Language barrier to university

23rd January 2004 at 00:00
The status of Welsh A-level has been thrown into confusion, after a Welsh sixth-former was told that his chosen university would not consider the qualification when deciding whether to accept him onto a course.

Cemlyn Davies, 17, was offered a place to study French and politics at Nottingham university earlier this year. He was told that his offer was conditional on receiving two As and a B in his A-levels. But, in later correspondence with the faculty, he was informed that his Welsh A-level would not be accepted, as the university will not consider language courses from native speakers. Asked why it was willing to consider his English A-level, the department said: "The English language is looked on in an entirely different manner to other language subjects."

But Cemlyn insists that the Welsh exam, with its requirement to study Welsh poetry and to complete technical translations into English, is more challenging than his English A-level. "The Welsh language is something I take a lot of pride in," he said. "Nottingham has shown me and my heritage a lack of respect. They probably think Welsh is pointless in today's global context."

Arwel George, head of Penweddig school, in Ceredigion, the Welsh-medium comprehensive that Cemlyn attends, said: "I'm baffled. Young people are being dealt with unfairly. Welsh is not an easy option. It's of equal academic standing with English."

Simon Thomas, Plaid Cymru MP for Ceredigion, has tabled an early-day motion in Parliament, calling for all universities to acknowledge that Welsh A-level is as valid a qualification as its English equivalent. He said: "In Wales, Welsh and English have equal legal status. It's incumbent on English universities to recognise that. Students taking Welsh are being treated as though they are taking some sort of Mickey Mouse subject. It's a very damaging impression."

Mr Thomas has since been contacted by two more pupils, who were told that their Welsh A-levels would not be considered in applications to study politics at Bristol university and the London School of Economics.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service has said that it is unable to influence the selection processes of individual universities.

Nottingham university has now reversed its decision, insisting that it resulted from a misinterpretation by admissions staff. A spokesperson said:

"We will carry out a review of the guidelines we issue to staff, and will look at the broader issues involved in the acceptance of language subjects."

But Cemlyn has decided to take up a place at Cardiff university instead:

"It appears I need to stay in Wales. Only in Wales is the Welsh language truly respected."

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