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Welsh History Review


Vol. 13, nos. 1-4 1986-87

The University College of North Wales : foundations, 1884-1927. Book review.

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them until 'the Idea' failed and 'the remaining settlers entered into a sour marriage
of convenience with a land whose opportunities proved illusory'.
More transient links provide the theme re-visited with his usual panache by Aled
Eames in his account of maritime traffic in the 'Age of Sail'. Dr. Chamberlain tells
the intriguing story of Mary Ford, a young girl sent out from the workhouse at
Merthyr Tydfil to service in Canada. Victorian philanthropy was often genuinely
well-intentioned; the laxity with which such schemes were supervised in the 1870s
makes Mary Ford's tale as harrowing in sentiment as it is instructive as a social
cameo. Gwyn Jenkins looks at the efforts of W. L. Griffith (a Welsh-speaking,
Liberal, Wesleyan Methodist, at home in both countries) to 'organise' emigration
from 1897 to 1906. Up to 8,000 went and were quickly assimilated.
Finally, Neville Masterman points up the changing imperial connection in an
interesting note on the visits made by Lloyd George in 1899 and 1923. The
chameleon, we are reminded, may change its colours but its body remains one and
the same.
Gwynn Williams. University of Wales Press, Cardiff, 1985. Pp. 499. £ 12.50.
These are sombre times for British universities; gloom and doom dominate most
senior common rooms apparently. Universities, it is said, are being driven unwillingly
towards a cross-roads where a number of them, grudgingly, will be directed along the
high road to decent survival, while the others will be herded down the low road to
diminished status and perhaps, for some few, even closure. The University Grants
Committee, once a much admired watchdog, has become a toothless poodle, despised
as much by its master, the government, as it is distrusted by many in the universities.
It is, beyond question, a time of crisis, and, oddly perhaps, an appropriate occasion
therefore for the appearance of a centenary history of the University College of North
Wales at Bangor. As the future is so much in doubt, it seems particularly necessary
for a university at least to be clear whence it came. All the more so because history
explains, in part at any rate, the especial vulnerability of Bangor, along with its sister
institutions in the federal University of Wales, to the government's current criticisms.
The Welsh university, it seems, is destined for the low road.
One particularly damaging charge levied against the universities is that there is
much needless, expensive duplication of function. Some of this is the result of hurried
response to the demand of the governments of the 1960s and 1970s, in the wake of
the Robbins Report, that the universities should expand rapidly, almost everywhere,
all along the line. It is undeniable, however, that in the course of that crash
programme, some departmental empire-building occurred, no doubt in Wales as
elsewhere in Britain. But the problem of duplication in Wales is much more long
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