THE former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams said it was his great hope that the fledgling University of South Wales will become known for cutting-edge research, as he was installed at Chancellor today.

The 34,000-student institution was formed through a merger between the University of Wales, Newport, and Glamorgan University in April last year.

Speaking ahead of the ceremony, the former Bishop of Monmouth told the Argus he felt "a sense of great honour" to be welcomed back to Wales in this capacity and "great excitement" about the future of the university.

"Sitting here in this extraordinary building with the college now being part of this new enterprise, it looks and feels a very positive adventure for higher education in this part of the world," he said at Cardiff's Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama where the ceremony is taking place.

"I think today's event is an opportunity for all the different bits of the institution and get together and say 'this is a new start'. I'm really impressed with the wonderful new mace which is designed by a member of staff here and made by someone who's been involved with the university, so it's local skills, local creativity."

In his capacity as Chancellor, succeeding Lord Morris of Aberavon, Lord Williams will visit the area again in July and later in the year for degree ceremonies.

"That's what I expect will be the main public involvement but I also hope to be involved with conversations about what's going to be possible at the university," said Lord Williams, who has just returned from a visit to Harvard University in the USA.

"I don't want to come in with a huge plan. The great strength of the university is its community involvement, it's a family of institutions very deeply rooted in south east Wales. I saw that when I [spent] 10 years on the governing body of Newport and I know that will continue.

"I know the outreach in the Valleys especially has been very positive, the vice-chancellor has been telling me we've got 3,000 higher education students in the Heads of the Valleys area and that is, in these days, pretty impressive.

"The next question is how does the university really build and direct its research as well as its teaching into building the capacity of the area. People will want to see excellence in teaching and involvement in the community, they'll also want to see the cutting edge of research.

"It's probably not going to turn into MIT overnight but very few universities do. I think to have a really sharp profile, to be known as a university that really helps people think about where they are and who they are, that's my great hope."

Speaking about the Chartist Commission, of which Lord Williams is one of three members tasked with finding a replacement for Newport's Chartist mural, he said: "We've already had one meeting which has identified a few extra people who might join us, that's moving on steadily and is very positive."

Collecting an honourary doctorate from Lord Williams today was First Minister Carwyn Jones.

Mr Jones said of Lord Williams: "Rowan is someone who headed the Anglican church as the Archbishop of Canterbury and brings a great deal of experience to the position and is someone who's very well known, he'll be an enormous asset to the university in his time as Chancellor."