University of Wales Press and The Open University launch new publication

Posted on 27 April 2010

Two highly respected organisations in the academic publishing world have joined forces to present a key publication that explores the meaning of modern Wales. The University of Wales Press (UWP) and the Open University (OU) celebrated the launch of ‘Understanding Contemporary Wales’ in an event held at the Wales Millennium Centre recently.

A number of guests attended the launch including Education Minister, Leighton Andrews AM, representatives of the four main political parties and various student bodies. The guest speaker was current Presiding Officer of the Welsh Assembly and former Open University associate lecturer, Lord Dafydd Elis Thomas.

‘Understanding Contemporary Wales’ looks at a host of Welsh interest issues including: language, history, culture, society, economy and the country’s ever-devolving political landscape. The book is to become required reading for students undertaking the new 12-week OU course, D172 Contemporary Wales. 

The course, like the book, will probe issues of Welsh identity. For instance, many old images of understanding no longer apply to people’s conception of Wales. Coal mines have been replaced by call centres – just one example of the various cultural schisms that have affected the nation in the past 20 years.

Continuities in Welsh culture are also addressed such as rugby, which still acts as the biggest social cohesive despite its unsteady transition to professionalism in the mid-90s. Geographical and sociological differences are also considered, as well as the significance of popular culture (including Doctor Who and Gavin and Stacey); the distinct electoral system; the origins and significance of the ‘clear red water’ that defines Labour in Wales; and the often conflicting strands within nationalism.

Dr Hugh Mackay, course chair and editor of the book, said:

‘The book and course provide a rounded introduction to the changing nature of contemporary Wales. The student will explore divisions within Wales and also the ways in which connections are made and expressed within the country. The wide range of guests at the launch demonstrated the support for the OU’s contribution to extending an understanding of the changes in modern Wales.’

Speaking at the launch, Rob Humphreys, Director of The OU in Wales, commented:

We are delighted to be working with the University of Wales Press on this project. Adult education has a long and rich tradition within Wales, and has played a formative role in the development of Welsh society, culture and politics. The Open University is at the forefront of re-making that tradition for very different and very challenging times. A vibrant democracy requires an informed citizenship and a rich and diverse civil society, and this course is a contribution to securing both of these.  At the same time the course takes an understanding of Wales onto a wider international stage.’

Head of University of Wales Press, Helgard Krause added:

“As well as being a valuable resource for social sciences students, ‘Contemporary Wales’ is also an informative reference book for anyone who has an interest in the story of a modern Wales. The University of Wales Press now looks forward to more opportunities where we can work again with the Open University in the future.”


For more information regarding the Contemporary Wales Open University course please visit:

For more information about the University of Wales Press please visit:

For press and media information, please contact Tom Barrett, Communications Officer, University of Wales:  02920 376991


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