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Language group anger over Aberystwyth University head

Category: Wales

Published: 25th Jan 2011 16:38:43

A Welsh language campaign group has objected to the appointment of a non-Welsh speaking vice-chancellor of Aberystwyth University.

Prof April McMahon, who speaks French and German and some Scottish Gaelic, and is a vice-principal at Edinburgh University, has pledged to learn Welsh.

The Welsh Language Society said Aberystwyth's officials had "made a mockery" of their language policy.

Prof McMahon will succeed Prof Noel Lloyd on 1 August.

Prof McMahon's appointment to Aberystwyth, which has a high level of Welsh speakers, comes after another university, Bangor, controversially appointed a non-Welsh speaking vice-chancellor last year.

Aberystwyth's new vice-chancellor has a history of working in and leading linguistic departments.

She has good credentials, but Aberystwyth being in a Welsh language area, it's important to have some one with Welsh speaking skills”

For 12 years she taught at the department of linguistics at Cambridge University, where she was also a Fellow of Selwyn College, and was professor of English language and linguistics at the University of Sheffield from 2000 until 2004.

In 2005, she moved to Edinburgh University as Forbes professor of English language and head of the department of linguistics and English language.

Her talent for languages and her background in linguistics has impressed the Welsh Language Society, but its chair Menna Macreth said being able to speak Welsh was vital in such an important role.

She said: "She (Prof McMahon) has good credentials, but Aberystwyth being in a Welsh language area, it's important to have some one with Welsh-speaking skills.

"Aberystwyth University has made a mockery of its Welsh language scheme.

"Officials have said in their press release that Prof McMahon will learn Welsh and we welcome that, but the selection process has been handled badly and there have been complaints that students and staff have not been consulted."

Ms Macreth said it was encouraging that Prof McMahon was a multi-linguist, which showed she knew the "value of other languages".

This is a time of challenges and opportunities for universities and I look forward to working with staff and students to take the University into the next stage of its development”

Prof McMahon said she was delighted "with the prospect of leading Aberystwyth University and she looked forward "to working positively within a bilingual environment and to living and working in such a culturally vibrant part of Wales".

She added: "This is a time of challenges and opportunities for universities and I look forward to working with staff and students to take the University into the next stage of its development."

University president Sir Emyr Jones Parry, the UK's former ambassador to the United Nations, said: "Universities face a period of unprecedented change and I am particularly pleased that Aberystwyth has been able to attract a new leader of the calibre of Prof McMahon.

"She is a very worthy successor to Prof Noel Lloyd, and I look forward very much to working with her to develop a research led, internationally competitive University, which also fulfils its obligations, regionally and nationally."

But the Welsh language students union, Undeb Myfyrwyr Cymraeg Aberystwyth (UMCA), said it was "disappointed" the new vice-chancellor was not a Welsh speaker.

However, another student body, Aberystwyth Guild of Students, welcomed the appointment.

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BBC News, 2011. Language group anger over Aberystwyth University head [Online] (Updated 25th Jan 2011)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/125284/Language-group-anger-over-Aberystwyth-University-head [Accessed 21st Aug 2014]

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