The fact that the Presbyterian college at Queen’s University Belfast scored the highest student satisfaction scores among all departments undermines the university’s rationale to cut ties, it is claimed.
The Presbyterian Church noted that recent National Student Survey scores for QUB departments identified student satisfaction at the church’s Union Theological College (UTC) at 91% - the highest of any QUB department. It was followed closely by Pharmacy, History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics.
In April, QUB announced it was cutting ties with the undergraduate programme UTC provided for it since 1927. The controversy arose in the wake of the church announcing it would not allow anyone in an active same sex relationship to be a full member. However QUB insisted its decision was not linked to the church’s doctrinal position.
Responding to the student satisfaction survey, South Belfast DUP MLA Christopher Stalford said: “This survey once again demonstrates the superb student satisfaction scores at Union College. It also performs well in league tables and has received positive reports from external examiners.
“Such results undercut the rationale given by Queen’s for the decision to suspend undergraduate programmes in Theology. It highlights once again that the decision was taken because of Union’s links to the Presbyterian Church rather than the quality of courses, teaching or education provided at Union College.”
The NSS gathers students’ opinions on the quality of their courses. The results of the annual survey, which are published by the Office for Students (OfS), were carried out independently for the OfS by the specialist market research company Ipsos MORI. Over 330,000 students were surveyed in over 400 UK universities and colleges.
UTC Principal, Rev Professor Stafford Carson, said: “I very much welcome these exceptional results, which paint a very different picture of College life than that which has been portrayed of late.
“Over the last number of years National Student Survey results have shown increasing levels of student satisfaction at Union in virtually every area that the survey addresses.”
Back in April QUB said that UTC’s teaching was not broad enough to include other faith perspectives and criticised the lack of women in full-time teaching roles.
“Serious concerns remain unresolved and are contributing to an increasingly unsustainable and unsatisfactory position,” QUB said at the time.
“It is recommended that the university disengage from the current arrangement for the delivery of theology.”
However in the same month, the full time undergraduate BA Hons degree in theology was described positively by the Times Education Supplement, which noted the breadth of the curriculum, the nondenominational content and the openness to all candidates regardless of religious background.
“Theology at Queen’s offers students the opportunity to explore the breadth of theological study as well as allowing specialisation in themes of particular interest,” it said. “All degrees include modules on the history of the Christian church, biblical languages, pastoral studies and key issues in theological thought.
“Theology teaching is delivered by staff in the Union Theological College and the Belfast Bible College. All degrees are nondenominational and are open to suitably qualified applicants, regardless of religious belief or denominational association. Each College hosts a lively student community with excellent social calendars and pastoral support.” The entry has since been taken down.
QUB has been invited to comment.