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First Minister shines Beacon for the public

02 September 2008

First Minister of Wales, Rhodri Morgan

Welsh Assembly Government First Minister Rhodri Morgan has officially launched the first ever all-Welsh partnership that aims to help Welsh universities engage more with the communities they serve.

The Beacon for Wales - one of six collaborative centres across the UK - will seek ways to engage the public, through debates, exhibitions and outreach work, helping universities across Wales make a wider contribution to society.

Cardiff University and the University of Glamorgan have joined forces with BBC Wales, Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum of Wales, and hands-on science centre Techniquest as partners in the project.

Over four years, academics in Wales will be encouraged to submit projects for study which will impact on the community.

These will be grouped under four main themes:

  • Welsh Identity in the 21st Century, especially amongst minority groups
  • Our Place in the Future - for 14-19 year olds
  • Health and Well Being in Communities First areas - the 100 most deprived council wards of Wales
  • Climate Change and Sustainability in Rural Communities

In addition the Beacon for Wales will be conducting a survey in the autumn looking at the perceptions the public has of universities.

Rhodri Morgan said, "I’m proud that Wales is at the forefront of a new initiative. Our universities are full of staff with a wealth of expertise, and this project will enable them to reach out and share their knowledge with the rest of the community."

The Beacon for Wales successfully competed against 87 other bidders from around the UK. It is benefiting from £1.2m of the £9.2m total funding given to the Beacons for Public Engagement by the UK funding councils, Research Councils UK and the Wellcome Trust.

Professor Ken Woodhouse, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Engagement, at Cardiff University, the lead partner in the Beacon for Wales, said: "This initiative will ensure that the public has a greater understanding of the work of higher education institutions, as well as making sure our universities understand how the public feels about issues ranging from science, business and the arts, to language, the environment and history."

Bruce Etherington, the newly appointed Beacon for Wales manager based at the University, said: "This is the biggest initiative of its kind ever launched. The funding will enable us to achieve a much more joined up and embedded approach to public engagement and tackle identified barriers to participation in public engagement by higher education institutions, such as pressures to publish research."

Rachel Bowen, Beacon for Wales Officer will also be supporting the partnership through co-ordinating activities and assisting practitioners in public engagement projects in higher education institutions across Wales.