Former MP honoured for contribution to Adult Learning

Among the raft of outstanding learners, inspiring tutors and wonderful projects at NIACE Cymru’s Inspire! Awards ceremony earlier this month, there was a special award for a life of service to lifelong learning.

Former Aberavon MP, Dr. Hywel Francis received the ‘Lifetime Contribution to Adult Learning Award’, recognising Hywel’s contribution to the sector both in and outside Parliament.

Cerys Furlong, Director of NIACE Cymru said;

“It was right that NIACE Cymru honour Hywel in this way. Hywel was instrumental in establishing NIACE Cymru in Wales and his contribution to lifelong learning in Wales, as well as his impact on so many learners’ lives has been immense”.

Hywel spent many years educating adults at Swansea University, firstly as a lecturer, and later as Professor and Head of Department at the Department of Continuing Education at the university. This followed a number of years working to preserve the books and materials from various miners’ institutes across South Wales, bringing them together at the university’s South Wales Miners’ Library.

Following the miners’ strikes in the 1980s, and the closure of many coal mines in South Wales, Hywel established the Community University of the Valleys project – a hugely influential and innovative development in the adult learning sector, and following this, was a key influence in establishing NIACE Cymru.

In 2001, Hywel was elected as MP for Aberavon, going on to Chair both the Welsh Affairs Committee and the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Lifelong Learning. During his time in Parliament, he achieved the rare feat of steering a Private Members’ Bill through Parliament. ‘Sam’s Bill’ – in memory of his late son Sam, who died aged 16 in 1997 – aimed to help carers achieve fair access to training, work and leisure opportunities – and was enshrined in law as the Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act in 2004.

Presenting the award, Rob Humphreys, Director of the Open University in Wales, paid tribute to the former MP. He said:

“Some of our most influential figures in Welsh politics and public life were shaped by adult education – as learners or educators. People like Aneurin Bevan and James Griffiths. Miners leaders like Arthur Horner and Will Paynter.

Hywel Francis stands with them as a leader and a major figure in public life of Wales. And he also stands with them – and this is the greatest accolade of all – as an adult educator.”