Black Mountains College was founded as a response to the climate and ecological emergency.
We are helping to create a future in which nature and human societies thrive.
Education is central to understanding our current situation and preparing for a different kind of future.
- Our future can be positive and sustainable.
- Everyone has the right to a stable climate and we must learn to live within planetary boundaries.
- Our ways of living and working must respect the diversity of life on earth and regenerate cultures and ecosystems.
- Addressing the root causes of climate and ecological breakdown means grappling with questions of justice and equity, of exploitation and domination of nature and humans alike.
- Building an ecological future based on the finite resources of the planet necessarily involves tackling issues of equity and distribution of those resources.
More than ever the universal human right to education is vital to allow us to understand and prepare for the changes to come.
What makes BMC Different?
Climate breakdown is indiscriminate and universal. Educational opportunities to prepare for and mitigate its effects must also be universal, and that means available to all.
Diversity in nature is a feature of resilient ecosystems. The same is true of human systems.
Addressing the challenges ahead will require pooling resources and perspectives as well as building community and resilience.
We are therefore committed to reducing barriers to entry and building relationships with a wide range of organisations. BMC is open to all.
Our vocational courses are free, fully funded by the Welsh government.
Our unique degree programme BA in Ecological Futures has been designed in partnership with Cardiff Metropolitan University to ensure students can access the normal statutory support of student loans, and our short courses are offered at different levels, regardless of ability to pay.
A unique learning model
We know from neuroscience that humans learn with all their senses and store memories in their whole body.
Our learning model, applied across all our courses, integrates the head, hands and heart, multi-sensory protocols, outdoor learning and multiple hierarchies of knowledge or ways of knowing.
Our vocational courses include an invitation to students to think critically about wider global issues and systems, and our higher education programme uses experiential and problem-based learning, practical skills and arts-based training in cognition and perception alongside more traditional activities of reading and writing. Moreover, we aim to encourage crossover between the vocational and degree strands, so students can study alongside each other and potentially transfer from one to the other.
Learning for a purpose
Learning in context, on the land, in ecosystems, within economies and social structures and organisations is what applied, experiential and problem-based learning is all about.
Embedding the college and its activities in the community and the land means that often the learning will have positive social and ecological outcomes too.
Linking learning to social outcomes both in terms of the overarching purpose of the course, or in concrete ways such as cooking for the community or building socially useful structures, makes the training meaningful and urgent and the lessons learned durable and transferable.
Nature as the classroom
All our courses acknowledge the forest school principle that re-connection to nature begins with making nature itself the classroom. Studies have shown that outdoor learning correlates with enhanced learning outcomes, well-being, concentration, behaviour, memory, and confidence.
A real-world beacon
Through our vocational courses within community settings and the ecological stewardship of our 120 acre campus, BMC aims to be a model of innovative lifelong learning, a catalyst for a local circular economy and a pioneer of agro-ecological practice.
What does diversity and equity mean to us?
Biodiversity in nature is a feature of resilient ecosystems and the same is true of human systems.
We want to play our part in creating fair and equal societies that promote life, not the destruction of the planet; what some people have called an ecological civilisation or ‘being ecological’.
Being ecological means living within safe planetary limits and seeing humans as a part of nature, not separate from it. This might sound like a simple ambition but the scale of the transformation required to achieve this seemingly obvious goal is enormous.
It requires us to think through the history of over-exploitation and domination that have brought us to this point and re-think our relationships with each other and with the earth on which we depend. Understanding the histories of capitalism, colonialism and the way ideologies of race, class, gender and difference have been constructed and used in the past to feed a system that exploits both nature and humans helps us as we try and counter historical injustice and dismantle barriers.
This is an ongoing process which informs both the establishment of BMC and all our practice and programmes.
We have designed and will continue to refine our admissions process for further and higher education so that it is as open as possible, that welcomes expression and ambition in a range of formats, involves students and peers and focuses on potential and passion not just on past achievements.
In curriculum design
Our vocational NVQ programme includes a core programme that links questions of equity and diversity with neuro-diversity and different ways of learning and knowing as well as broader concepts of environmental and economic justice. We are developing the BMC degree explicitly to offer an alternative to inherited hierarchies of knowledge through problem based learning, indigenous wisdom, practical hands on skills alongside theory and inclusive collaborative exploration.
In our recruitment
We will always strive to communicate and promote our vacancies in ways that are open and available to all. Diversity is a feature of resilience and adaptability. We are actively seeking to broaden perspectives within the team, amongst our volunteers and on our board.
Please talk to us if you have suggestions for things we could be doing differently or networks you think we should be aware of.
We know that rural Wales is unfamiliar territory to many potential students or staff even to the extent that British National Parks have been called ‘hostile’ to minority groups. And yet access to nature is critical in providing the context for the kinds of experiences and lessons necessary to build an ecological future.
We are offering our 120 acre campus as a venue for retreats, camps and day trips for groups from urban areas to hold events, please get in touch if you would like to discuss further.
We hope this will contribute to making the countryside welcoming for all and spark engagement with the natural world and the healing work that needs to be done.
What success looks like
Reversing cycles of destructive practice is a multi-generational struggle in which BMC commits to play its part.
We have targets of gender parity and a mix of identities and backgrounds within our staff and boards which we hope will in time strengthen the democracy, diversity and resilience of the organisation. In our FE and HE recruitment we are aiming at local and urban outreach as well as maximising our participation in international networks such as the Open Societies University Network to build cohorts and classes of students with a wealth of perspectives and experiences.
We hope that in the years to come, our campus will be a thriving venue for connecting people of all ages with nature and a site of learning not only for the skills necessary for a circular, regenerative economy but new ways of seeing, living and thinking of ourselves that encourage both nature and humans to thrive.