‘What are universities for?’ Symposium, 18 May 2011: Proceedings

As a new national body, launched in May 2010, that is dedicated to the recognition and promotion of scholarship of international quality in all the established disciplines of learning, the Learned Society of Wales is developing a programme of activities that supports the world of learning.

Universities are central to the development of the modern world and face increasing – and sometimes conflicting – expectations from individuals, businesses and governments.  Academics, who are the creators and guardians of the life of the University, have their own requirements, expectations and aspirations, for teaching, scholarship and research.  The Society has therefore has identified The Universities as a key theme for its programme.

The first event organised by the Society under this theme was a one-day Symposium entitled, What are Universities for?  This was held in the recently-opened Cardiff School of Management Building on the Llandaff campus of the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff (UWIC) on Wednesday, 18 May 2011.  The Society is most grateful to UWIC for making its excellent facilities available for the Symposium. 

An introductory note on the Symposium and a record of points that emerged during discussion may be found here and the full text of the Proceedings may be found here

The text of individual addresses by speakers, together with a list of participants, may be found via the links shown below.

 The Symposium was a high-level, intimate forum that provided an opportunity for lively discussion, focused around a series of informative and stimulating addresses by a group of four notable speakers:

Professor Dai Smith FLSW

Raymond Williams Research Chair in Cultural History, Swansea University, and Chair of the Arts Council of Wales; formerly: Professor in the History of Wales, Cardiff University; Editor, BBC Radio Wales and Head of Programmes (English language), BBC Wales; Pro-Vice-Chancellor, the University of Glamorgan

Professor Graham Richards CBE DSc FRSC FLSW

Senior Non-executive Director, IP Group Plc; Fellow, Brasenose College, Oxford; formerly Professor of Chemistry (now Emeritus) and Chairman of the Department of Chemistry, Oxford University

David Rosser

Director, CBI Wales and the South West of England; Director of the Wales Social Partners Unit; member of the Board of Governors of the University of Wales Institute, Cardiff; Board member of The Prince’s Trust Cymru Council; formerly: head of a Welsh Development Agency inward investment team

John McCormick FRSE

Chair of the independent review of higher education governance in Wales (whose report, Achievement and accountability, was issued in March 2011); Member for Scotland, UK Electoral Commission; formerly: Controller of BBC Scotland; Chairman, Scottish Qualifications Authority


The fifty-one participants in the Symposium were from a range of organisations, including: Welsh and other universities; the Welsh Assembly Government; the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales; Higher Education Wales; the Institute of Welsh Affairs; and the Learned Society of Wales itself.

To follow this first successful event under its Universities theme, the Learned Society of Wales is planning further events that examine universities’ intellectual, social, economic and cultural nature and role. Details will be posted on this website in due course.