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Meet the team – Dr Huw Williams

29 November 2021

What does your role involve?

That depends on what day you ask! Essentially it is about promoting ways of working bilingually across the University and so this can involve anything from looking at how SIMS works and issues of student accommodation, through to strategic work on education and Welsh-language provision or Comms and Recruitment projects. As the ‘inaugural’ Dean for the Welsh Language a lot of the initial work was around connecting with people and pulling together an overview of what we do as an institution, and then articulating it as the basis for our Welsh Language strategy, that was passed by Senate and Council last December. Much of our ambition is about building on the foundations that have been put in place over the last 10 years by staff across the University, strengthening our University-wide network through the new Welsh Language Academy, and enabling people to do the work they are tasked with, in respect to the Welsh language.

What did you do before working in this role?

Well, I’m still involved in my previous role in that 0.6 of my time remains with ENCAP as a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy.  I came to the school through the Coleg Cymraeg Cenedlaethol who are our strategic partners in much of the educational work we do through the medium of Welsh. The role was initially as a ‘national’ lecturer in philosophy, with modules provided across other Universities, and much of that via videoconferencing, which felt quite ‘cutting-edge’ before the pandemic changed our working practices! More generally the role feels like an important one – especially in its public-facing aspects – because philosophy in Cardiff is the only ‘unit’ dedicated to Philosophy across all the Welsh Universities, reflecting the fact there’s a lot of work to be done in promoting the subject in Wales. I’m a strong believer in the importance of philosophy as a subject in terms of its contribution to public life, the critical insight it affords us, and the clarity of thought it promotes that’s so important to a functioning, healthy democracy.

Describe a project you’ve enjoyed working on with the LT Academy

The close ties that are being forged between the Academi Gymraeg and the LT Academy have already proved hugely beneficial in terms of the support and capability it affords our work on the strategy, and is likewise beneficial I hope for the LT Academy in terms of the work they are developing. I’ve really enjoyed being able to witness Catrin as Academi Manager and Elliw as Coleg Branch Officer working with colleagues in the LT Academy on various pieces of work, not least because it feels like the work on the Welsh language is now more integrated and connected with other parts of the University. In terms of a specific project the recent staff questionnaire stands out as one example where we’ve been able to benefit hugely from this expertise, and also with that wider support structure we’ve been able to engage in some really interesting and fruitful discussions around the questions. I think the result is a really good, and no doubt useful questionnaire.

What are you looking forward to working on?

Another project that has been in the pipeline for a long while is Dinesydd Caerdydd ­– The Cardiff Citizen.  In effect this is a short ‘induction’ module for our students, that is looking to ensure wider participation in our Welsh-language provision and activities by bringing together our Welsh-speaking students at the start of their time at the University.  A large percentage of our Welsh-speaking students – probably around 65% – do not have the opportunity to pursue any Welsh-medium study because our provision is limited to certain subject areas. As such we’re looking at ways to ensure all our Welsh-speaking students an opportunity to maintain and hopefully improve their bilingual skills whilst they are here, because as an educational establishment we want our students leaving with more capability rather than less – and feeling confident about stepping into the various bilingual workplaces that exist in Cardiff and across Wales. Again it’s been really enjoyable being in the room with colleagues who are helping us devise the content, and having that expert eye to develop the project in a way that ensures it is meaningful and adds value to the student experience.

Can you tell us an interesting fact about yourself?

Ha! In my younger days when answering this sort of question I’d usually refer to the fact that as a kid I played football against the former England striker Michael Owen, who was a bit of a phenomenon around the time of the 1998 World Cup, and who went on to play for Real Madrid.  However, I’m starting to feel that the reference has aged a little bit and certainly none of my students – except for the most avid Liverpool supporters – will have any idea about who I’m referring to (although this goes for most of my cultural references these days; I’m very glad ‘Friends’ re-runs are still playing and that I now have my daughters’ Disney collection, as this gives me something to work with!).  A slightly more up-to-date and perhaps appropriate ‘fact’ about me and my work is that it has recently inspired some art, in particular my latest Welsh-language book, Ysbryd Morgan. It transpires that it has very much spoken to Mary Lloyd Jones, a renowned artist whose work is in the National Museum and Michael Tinney Gallery (and who is from my neck of the woods – Ceredigion). She has been producing artwork that responds to the themes in my research, which in a nutshell is a form of intellectual history looking at the Welsh radical tradition. I’m still a little dumbfounded, to be honest.  As a writer the one thing you hope for is that your work speaks to others, but to elicit a response from such an artist is something else.

Take part in the Academi Gymraeg – Cardiff University’s Welsh Language Academy – staff questionnaire, open until 10 December