Wales gets a Learned Society to call its own

Posted on 25 May 2010

The United Kingdom and the Commonweath have had one for 350 years, Scotland its own for almost 230 years, and until today Wales lacked its own national society of learning. The Learned Society of Wales will remedy this anomaly once and for all and will be launched by its President and Founding Fellow. Professor Sir John Cadogan CBE, at the Reardon Smith Theatre, National Museum Wales, Cardiff on Tuesday 25 May 2010.

The event will start at 5pm and will culminate in the President’s Inaugural Address at 6.20pm. A reception will be held in the Grand Hall of the National Museum Wales at 7pm. The ceremony will be attended by some 40 Founding Fellows, including the University of Wales Vice-Chancellor, Professor Marc Clement; Professor Dame Jean Thomas FRS (Vice President of the Royal Society); Professor Susan Mendus (Vice President of the British Academy) and Professor Sir John Meurig Thomas.

It is said, the future of any modern, advanced society depends on the fostering of a knowledge culture and according to Sir John Cadogan, the Learned Society will have an important role to play in the future success of Wales:

“There has long been concern that Wales is alone in not recognising, and providing a focus for, scholarship, learning and research through a national academy of arts and sciences, unlike most countries. 

“We have the knowledge and the ability in Wales, but until now, there has been no single society able to bring this expertise together. This is our role and now is the opportunity to make a difference. In addition to world class champions in specific fields working in Wales, such as stem cell research, we need also to take advantage of the expertise of Welsh born scholars wherever they are in the world to benefit the country as a whole. This must embrace the arts and social studies as well as science and engineering.

“Our aim is to celebrate, recognise, safeguard, protect and encourage excellence in every one of the scholalry disciplines and in the professions, industry and commerce, the arts and public service in Wales. The establishment of The Learned Society of Wales, while long awaited, is certainly a milestone in the history of Wales and a vote of confidence in the ability and future of our nation’s academic potential."

Sir John also explained how Universities are key to Wales's economic growth:

"Universities are key factors in bringing prosperity to Wales. They train and nourish the minds of the young and make discoveries we do not even know are there to be discovered.   Without becoming mere widget makers for industry they are the source of new ideas and expertise. Without centres of excellence here, high tech companies will have no incentive to relocate and new spin out enterprises will not emerge. Wales does not have a strong enough private sector able to create the wealth we need.   

“Our Universities should be initiators and supporters of industry. However, Wales must fund its universities properly. The like for like funding gap leaving aside any Barnett uplift, over the past ten years between England and Wales amounts to a frightening £425 million while the difference between Scotland and Wales is even greater at close to £900 million. Our Universities have done surprisingly well but at the price of their seed corn. There is much talk about cuts in the public sector but our Universities have already taken great cuts in advance.

“We are now hearing much of the need for Wales to be recognised as a ‘Small but Clever Country’. The formation of the Learned Society will be a real channel for this.  Wales right now faces a very difficult financial future, so it is essential now, perhaps more than ever, that an Institution exists to act as a defender and protagonist for the very activities and functions which must surely underpin the notion of Welsh ‘Cleverness’".

Sir John believes that this is only the beginning and hopes by 2015, the Learned Society of Wales will have established itself as a recognised representative of the world of Welsh learning. It is also hoped that the Society will be seen as a source of authoritative, scholarly and critical comment and advice to the National Assembly and other bodies on policy issues affecting Wales.

Professor Susan Mendus, Founding Fellow and Vice-President of the British Academy, added:

“It is an enormous privilege for me to be a Founding Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales. Having been born, brought up, and educated in Wales, first in Swansea, then in Llantwit Major, then at UCW Aberystwyth, and finally at Jesus College, Oxford, I can think of no greater honour than to be in this distinguished company.

“The British Academy sends its very warmest greetings and good wishes to the Learned Society of Wales on the occasion of its official Launch. Wales has long been celebrated for its commitment to culture, to education, and to intellectual excellence generally. The establishment of the Learned Society acknowledges that commitment and fills a major gap in the intellectual and civic life of the Principality.”

Dr William Duncan, Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) said:

“The establishment of a Learned Society of Wales is an important and welcome development as it will provide an independent voice for Welsh interests and promote an outward sense of Welsh identity.

“Devolution in Wales, as in Scotland, has provided a strong national focus and with the establishment of the Learned Society of Wales there is now an independent evidence-based institution in Wales available to politicians and civil servants seeking advice on a wide range of subject areas.

 “The Learned Society of Wales will have an important domestic function, but its real strength will be to operate on a much wider international stage, and also to articulate issues where the interests of  Wales differ from those of the UK, as the RSE does here in Scotland.”


For further information please contact Rhodri Ellis Owen at Cambrensis Communications on 029 20 257075 or

Editor’s Notes:

The Learned Society of Wales’s mission is to celebrate, recognise, preserve, protect and encourage excellence in all of the scholarly disciplines, and in the professions, industry and commerce, the arts and public service. It will also aim to promote the advancement of learning and scholarship and the dissemination and application of the results of academic enquiry and research. The Society will also act as a source of independent and expert scholarly advice and comment on matters affecting the wellbeing of Wales and its people and will advance public discussion and interaction on matters of national and international importance.

More information on The Learned Society of Wales/Cymdeithas Ddysgedig Cymru can be obtained by emailing: /


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