Cardiff University Visit (June 21)
by Steve Gump (Grinnell College)
After the Bristol University add-on tour, I hopped on the Great Western Railway for the 45-minute journey to the west, crossing the Severn Estuary en route. During the 1999–2000 academic year I was a Rotary Ambassadorial Scholar at Cardiff University, which was then part of the University of Wales system. (At the time, I was unknowingly at Cardiff but a year after it had joined the Russell Group.) I’d not been back in sixteen years, so I arranged a meeting with Ms. Cerys Bartlett of the International Office. (Ms. Sarah Watts-Peters, the regional manager for North America, was away during my visit.) We chatted about what makes Cardiff University distinctive, and I learned that the following postgraduate programs are most popular among US citizens:
Over 100 US students study annually at Cardiff, but many are undergraduates on study-abroad schemes. An obvious draw for US students is the Cardiff Centre for Welsh American Studies. And Cardiff University’s Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC) has recently acquired Europe’s most powerful MRI scanner—helping to make Cardiff University a “top three” institute in the UK for psychology, psychiatry, and neuroscience.
Cardiff also participates in the Fulbright US–UK Summer Institute; the Fulbright Wales Institute is a collaboration among Cardiff University, Bangor University, and Aberystwyth University. Students spend two weeks at each of the three partner universities, and eight students participate annually. (Learning this number was a revelation. One of the Summer Institute sites—and I really wish I could remember which one—accepts only three students annually!) Cerys was forthright about the purpose of participating in the scheme: to increase the number of US students studying at Cardiff University. And although Cardiff has co-hosted a Summer Institute for the past six years, only three students to date had matriculated as full-time students: one at each of the partner institutions.
I included a visit to Cardiff Business School, and I could hardly recognize the place. The business quad had been transformed in the past sixteen years with several new buildings, including a recently opened £13.5-million Postgraduate Teaching Centre. (The Financial Times story shared with the study-tour participants by Pat Taylor of Marist College—where Cardiff University features in the lead—seemed spot on. See “University Challenge: The Race for Money, Students and Status,” a June 23 article by Thomas Hale and Gonzalo Viña.)
The city, too, had changed remarkably, with the development at Cardiff Bay—including the remarkable Wales Millennium Centre and the Senedd (home of the National Assembly for Wales) and a plethora of dining options. I had recalled Cardiff as something of a quaint city; but now the downtown area—an easy walk from Cardiff University—seemed transformed into a shopping mecca. I most certainly hadn’t foreseen this remarkable transformation (while maintaining, truly, one of the most reasonable costs of living for a city of its size and cultural offerings in the whole of Europe) and will thus encourage that students interested in studying in the UK consider Cardiff University, provided their interests align with Cardiff’s academic strengths.