I write about the situation between Union Theological College and Queen’s University.
The teaching programme at Union is ‘diverse and inclusive’ and they welcome ‘all students who wish to develop breadth of vision and understanding of the place and role of Theology and Religion, in both the past and the present’.
The faculty are ‘Internationally Renowned Experts’ who are ‘experienced and active practitioners.
Students for theology at Queen’s have a ‘93 per cent overall satisfaction rate for their degree in the most recent National Student Survey results 2017, ranked joint 7th in the UK.’
‘The excellent standards of our education are recognised by employers who value the quality of our programmes and recognise the skills of our graduates.’
Those aren’t actually my words, but the words of Queen’s University, promoting the BA Theology course taught by Union Theological College.
To this day those words remain on their website, encouraging students to study at a high-class educational institute.
QAA, the independent organisation which assess higher education in the UK, speaks in similarly glowing terms in its 2016 review of the college, praising ‘The culture of supporting students and the meticulous care taken to foster personal growth and academic attainment’ as an area of good practice.
They note the ‘very strong sense of community among staff and students, which enhances the students’ learning experience’ and highlight activities which ‘reflect a culture of student-centeredness and underpin the trust between students and staff, which enhances student engagement.’
It is hard to understand how a college praised by independent assessors and promoted enthusiastically by Queen’s can suddenly be seen as unfit to teach.
How can a college which helps students ‘develop breadth of vision and understanding of the place and role of Theology and Religion, in both the past and the present’ be unsuitable for ‘today’s post-conflict Northern Ireland’ (to quote from the recent Queen’s report)?
Union seems to be getting blame for allegedly coming from a single denominational perspective. But a few years ago there were four colleges from a variety of backgrounds working with Queen’s.
Now none are teaching undergraduate courses for Queen’s and some partner with universities in England where the likes of Oxford, Cambridge, and Durham all work with denominational colleges.
Is it perhaps Queen’s rather than Union which is out of step with academia – and even out of step with its own promotional material that encouraged students to apply for a course that has now been withdrawn?
Rev Jonathan Boyd, Minister Hyde Park & Lylehill Presbyterian Churches