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Rowan Williams takes up role as University of South Wales’s Chancellor

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At a prestigious academic ceremony in Cardiff, Lord Williams was joined by dignitaries from all aspects of Welsh life.

Professor Julie Lydon, Vice-Chancellor of the University of South Wales, welcomed Lord Williams to his new role as formal head of the University. She said, “The installation of a Chancellor is, of course, a moment of great academic ceremony, but it is also a fundamental reassertion of our values. In Rowan Williams we invite to head our University a scholar of major intellectual weight, proud identity, and shared values of learning and social justice.”

Speaking about his new role, Lord Williams said, “This is in many senses a coming home, in a very personal sense. In a lifetime I have spent many years outside Wales, but my roots are as firmly here as the day I left as a Swansea schoolboy to begin my own study as an undergraduate. I return today to Wales for what I believe are the very best of reasons: to take up my next role in Wales’s largest university and one of her civic and economic society’s great assets.

“Intellectually and philosophically, I am also coming home. It is one of the deepest honours for a scholar to become the formal head of a University, and it is for me a source of both profound personal pleasure and a sense of quiet pride to have been invited by the University of South Wales to be its Chancellor.

“This is a vigorous academic community of many nations and beliefs brought together by a shared commitment to the transformation of lives through knowledge and education. I know from personal experience that the higher education this University provides is valued tremendously by graduates and their employers, and the University’s success in fitting its students for the world of work is a source of justified pride.”

Rowan Williams’s first duties as Chancellor were to award honorary doctorates to the First Minister of Wales, Rt Hon Carwyn Jones AM; Wales national rugby coach Warren Gatland; Julia Unwin, Chief Executive of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation; and the Honourable Mrs Justice Nicola Davies, Presiding Judge for Wales.

Speaking after the ceremony, the First Minister said, “When I see the talent and capability on offer at the University of South Wales, I am both amazed and encouraged for the future. That is as it should be, for our graduates today are in a far tougher, more competitive race for success than when I went out into the world of work. If the opportunities are greater, so is the competition. That’s why we – and they need universities like this.

“I am proud to say today that I become part, in a different and special way, of the academic community of the University of South Wales. It means a great deal to me.”

A brand new University Mace was unveiled at the ceremony. Designed for the University by lecturer and award-winning designer Jeremy Spencer, it was manufactured by major aerospace employer GE Aviation Wales and local industry.

The ceremony included the world premier of a fanfare and processional march University of South Wales, commissioned for the occasion by Ty Cerdd: Music Centre Wales from well-known Welsh composer Gareth Wood. Following the tradition of marking great occasions with poetry and song, the ceremony was also the first performance of an artistic collaboration involving TS Eliot prize-winning poet Professor Philip Gross, with words inspired by the poetry of Rowan Williams and set to music by emerging Welsh talent Benjamin Vaughan in a work for harp and voice, following the Welsh tradition, commissioned by Ty Cerdd.

Speaking about the importance of University education, Lord Williams said, “The most important bit of ‘impact’ any university can have is to help people to become intelligent citizens, and that means helping them to see what critical argument looks like, to see what genuine thinking is, and to explore great issues in an atmosphere of respect and positive expectation.

“The University of South Wales is both a substantial presence in Britain and in the global higher education community, and a major force for positive change in Wales. The traditional role of the Chancellor is to represent the University, to preside at our great occasions of academic celebration, and to act as a voice for the timeless values of a University itself. I look forward to doing all of this energetically as Chancellor of the University of South Wales, as we embark on the next chapter in our University’s story.”

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