Friday 20-11-2015 - 11:25
The annual NUS Wales Zone Conference was held at Glyndwr University, Wrexham this year. A large number of delegates from universities and colleges across Wales met to discuss the future of education in Wales at this flagship event.
NUS Wales President, Beth Button, opened the conference with a focus on collectivism and the idea of working together ‘as a nation’ to achieve key goals. She told of what NUS Wales has achieved as a democratic organisation, on both a local and national level, thanks to its partnership with Student Unions in Wales and what needs to be done if further change is to be seen.
She referred to the recent HE Green Paper and told how this will present challenges in the future – in particular, cuts to further education (FE). Beth also discussed the success of education provision in Wales so far, including transport subsidies and students in Wales having the most generous living costs in the UK. She also talked about how NUS Wales and Students’ Unions in Wales need to fight together for common principles.
Former NUS Wales President, Katie Dalton chaired a hustings session. In attendance were Tudor Jones (Welsh Liberal Democrat), Hannah Blythyn (Welsh Labour Assembly candidate), Mabon ap Gwynfor (Plaid Cymru Assembly candidate) and Fflur Elin (Bangor Students Union President)
A range of topics were discussed, relating to both FE and HE, including;
- Mental health awareness and pastoral care
- Devolution of powers and Welsh language provision
- Widening access to education in deprived areas and ‘Communities First’
- Retaining and championing international students
- Increased graduate opportunities across Wales
- Student engagement within politics
NUS Wales full-time officers reported on the work that they had undertaken since Y Talwrn in August and answered questions from the floor. Liberation Officers Siôn Davies (Welsh Language Officer), Akousa Darko (Black Students Officer, Ed Shorney (National Society of Apprentices in Wales) and Rosie Inman (Women’s Officer) also provided 2 minute updates on the work of their campaigns.
Katie Dalton returned to the stage to speak of the work she does for Gofal, a mental health organisation in Wales. She spoke of the importance of mental health provision in Wales and the need to increase awareness amongst students. Dalton highlighted the recent Time To Change Wales campaign and also spoke of the Mental health toolkit that was produced in conjunction with NUS Wales in 2013. Dalton spoke of the need to widen access to education and in coming together and uniting for a common purpose. She told of the importance of the upcoming Welsh Assembly Elections and how students in Wales need to stand for what they believe in.
Elections were held for WNEC and the following candidates were elected:
- Further Education place = Stephen Hughes
- Women’s place = Fflur Elin
- Open place = Carmen Ria Smith
Fflur Elin (Bangor University Student’s Union President) delivered a workshop on ‘Better Education’ focussing on diversification within the curriculum.
Ellen Jones (University of South Wales President) and Lewis Donnelley (Aberystwyth University President) also delivered a workshop on ‘Better Society’ focussing on affordable housing and standards of student accommodation.
If you want to see more of what went on check out: #waleszone15 and #cynhadleddmaes on Twitter.