The British Association for Irish Studies is the national network for all those with an active interest in the study of Ireland and the development of Irish Studies. It operates via conferences, regular seminar series and social media, while its Postgraduate Bursary Scheme and Essay Prize support the development of new scholarship.
The British Association for Irish Studies is a charitable organisation that was established in 1985. Its aim is to encourage and support Irish cultural activities, and the study of Ireland and Irish culture, in Britain. New members are always welcome.
As our constitution states, the role of the BAIS is ‘to promote knowledge and understanding of a) Ireland and the relations between the peoples of the two islands; b) the experience of the Irish in Britain and their contribution to British society’.
The Association has sought to achieve its goals at both university and school level and it has also worked with Irish community groups. Through its online presence, journal, postgraduate bursary scheme, essay prize, annual conference, regular teaching days, and Irish language programme, it has helped to create a better awareness of Ireland in Britain and has thus played an important role in the ongoing work of reconciliation and understanding between the two countries.
Central to our activities is our Postgraduate Bursary Award Scheme, which has become the major scheme of its kind in the UK.
Since its inception, the bursaries scheme has made significant funds available to Irish Studies postgraduate students working in Britain to uncover neglected aspects of the shared cultures of Britain and Ireland. We encourage applicants to produce specific and targeted funding requests, with the aim that students might undertake specific fieldtrips or other studies key to their research objectives.
Applications are assessed by a panel of academics that includes such important international scholars as Prof. Roy Foster (Oxford), Prof. Maria Luddy (Warwick) and Prof. Shaun Richards (Staffordshire). In any one year we are usually able to make awards to four or five winners and we are keen to recognise the diversity of work taking place on Irish culture and society when coming to our final decision.
Each year, we present the bursaries to successful candidates at our awards ceremony, which is hosted by the Irish Ambassador at the Irish Embassy in London. The BAIS bursary scheme has given rise to important research which has been published internationally, and a number of the students it has helped in the past are now lecturing in the field of Irish Studies at universities in Britain and Ireland.
BAIS and the Irish Language
BAIS members actively promote the Irish language. Christy Evans and Eleanor Burgess, for example, helped found Coláiste na nGael – Britain’s Irish language college. In recent years, they have held residential Irish language colleges all over Britain and Europe. Locations have included Durham University, Fron Goch internment camp in north Wales, The Haag and Brittany. BAIS members successfully lobbied for Irish to become a working language of the European Union. Members of Coláiste na nGael are also working with ‘Asset Languages’, an organisation with close links to Cambridge University.
Council member Christy Evans received the title ‘Language Ambassador’ from ‘Léargas’, an award from the office of European Commissioner Jan Figel. In 2007, he also received the ‘Pride of Ireland’ teaching award from Waterford Crystal and the Irish Post newspaper.