habit of using the language, and lose confidence. This new provision will relate their bilingual skills to the world of work, and give them an additional advantage after graduation and applying for jobs.
“This is a first step in a long-term plan to increase provision to 20 credits in each year of study, and is embedded across all USW degree programmes. As well as equipping the students for the workplace, it will also be a very important contribution to realising the Welsh Government’s goal of creating a million Welsh speakers by 2050.”