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Celebrating St David’s Day

26 February 2010

Vice-Chancellor Dr David Grant

As the nation celebrates St David’s Day, Vice-Chancellor Dr David Grant considers the impact of a unique University collaboration designed to support Wales’ economic recovery and drive forward the knowledge economy.

St David’s Day remains the focus for proud Welsh people, in all parts of the world, to come together to help mark and celebrate our nation’s unique cultural and linguistic traditions.

However for the University, St David’s Day has taken on even more important significance – as we celebrate the anniversary of the signing of a major University collaboration.

The St David’s Day Declaration signed in 2009 by the University with Wales’ four leading research and innovation Universities - Aberystwyth, Bangor, Glamorgan and Swansea marked a new chapter in supporting the knowledge economy in Wales.

Working together as five Universities we represent over 70% of all students in Wales and more than 95% of the nation’s research activity.

Building on our combined strengths, the declaration brings together the five Vice-Chancellors to use the talents of our staff and students to help drive forward the knowledge economy in Wales.

Despite the tough economic climate over the last year – the Universities of the St David’s Day Group have already achieved some notable successes.

The Wales Institute for Social and Economic Research Data and Methods (WISERD) has been established.

The Institute brings together and builds upon the existing expertise in quantitative and qualitative research methods and methodologies at the five Welsh Universities. Through WISERD, Wales is able to boast a centre of social science research excellence to support the Government in understanding and tackling economic and social issues in Wales through the most advanced research methodologies and internationally renowned researchers.

The Wales Institute of Mathematical and Computational Sciences (WIMCS) is another significant achievement. The Institute brings together individuals and groups in mathematical and computational sciences across the St David’s Day Group to provide the critical mass of high quality researchers who will achieve international recognition for mathematical research excellence. The Institute is helping to enhance the standing of mathematics and computation in Wales, to foster links with industry, commerce and business, to generate substantial research funding and to provide a forum for education and public awareness of the mathematical sciences.

The Low Carbon Research Institute (LCRI) is another notable achievement, which has the potential to place Wales at heart of finding low carbon solutions. The LCRI has been established to unite and promote the diverse range of energy research across the five universities and to explore workable solutions to some of the major environmental challenges ahead.

And it’s not only research projects – the Group has also focused on what we can do to help support our students and graduates during these tough economic times.

A £1.2M project, involving the five St David’s Day Group partners and Glyndwr University, has extended the provision of careers advice to new graduates on accessing the difficult jobs market place. The project runs until the end of 2010 and extends the provision of careers advice to some 3000 graduates.

It’s hoped that the project will assist up to 1000 unemployed graduates to access vital training from the partner universities under an Individual Learning Voucher scheme. The scheme is open to all graduates who live in Wales, regardless of where they studied for their degree. The joint Universities’ project is part of a £2.15M package of four projects announced under the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales’s (HEFCW) Economic Support Initiative.

Wales’ development needs to be driven by real innovation. Such innovation will come from the depth and breadth of knowledge that our Universities represent collectively.

The St David’s Day declaration has already seen us collaborate in a number of key areas including sustainable development, primary healthcare services and social recovery policies. We know that, collectively, our staff and our students can offer real help to business, the public sector and to individuals.

Our priority remains to help Wales strengthen after the recession and, beyond that, to create a vibrant knowledge-led society and economy that puts Wales ahead of the game.

As Wales slowly emerges from recession the next twelve months offer some exciting opportunities.

The Universities in the St David’s Day Group are already working with business, the voluntary sector and government to determine what the real priorities for Wales should be and we plan to continue with our ambitious capital investment programmes, securing construction jobs and supporting Welsh business by local sourcing of suppliers wherever possible. Further collaboration projects aimed at working with international business and education partners will help to build our vision for Wales.

Wales has a great deal to be proud of and we remain determined to act together, combining our strengths and talents to drive forward the knowledge economy in Wales.