QUB to stop sending students to Presbyterian college

Union Theological College in Belfast . Picture: Diane Magill
Union Theological College in Belfast . Picture: Diane Magill

Queen’s University will not accept any undergraduate theology students to a Presbyterian-run college next year.

Union Theological College (UTC), a 165-year-old institution that is run by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, was one of four colleges that made up the Institute of Theology at Queen’s but has recently become the only college still offering undergraduate programmes.

The move to halt new theology undergraduates at the college comes after a critical review.

A spokesperson for UTC said the college “very much regrets and are disappointed by” the decision taken by Queen’s.

“Along with other denominational theological colleges that have a relationship with a Russell Group University, Union has a long, positive and mutually beneficial relationship with Queen’s,” the spokesperson said.

“The recommendations of this latest review in effect belittles the oversight of external examiners from prestigious UK universities and the effectiveness of the university’s own quality assurance processes.

“By suggesting that students of theology at Queen’s have not been exposed to a breadth of theological perspective runs counter to, and contradicts, the reports of external examiners for theology at Queen’s over many years.”

The spokesperson continued: “While obviously seeking to maintain our confessional commitment and Christian ethos, the college’s goal has never been to shirk the difficult and hard questions that relate to religious faith and belief. “

Union Theological College trains some students for ministry in addition to the undergraduate theology degree offered to Queen’s students.

Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) responded that it recently conducted a review of the Institute of Theology’s Agreements and Relationships with a particular focus on the undergraduate teaching and curriculum being delivered by Union Theological College (UTC).

“Having considered the findings of this review, combined with the previous review conducted in 2016, the University has concerns regarding the breadth and diversity of the teaching and curriculum being delivered. Therefore, the University has taken the decision to suspend entry to all undergraduate programmes for the forthcoming 2019-20 academic year.

“The University is now considering the implications of the review for the longer term future of Theology provision through the University’s Institute and the associated programmes. This requires comprehensive engagement with relevant stakeholders, including Union Theological College, which is now underway.

“The University is committed to ensuring that issues raised by the review will be addressed and its priority is to continue to support students who have already begun their course. It is committed to ensuring that the University’s educational standards are met for the remainder of their studies and will be working constructively with UTC to achieve this. Prospective students that have already applied for 2019-20 entry to affected programmes are being contacted and will be supported to find suitable alternatives.”