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Universities Wales Weekly Wrap Up – 04 March 2016

Welsh language standards regulations 2016

On 23 February 2016 the Welsh Government laid five sets of regulations including The Welsh Language Standards (No. 3) Regulations 2016, under the affirmative resolution procedure (see here, and here for the explanatory memo). These are due to come into force on 22 March 2016 and make the standards specifically applicable to all universities and FE colleges in Wales and HEFCW (among others), enabling the Welsh Language Commissioner to issue Compliance Notices to those organisations in relation to the standards specified. 

The regulations implement the Welsh Language (Wales) Measure 2011 (see here) which makes provision for the specification of standards of conduct in relation to the Welsh language.   Under this Measure, the Welsh Language Commissioner is authorised to require specified ‘persons’ to comply with those standards.  This takes the place of the Welsh Language Schemes that were developed under the Welsh Language Act 1993 and monitored by the Welsh Language Board until its abolition on 31 March 2012, and the Welsh Language Commissioner since 1 April 2012.   Failure to comply with a requirement could enable the Commissioner (among other options) to require the person to take steps to remedy the failure, enforceable by court order, or to impose a civil penalty of up to £5k. Schedules 5 & 6 of the Measure made the service delivery, policy making, operational and record keeping standards potentially applicable to universities in Wales and HEFCW, but not the promotion standards. Up until this point, however, the standards have not been made specifically applicable to universities and HEFCW, i.e. they could not be applied.

In December 2014, the WG held a consultation on its proposals to introduce the new standards regime gradually, replacing Welsh Language schemes sector by sector and specifically highlighted that forthcoming sets of standards would be prepared for bodies such as the health boards, further and higher education providers, charities and private companies (see here).The Welsh Language Commissioner conducted investigations between November 2014 and February 2015 which included HEFCW and universities (see here).  It should be noted that the Regulations, when they come into force, will note have a direct effect on organisations and they will not, by themselves, create rights for Welsh language users.  That will only happen when all the conditions in section 25 of the 2011 Measure have been met.  In particular, it will be for the Commissioner to choose which standards to impose on each organisation by way of a Compliance Notice.  The Regulations set the range of standards which could be imposed on an organisation.  There is no requirement on the Commissioner to require every organisation to comply with every standard.  The organisation may have to comply with the standard only in some circumstances and not in others – depending on what is stated in their Compliance Notice.  The Compliance Notice will also set the date by which the organisation is required to comply with a standard. 

Consultation on postgraduate and part-time undergraduate support

On 3rd March 2016, the Welsh Government published its consultation entitled ‘Support for postgraduate study and part-time engineering, technology or computer science degrees’ (see here). In particular, the Welsh Government is proposing to introduce loans for postgraduate students on similar lines to England from 2017/18, and is considering the introduction of an exemption to allow students who already have an undergraduate degree to pursue further part-time study for an undergraduate degree in a Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics (STEM) subject. The deadline for response is 26 May 2016. Universities Wales would welcome any initial comments (to Ben Arnold, Policy Adviser, b.arnold@www.uniswales.ac.uk).

Consultation on support for foundation year students

On 3rd March 2016, the Welsh Government published a consultation on support for foundation years (see here).  The Welsh Government signals in its consultation that it sees this provision as potentially problematic as it appears to burden students with an additional year of debt and increase cost to the Welsh Government.  It is currently considering reducing support, providing more selective support, or removing support altogether for foundation years.  The deadline for response is 26 May 2016. Universities Wales would welcome any initial comments from Members and advice on any courses that may be affected by these proposals at your institution (to Ben Arnold, Policy Adviser, b.arnold@www.uniswales.ac.uk).