On Friday, November 18th, the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) will mark its establishment with Founders’ Day – a day of celebrations focused on the University’s Lampeter campus.
As the oldest degree-awarding institution in England and Wales after the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge, UWTSD is immensely proud of its heritage and looks forward to celebrating the birthday of its founder – Bishop Thomas Burgess – with a lecture given by the University’s Professor Gary Bunt. The lecture will start at 4pm and will be followed by a Choral Evensong and a sermon in the University chapel at 5.30pm.
Professor Gary R. Bunt, Reader in Islamic Studies, has for the past twenty years researched issues to do with Islam and the internet. Gary’s research focuses on Muslim representation, religious authority and the way in which the internet, social media and the web have had an impact on Muslim society in the context of majorities and minorities.
Professor Bunt’s Founders’ Day lecture is entitled ‘Interpreting Cyber Islamic Environments: the ‘Fatwa Machine’ and Religious Authority Online.’
“During the lecture I shall be discussing how the immediacy and ‘searchability’ of the internet are impacting on ideas about Islamic religious authority, and how different internet hierarchies of authority have developed specifically in relation to social media,” says Professor Bunt.
“I’ll be drawing on material gathered from my research, which focuses on Islam, Muslims and the internet – in particular how, in some contexts, the application of the internet has had an overarching transformational effect on how Muslims practice Islam, how forms of Islam are represented to the wider world, and how Muslim societies perceive themselves.
“I’m very pleased to have been invited to give the lecture and look forward in taking part in an event that celebrates the heritage of the University,” he adds.
The University of Wales Trinity Saint David – or St David’s College, Lampeter as it was originally known – was established by Bishop Thomas Burgess in 1822 to provide a liberal education to members of the clergy and it’s his birthday that the University celebrates on November 18th.
Traditionally, Bishop Thomas Burgess of St Davids has been honoured as the principal founder and benefactor of what was to become St David’s College, Lampeter. Bishop Burgess was a significant figure in the cultural, religious and social history of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and his early career was concerned with advocating for the emancipation of slaves and evangelistic work among the poor, although his major scholarly contribution was in the field of classical studies.
The University’s creation seems to have been largely his idea, but over the years until 1822 when the foundation stone was laid, he gained the backing of some 130 other donors to bring that idea to fruition, including the support of the reigning monarch George IV.
The Foundation Stone of St. David’s College was laid in 1822 and its first students were admitted on Saint David’s Day, 1827, but the College’s Royal Charter of Incorporation was not completed until 1828 when it was sealed by King George IV on 6th February of that year. Indeed, the King was regarded as ‘The Royal Founder’ with his Coat of Arms adorning the tower of the St David’s Building.
There was a long list of notable benefactors including prominent landowners but some of the most interesting figures are those connected with banking, commerce, industry and agricultural improvement. Many leading humanitarian campaigners can also be included on the long list of supporters, including William Wilberforce and Henry Thornton who advocated the abolition of slavery.
John Burgess, the bishop’s elder brother and another benefactor, was typical of the new commercial entrepreneurs – he was the founder of the London firm, Burgess & Son, the pioneers of mail-order trade in sauces, oils and pickles. Others included Lord de Dunstanville; Lord Carrington; William Henry Hoare and Walter Wilkins – all of whom were wealthy and influential bankers. Innovative industrialists were also eager to contribute, including Thomas Mansel Talbot; Richard Crawshay; Benjamin Hall; Lord de Dunstanville as well as Lord Carrington on his Llanfair Clydogau estate near the college. Lords Cawdor and Dynevor – both of whom made significant contributions to improvements in west Walian agricultural practice – were also keen to help establish the new educational institution.
From the outset, St David’s College, Lampeter was supported by the new ‘middle class’ – innovators, businessmen, industrialists. Their money underpinned it, and the breadth of their interests is reflected in the works which came to stock its library.
The students were encouraged to think widely and think globally – a necessity for the new generation of clergy, many of whom would serve in the burgeoning industrial towns of south Wales or in areas where new agricultural techniques were increasingly being employed. The college library was not just for them, but also intended to benefit local entrepreneurs, and it attracted the notice of scholars from further afield – even Prince Lucien Bonaparte, nephew of the Emperor Napoleon I.
Over the years the Lampeter campus of the University has developed a range of subjects and enjoys a reputation for undergraduate and postgraduate provision in a variety of subjects, including Religious Studies, Islamic Studies, Archaeology, Chinese Studies, Classics, History, Philosophy, Anthropology, and Creative Writing.
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