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Recent PhD graduate, Lee Raye, has won the Society for the History of Natural History’s 2016 William T. Stearn Student Essay Prize.

The essay competition was established in 2007 to honour the late William T. Stearn, a noted academic and scholar on the history of botany and classical languages. He made a significant contribution to his fields of study and more widely to the work of the Society for the History of Natural History.

The competition was open to undergraduate and postgraduate students, in full or part-time education, and the prize was adjudicated based on the best original and unpublished essay in the field of natural history. Lee’s essay was entitled Why was Early Modern Scotland famous for lynxes?

In addition to being named the 2016 winner of the William T. Stearn Student Essay Prize, and accepting a cheque for £300, the judging panel also recommended that Lee’s essay be submitted to the Editor of Archives of Natural History, with a view to publication.

Lee has just finished studying for a PhD at the University having obtained an undergraduate Masters degree from the University of Aberdeen and a Postgraduate Masters degree from the University of Oxford. Their particular areas of research interest include wildlife history, species history, Medieval Studies, Celtic Studies, Medieval English and Medieval Latin.

The title of Lee’s thesis is The Forgotten Beasts in Medieval Britain: A Study of Extinct Fauna in Medieval Sources.

Professor Sioned Davies, Head of the School of Welsh, commented on Lee’s achievement: “This is fantastic news and we congratulate Lee on [their] success. Lee was awarded [their] PhD earlier this year and proved [themselves] a dedicated and meticulous researcher. We wish [them] every success for the future.”

Cardiff University’s School of Welsh has scored 89% for overall student satisfaction in the 2016 National Student Survey (NSS).

Published annually, the NSS asks undergraduates to rate their University experience across several thematic areas including teaching, academic support and personal development.

This year the School scored highly in the following areas:

  • Staff are good at explaining things (100% agreed)
  • The course is well organised and running smoothly (96% agreed)
  • The course is intellectually stimulating (96% agreed)

The School also achieved high satisfaction levels in three key thematic areas – teaching, organisation and management and personal development.

Professor Sioned Davies, Head of the School of Welsh, said: “The NSS results are important because they represent real views from our students. We want to provide the very best academic and pastoral experience for all of our students and take the feedback very seriously. It is heartening to see high satisfaction levels in a number of areas and we will work to maintain and improve these. Despite a strong showing there are clearly areas which require our attention and we will continue to work in partnership with our students to improve satisfaction.”

Satisfaction with Cardiff University Students’ Union remained high (87%) cementing its place as one of the very best in the UK.

A delegation from Taiwan aiming to promote and increase speakers of the Hakka language, has learnt more about the University’s work into reviving the Welsh language.

Visiting the School of Welsh, a group led by Yung-Te Lee, Minister of the Hakka Affairs Council in Taiwan, met with Professor Sioned Davies, Head of the School, and her colleagues to exchange experiences of language revival.

The council is the central authority in Taiwan responsible for Hakka affairs. Its mission is to preserve and promote the Hakka culture and to revitalize the Hakka language.

The School of Welsh is at the forefront of research into Welsh language planning, Welsh dialectology and Welsh language acquisition.  Its innovative work in the field of language planning has influenced Welsh Government policies and the work of the Welsh Commissioner.

Professor Davies said: “It was a pleasure to welcome the Taiwanese delegation to the School of Welsh and to discuss the challenges faced by the Hakka language and culture, many of which are all too familiar to us in Wales.

“Language planning and policy research at the School has already achieved considerable success, impacting legislative policy and cultural awareness.

“We look forward to developing our relationship with the Hakka Affairs Council further and to share our knowledge and experience while learning more about the unique position of Hakka in Taiwan.”

A new language scheme that offers Cardiff University students the opportunity to learn Welsh alongside their studies free of charge is expanding after demand exceeded all expectations.

More than 200 students have followed the School of Welsh’s free beginners courses since they were launched at last year’s National Eisteddfod by First Minister Carwyn Jones.

Following this success, free courses will now also be offered to Cardiff University students at Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced levels from October.

The popularity of Welsh for All will be highlighted at an event at this year’s Eisteddfod at Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, on 4 August from 12:00 to 13:00.

The Eisteddfod session will look at the response of students to Welsh for All and will include video clips of students who followed the course, including an international student studying Law who has become proficient in Welsh after immersing himself in the language.

A group of students will also participate in an informal discussion to talk about their experiences of learning Welsh at the University and how it will help them in the future.

Dr Angharad Naylor, Welsh for All Project Manager at the School of Welsh, said: “The progress of the Welsh for All project has been excellent and has exceeded expectations.

“It’s wonderful to see such enthusiastic students wanting to learn Welsh and develop their knowledge and awareness of Welsh culture.

“I look forward to working with students next year to enhance and develop the provision so that many more Cardiff University students can experience the Welsh language and enjoy learning it.”

Next year’s Welsh for All will offer a mixture of intensive and nine-week courses with a range of online resources to develop language skills.

The School of Welsh has a long history of providing innovative opportunities to learn Welsh and discover Welsh culture.

Dr Naylor added: “Students have enjoyed the electronic activities through the virtual learning environment and the interactive nature of the lessons, but many students have highlighted the fact that the course has provided them with the opportunity to develop personal skills as well as linguistic skills.

“They note how they have enjoyed making new friends and are discovering a new culture and language. Many also noted how it gave them more self-confidence which is great.”

This year’s National Eisteddfod takes place at Castle Meadows, Abergavenny, from 29 July to 6 August.

The University’s pavilion is staging a wide variety of events and will feature family activities, films, music, refreshments and free wifi.

Information will be available about how the University helps boost the Welsh economy and supports communities around Wales.

Several events will form part of the Summer of Innovation, a celebration of the University’s innovative work that will bring people together from academia and industry to build and strengthen connections and partnerships.

The School of Welsh has been invited by the National Centre for Learning Welsh to deliver Welsh for Adults courses on its behalf in Cardiff.

The School will be responsible for delivering a range of courses all over Cardiff for the Centre, a new national planning body responsible for all aspects of the Welsh for Adults education programme.

The University is among 11 providers invited to deliver courses across Wales on the Centre’s behalf. The new structure, which comes into force on 1 August 2016, builds on the important work undertaken previously by the six Welsh for Adults Centres.

Efa Gruffudd Jones, Chief Executive of the National Centre for Learning Welsh, said: “This is the first time for a national planning body to take responsibility for the Welsh for Adults sector and our aim is clear - to deliver an inclusive service that welcomes and supports learners and new speakers of Welsh.

“I’m looking forward very much to working with committed providers and tutors across Wales as we coordinate provision, introduce new resources and provide a central point of contact for all information about learning Welsh.”

Professor Sioned Davies, Head of the School of Welsh at Cardiff University said: “The School of Welsh at Cardiff University has significant experience of the Welsh for Adults sector as well as a thorough understanding of learners’ needs in the capital; we are looking forward to working closely with the Centre.”

An informal event to launch the National Centre for Learning Welsh was held on Saturday, 30 July at the Maes ‘D’ Learners’ Pavilion at the Monmouthshire and District National Eisteddfod.

Professor E Wyn James was a teenager when the call came to his school for help to deal with the aftermath of the Aberfan disaster.

“I had just arrived in school that morning when a call came for the fifth and sixth-form boys to go urgently to Aberfan because something terrible had happened there,” said Professor James.

So the 16-year-old and his classmates were dispatched from their school in the neighbouring village of Edwardsville in the Merthyr valley.

“We didn’t know at the time the extent of what had happened, but that became very evident when we arrived.”

They were put to work immediately, part of the desperate attempts to remove debris from the disaster site in the hope of finding people alive.

“We were in a sort of chain gang passing buckets back from the ruins of the junior school.”

Mining debris from a nearby colliery had been deposited on the mountainside above Aberfan for many years.

On 21 October 1966, it took just a few minutes for the tip to slide down the mountain engulfing the local school. The disaster claimed the lives of 116 children and 28 adults.

Professor James, of Cardiff University’s School of Welsh, has recently spent a lot of time contemplating the events of that dreadful day.

Professor James and his wife, Christine James, a poet and professor in the Welsh department at Swansea University, have just published a collection of poems about the disaster to mark the 50th anniversary.

He said that working on the volume had been an even more emotional experience than he had expected.

“Although I did not lose close family members like some of my friends, the experience created a sort of numbness for many years,” he said.

One strong emotion he feels is anger about the disaster, and the way in which the tips were allowed to accumulate on the hillside above the school.

“As one editorial remarked at the time, they wouldn’t have allowed such waste tips to overshadow Eton or Harrow,” he said.

Professor James will be talking about his memories of the disaster and discussing the collection of 80 poems, Dagrau Tost (Bitter Tears), together with Professor Christine James at the National Eisteddfod.

The event takes place between 11:00 and 12:00 at Lolfa Lên (the Literature Lounge) on Tuesday 2 August.

The collection features poetry from the time of the disaster right through to some written during recent months.

Professor James said two of the most notable poets to be included are D Gwenallt Jones and T Llew Jones.

“Gwenallt was the most prominent poet writing in Welsh about life in the industrial valleys of south Wales,” said Professor James.

“He published a long poem about Aberfan a year after the disaster, and that poem has a central place in the collection.”

“In many ways it was his final statement on the suffering and bravery of people in the valleys.”

Professor James said that another striking poem included in the collection was written by T Llew Jones, a teacher from Ceredigion who was an important writer of children’s literature in Welsh.

The poem was broadcast in a Welsh-language news programme in the days after the disaster, and in it T Llew Jones draws parallels between the children of the fictional Hamelin and those of Aberfan.

“Although the poems respond to the disaster in a variety of ways, the main focus is on the fact that so many children died in that disaster.”

It was with great sadness that we heard recently of the death of one of our alumnae, the choral conductor Sioned James at age 41.

Sioned came to the School of Welsh as a student in 1994 and graduated with a first Class Honours degree in 1997. She was a fun and dynamic character, always happy to chat. She possessed a keen intelligence and an obvious gift for music. Her ambition was to make a far-reaching contribution to Wales’ musical and cultural landscapes, and to the world of choral music in particular.

Sioned was a member of many choirs before coming to the University, and after she graduated she established a mixed Welsh choir, Côrdydd in the capital in 2000. Over the years many members of staff and students from the School have been members of the choir, which grew to be one of the most successful in Wales, achieving success in Wales and beyond.

As well as conducting Côrdydd, Sioned was also active in the Welsh choral scene, conducting the Mochyn Du Choir in Cardiff for many years. She was also very supportive and keen to offer advice to other conductors, especially the Aelwyd Waun Ddyfal choir, established by alumni of the School of Welsh; it still has strong links with the School today.

The School would like to extend its deepest sympathy to Sioned’s family at this difficult time.

Staff and students from the School will hold a number of events and interactive sessions during the National Eisteddfod in Monmouthshire and District 2016, from 29 July to 6 August.

Find out more about the full programme of events offered by the University.

Saturday 30 July

  • 12:00-12:45 – Dr Siwan Rosser (Literary Pavilion), @Adventure: lost literature for children and young people

Sunday 21 July

  • 11:00-12:00 –Dr Jeremy Evas (Cardiff University Tent), Student research at the School of Welsh
  • 12:45-13:30, Professor E Wyn James (Literary Pavilion), Songs of Praise from the 1916 National Eisteddfod

Tuesday 2 August

  • 11:00-12:00 – Dr Dylan Foster-Evans (Literary Pavilion), The Welsh language in Monmouthshire during the 19th and early 20th century
  • 11:00-12:00 – Professor E Wyn James & Professor Christine James (Lolfa Lên), Poems marking 50 years since the Aberfan disaster
  • 13:00-14:00 – Dr Dylan Foster Evans (Cardiff University Tent), Book launch: Plant y Dyfroedd
  • 14:00-15:00 - Professor Sioned Davies (Societies 1), Cymdeithas Bob Owen's annual lecture
  • 15:00-16:30 – Dr Siwan Rosser (Lolfa Lên), Is writing for young people ignored?

Wednesday 3 August

  • 12:00-13:00 – Professor E Wyn James (Societies 1), Thomas Price (Carnhuanawc): Welshman, Celt, Christian
  • 13:00-14:00, Professor Sioned Davies & Dr Jonathan Morris (Cardiff University Tent), Creating a linguistic continuum in schools: considerations and challenges
  • 13:30-14:30 -  Dr Dylan Foster Evans (Societies 2), “I Efenni yr af innau”: poets of the nobility in Gwent    A look at the poetry of Gwent during a golden age of Welsh literature
  • 14:00-15:00 – Dr Siwan Rosser (Cardiff University Tent), Translating Dahl

Thursday 4 August

  • 10:00- 11:00 –Dr Llŷr Gwyn Lewis  (Cardiff University Tent), Creative Voices Cardiff
  • 10:30-11:30 - Professor E Wyn James and Professor Bill Jones (Societies 2), Two Evans’, Blaenau Gwent and the New World - Centre for Welsh American Studies
  • 11:00-12:00 – Dr Siwan Rosser (Lolfa Lên), Roald Dahl and Wales
  • 12:00-13:00 – Dr Angharad Naylor (Cardiff University Tent), Welsh for All project: progress and achievements

Friday 5 August

  • 12:00-13:00 – Dr Iwan Wyn Rees (Cardiff University Tent), The extinct dialects around Abergavenny: a conversation with Mrs Mary Wiliam and Professor Glyn Jones
  • 14:00-15:00 – Professor E Wyn James (Cardiff University Tent), John Owen from Abergavenny and Eluned Morgan from Patagonia

Saturday 6 August

  • 14:30-15:30 - Dr Llŷr Gwyn Lewis and others (Literary Pavilion), Literary quiz: Guto Dafydd, Llŷr Gwyn and Gruffudd Antur

A Cardiff University linguist is examining traditional Welsh dialects that are dying out in the area hosting this year’s National Eisteddfod.

With the help of two respected experts, Dr Iwan Wyn Rees, of the School of Welsh, will also look at how traditional Welsh dialects recorded around Abergavenny differ from other parts of the country.

Dr Rees said: “Due to the popularity of last year's panel discussion on the Welsh dialects of Montgomeryshire, this year's session will concentrate on dialects recorded in areas around Abergavenny, including parts of Brecknockshire and the Heads of the Valleys.

“Contrary to the situation in Montgomeryshire however, the traditional Welsh dialects of these areas are extremely rare, or have died out completely, due to the decline of the Welsh language in these parts of Wales.

“Consequently, studies carried out in the second half of the 20th century by Professor Glyn Jones and Mary Wiliam, among others, are invaluable to our understanding of Welsh varieties in areas which are commonly described as ‘anglicised’ parts of Wales.”

Professor Jones, former head of the School of Welsh at Cardiff University, and Mrs Wiliam, former curator and researcher of dialects at St Fagans National History Museum, will join Dr Rees for a panel discussion at the Eisteddfod at 12:00 on Friday, 5 August.

Dr Rees is also giving a talk on the same day at 14:00 at the Literature Wales pavilion about TJ Morgan, who was Professor of Welsh at Swansea University and father of former First Minister Rhodri Morgan, and his recordings of the “last Welsh speakers” in the Abergavenny area.

At last year’s Eisteddfod in Meifod, Powys, Dr Rees used the Eisteddfod to gather information about linguistic developments in Wales.

“As somebody who has concentrated mainly on dialects in mid Wales, I am often asked by curious Welsh speakers about similarities between the linguistic features of mid Wales and those of 'Gwenhwyseg', the traditional dialect of south-east Wales,” said Dr Rees.

“Without any doubt, Professor Jones and Mary Wiliam will be able to shed light on these intriguing issues, and explain also how the Welsh of Brecknockshire relates to other varieties of Welsh.

“I am also looking forward to playing TJ Morgan's recordings of what he regarded as the ‘last Welsh speakers’ in the Abergavenny area.

“T J Morgan carried out lots of fieldwork in areas where Welsh was in decline, and I'm sure that the vivid description that he gives in one of his belles-lettres of his encounter with the death of the Welsh language - an experience that was mystical for him at the time - will not only fascinate but astonish Welsh speakers today.”

This year’s National Eisteddfod takes place at Castle Meadows, Abergavenny, from 29 July to 6 August.

The University’s pavilion is staging a wide variety of events and will feature family activities, films, refreshments and free wifi.

Information will be available about how the University helps boost the Welsh economy and supports communities around Wales.

Several events will form part of the Summer of Innovation, a celebration of the University’s innovative work that will bring people together from academia, industry and the public sector to build and strengthen connections and partnerships.

Cardiff University’s Welsh for Adults centre has seen an increase in the number of registrations for its intensive Summer Course, with more than 180 learners signed up.

This is the highest number of registrations that the centre has experienced in recent years and is an endorsement of the strength and excellence of the programme in Cardiff.

The course attracts learners from around the world and this year five bursaries, worth up to £2,000, were awarded to learners from America, Australia, Hungary, Poland and Patagonia. Alongside the international bursaries, two home bursaries were awarded to learners from the local area.

The purpose of the Summer Course is to enable learners to complete a full Welsh course, which would usually take nine months or more, within just four weeks. There is also flexibility built in to the programme for the learners. The course is split into two-week blocks (half a level completed in one two-week period). Learners can choose to tailor the amount of time they take to complete the course to suit their own circumstances – over a fortnight, a month, six or eight weeks.

The classes are scheduled to reflect a working day, between 9,00am and 4.30pm, Monday to Friday.

In addition to the formal learning a number of social events and activities are organised. This is an opportunity for learners to get to know each other, share experiences and practise their language skills in informal settings.

Find out more about Welsh languages courses at Cardiff.