‘Cardiff is not just a University in Wales, but a Welsh University’: Landmark for Students’ Union after 40-year fight
Cardiff University Students’ Union has appointed a full-time Welsh language officer for the first time in its 40-year history.
Deio Owen will become the first person to hold the role as of July 2023 having won an election in the spring.
Since the Students’ Union (SU) was established in 1973 there have been repeated calls for the role to be created but it has always been refused by the SU’s Board of Trustees.
The role is “essential” says Deio, who was elected as the first Vice President Welsh Language, Community & Culture officer after receiving 5,171 votes in the election.
“We’re the biggest university in Wales and Welsh language plays such an important part to studying here in Cardiff,” he said.
“It’s quite important that we have this voice for Welsh students, it’s essential that people that come to Cardiff to study get a Welsh experience in the capital City of Wales, (it) shows that we’ve got a different experience here.”
The current structure of the SU has a voluntary part-time role for Welsh Language representation. That role is filled by Deio who said: “Obviously I’m quite limited as I try to do my degree at the same time.”
Under the restructuring, which takes effect in July, some of the roles of the seven sabbatical officers have been amalgamated to help create the new job as Vice President Welsh Language, Community & Culture.
Cardiff behind the curve
Cardiff University is the biggest university in Wales but its SU is behind other universities’ SUs in doing this.
Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities have almost always had someone in the role while Abertawe appointed one more recently in 2019.
Dafi Jones, the VP Welsh Language for Aberystwyth Univeristy said having the role allowed him to “organise events and create opportunities for our Welsh students to socialise and to get vital experiences.”
A timeline of protests
Calls for a full time Welsh language officer are nothing new at Cardiff SU but there have been more prominent protests and campaigns over the past eight years.
Two campaigns argued for and against the role.
The Yes argument said: “The language belongs to every Cardiff student and needs to be fairly represented.”
The ‘No argument’ stated: “There are more effective ways of improving Welsh language services without having a middle manager and more bureaucracy.”
A 2015 referendum on the issue brought a record-breaking turnout for the Students Union with the highest ever number of votes cast (2,367 votes). The result was a close 52% against and 48% in favour.
A new Welsh language policy was announced which created the first Welsh language SU, Undeb Myfyrwyr Cymraeg Caerdydd (UMCC).
The SU sees two calls for a full time welsh language officer rejected by its Board of Trustees.
A new motion at the AGM received an overwhelming ‘for’ response from students but this time the Board of Trustees decided to restructure the seven sabbatical officer roles to create the new post which begins in July 2023.