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Does Cardiff University cater to its Welsh-speaking students well enough?

A "constant battle"?: With Welsh on the rise, is Cardiff University keeping up? Source: Still ePsiLoN (via Flickr)

By Jacob Morris

Welsh Language patients could be receiving poorer care in hospitals. This revelation came following recent comments made by the Welsh Language Commissioner, Aled Roberts. His claims call into question the quality of patient care if they cannot communicate with healthcare professionals through their mother tongue.

In particular, patients with Dementia who are first-language speakers could be some of the most at risk and even expectant mothers while giving birth could equally be in peril, especially in difficult labour. Roberts recently said, “We cannot emphasise enough the difference it makes to a patient to be able to speak their first language when unwell, and that speaking Welsh is a necessity, not an option, for many patients,”.

The role of the Welsh Language Commissioner, which was established in 2012, is to promote and facilitate the use of the Welsh Language and in turn establishes rights for Welsh speakers. Furthermore, the Commissioner is to play key part in fulfilling the Welsh Government’s target of a million Welsh Speakers by 2050.

However, what is the situation for Welsh-speaking students in our universities? Following new standards set by the Welsh Language Commissioner in 2018, Welsh-speaking students have a range of new rights which include: the right to sit examinations through the medium of Welsh; a Welsh-speaking personal tutor; and Welsh-speaking accommodation to name only a few. Nonetheless, what is the reality that Welsh-speaking students at Cardiff University are receiving equal quality services as their fellow students with English as their first language?

Many students have complained about the lack of organisation by Cardiff University to abide by these new standards, describing it as a “constant battle”. Over the summer, some students were notified at the last minute that Welsh modules they had chosen to follow had been cancelled. This consequently resulted in them having to follow modules through the medium of English, some of which were already full. Aled Biston, a second-year Welsh and History student, commented, “The fact that we have to fight for more Welsh language provision is an infringement on our rights as Welsh-speaking students. The department compromised and agreed to provide Welsh seminars but that simply isn’t enough, and as a result we feel like second class citizens in our own country.”

Other students who follow Welsh Language degrees feel fairly satisfied with the level of Welsh language education provided. Anna Hughes, who studies the entirety of her course in Welsh, said, “I chose Cardiff University as the course I wished to study [Y Gyfraith a’r Gymraeg LLB] allowed me to continue my studies through the medium of Welsh. As Law is essentially an essay based course, I felt more comfortable with expressing myself through my mother tongue; as far as I’m in the question I am happy, I only wish my fellow Welsh-speaking students had the same fair treatment.”

However, recently Cardiff University has received praise for the rise of students studying medicine in the medium of Welsh which has increased from four students studying in 2015 to 26 in 2019 which is perhaps a sign that the tide is turning, and the future is bright for the language of the heavens.

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