Aberystwyth University Council approves resolution on Pantycelyn

FOLLOWING weeks of uncertainty over the future of Pantycelyn as a hall of residence, Aberystwyth University’s Council has approved a resolution that reaffirms its continued commitment to the Welsh language and culture, and the provision of dedicated Welsh-medium accommodation.

The resolution, agreed with UMCA and the Students’ Union, outlines the future of Pantycelyn as well as Welsh-medium accommodation at the University. The resolution makes provision for Welsh-medium accommodation in Penbryn and Fferm Penglais from September 2015, whilst Pantycelyn is closed for renovations. It also allows for the use of Pantycelyn as a social space for Welsh-medium clubs, societies, and UMCA, as well as the relocation of Welsh language support services to Pantycelyn.

Pantycelyn Residence. Credit: Rebecca James

Pantycelyn Residence. Credit: Rebecca James

Following the approval of this resolution, the University will draw up detailed plans for the provision of excellent, fit-for-the-future Welsh medium accommodation, and see how these can apply to Pantycelyn. This will take into account a revised University Estate Strategy; the demand for Welsh-medium accommodation; the structural changes needed in Pantycelyn as a Listed building and an indication that the necessary permissions will be forthcoming; the priorities of the University; and the provision of necessary funding.

The resolution sets a deadline of 30th April 2016 for a brief of “excellent Welsh-medium accommodation and social spaces” emphasising that it must be a long-term plan that is viable to last 40 years. This brief is to be worked on by the University alongside UMCA, the student body, staff and the community.

A statement released by the University focuses on a wish to “provide the highest quality of accommodation for its students, including Welsh-medium students” going on to say that:

“The University also committed to providing a choice of accommodation, including a consistency of choice whilst Pantycelyn is being redeveloped….

The resolution provides, on that basis, a process to implement the University’s intention to reopen Pantycelyn within four years as designated Welsh medium accommodation.”

A statement released by UMCA following the approval of the resolution talks of the news being “welcomed” by those currently occupying Pantycelyn, who will now transfer responsibilities of the future to the project group. This means that the occupation will cease today (Monday 22nd June 2015).

UMCA President, Hanna Merrigan stated:

“This is a big step in our campaign to ensure that Pantycelyn is home to the community of Welsh Students at Aberystwyth University. For the first time ever, the University have fully committed to keeping Pantycelyn as a Welsh medium hall of residence.”

Jacob Ellis, Out-going Students’ Union President said:

“Today was a day for students and prospective students of Aberystwyth University. The campaign has captured the heart of thousands of people in Wales and beyond, and today we can celebrate the announcement that Aberystwyth University as an intention to keep Pantycelyn open as a dedicated Welsh-medium accommodation within 4 years. I’m very proud of UMCA, the campaigners and the community of Aberystwyth University. I’d like to thank my co-student representatives for their support, the students, staff, University Council and the Chancellor. More importantly, I’d like to acknowledge the kindness and support of the local community and beyond! You were the force behind our wave! The work begins today, and everyone has a responsibility to see this important building succeed!”

Hanna Merrigan added,

“The campaign to Save Pantycelyn will continue until the doors of the hall re-open to students in September 2019. Obviously, our campaign will take a different path now, and we will be announcing the next steps of the campaign over the next weeks and months. The campaign will now be to define the elements that comprise a Welsh medium halls of residence of the highest standard, and to ensure that the proposals for the refurbishment programme reflect these.I would like to thank everyone for their support over the last few days, and I sincerely hope that Aberystwyth University prove everyone wrong and keep to their word. The campaign to Save Pantycelyn will continue until the first students steps foot inside Pantycelyn as a hall, no later than September 2019.”