Overseas university spotlight: University of Wales Trinity St David (UK)
Updated: May 27
If you had to guess the oldest degree-awarding institution in Wales, would the University of Wales Trinity St David come to mind first?
In 2022, UWTSD celebrated its bicentennial celebration after the initial stone was laid in 1822.
It was founded by Bishop Burgess and started as St David’s College in Lampeter, the UK's smallest university town (just 3,000 people).
It's the kind of place where everyone is really on a first-name basis, and you can easily see your professors in the nearby shops or cafes.
Nowadays, UWTSD has three campuses and is the result of a merger of three of Wales' oldest universities.
I visited the Lampeter campus, home to 500 students, but there is also a campus in Swansea (home to programs such as automotive engineering, the Swansea College of Art) as well as in Carmarthen (which started as a male teachers' college).
The Lampeter campus is pretty similar to a small liberal arts campus in the U.S. and is known for having strong student support, particularly for international students.
It's about 3.5 hours on the train from Cardiff and just 13 miles from the western coast.
Here are some of the highlights from my visit!
Saint David's Building is by far the most striking place in town; it's home to a chapel and the Founders' Library, the university's original library until the new one opened in 1966.
Inside, it just feels like you're in the UK, and as I enjoyed a cup of tea here, I could see how easily it would be to get into the mood to study!
We got to see (and touch) some remarkable books that are some of the oldest around.
On this site, there is also a food hall, classrooms, a student gym, plenty of green space and a mound where the Lampeter Castle used to be.
And it's all set within the cute town of Lampeter, which has a number of shops and cafes to explore.
UWTSD is an employment-focused university, dedicated to ensuring that students from diverse backgrounds have the opportunity to develop the academic knowledge and practical skills to thrive.
A staple at this university is guaranteed small class sizes--a max of 30 students but usually much fewer.
This allows academics to really get to know the students and provide quick, comprehensive feedback on assessments along with personalized academic intervention.
In fact, there aren't any real lectures; their focus is on immersive teaching.
As such, teaching takes place in 5-week blocks (including a week 0 for prep and reading), and students take only one subject at a time to be truly immersed in it, participate in field trips without missing other classes and more.
Classes are typically three hours per day, four days a week, and assessments are increasingly becoming skills-based (what are you able to do, not what do you know/can memorize).
One academic told the story of a student who was super engaged and contributed really well to classroom discussions but didn't do well when it came to writing essays.
This academic took the initiative to call the student in to see what was going on, where he realized that she had so many ideas that when it came to writing, she just couldn't focus on one, which resulted in a very messy submission.
So before the next one was due, they worked together on developing an outline and plan, which ultimately resulted in a much better finished product.
This is the kind of support students would be hard-pressed to get at a larger institution, where students are more or less left to their own devices and have to take it upon themselves to seek help -- not the reverse.
University of Wales Trinity St David: Summary
UWTSD is a wonderful place for students looking for an intimate and less traditional academic environment in a town centered around the university.
As the birthplace of higher education in Wales, UWTSD offers support to all students that is truly unrivalled, alongside a unique approach to teaching and learning.