Select Committee on Innovation, Universities and Skills Written Evidence

Memorandum 83

Submission from the Oxford Partnership for Theological Education and Training

  This submission is made to the Committee on behalf of the institutions associated with the University of Oxford which constitute the Oxford Partnership for Theological Education and Training. The submission sets out the significance of theological education and training in Oxford, and presents evidence for the number of students who will be affected by the proposed removal of funding for ELQs.


  The University of Oxford has maintained an institutional commitment to the support of ordination training in the Church of England since the University reforms of the mid nineteenth century. This commitment began with the establishment of the Regius chair of Pastoral Theology at Christ Church in 1842, and continued with the foundation of four independent theological colleges in and near Oxford in the latter part of the century. More recently, these colleges have come into a closer formal relationship with the University and with the non-Anglican theological institutions in Oxford, co-ordinated by the Oxford Partnership for Theological Education and Training (OPTET).

  Since the 1970s the University has allowed these colleges to enter candidates for the Honour School of Theology and has validated Certificates in Theology which fulfil the academic requirements for ordination. In the 1990s the degrees of Bachelor of Theology and Master of Theology were introduced to provide vocational courses which are suitable in particular for ordination training and ministerial formation. Following the establishment of these degrees two of the three remaining Anglican theological colleges became Permanent Private Halls (PPHs) of the University: Wycliffe Hall in 1996 and St Stephen's House in 2003. The third college, Ripon College Cuddesdon, maintains its recognised status as an "Anglican Theological College" in the University Calendar with the right to present candidates for theology degrees and certificates.

  The Free Churches established training institutions for their ministers in Oxford during the same period. These institutions have subsequently expanded considerably and in the case of Mansfield College (United Reformed Church) and Harris Manchester College (Unitarian) are full colleges of the University. Harris Manchester continues to train a small number of candidates for the ministry, but Mansfield will cease to do so this year. Regent's Park College is the largest Permanent Private Hall and has a significant cohort of candidates for the Baptist ministry.

  Four Roman Catholic Religious Orders established Permanent Private Halls in Oxford during the same period, which have evolved in different ways. Generally speaking, these Halls do not prepare candidates for ordination using University of Oxford qualifications. However, members of these Halls both ordained and lay study for Oxford University degrees, including undergraduate and graduate courses in theology.


  A significant number of students will be adversely affected by the proposed withdrawal of funding for ELQs, in particular but not exclusively in the Anglican institutions. These fall into the following categories:

Honour School of Theology (BA)

Senior Student Status

  1.  Church of England ordination candidates under thirty with first or good upper second class honours in a first degree.

  2.  Some mature students in colleges and PPHs.

  There are currently 17 ordination candidates and six other candidates with this status, all of whom are studying for an ELQ.

Bachelor of Theology (BTh)

  1.  Church of England ordination candidates, either:

    (a)  Three-year full time under 30.

    (b)  Two-year full time and two-year part time over 30.

  2.  Baptist ordination candidates without a theology degree.

  3.  A small number of non-ordinand students in PPHs.

  There are currently 91 full time and part time candidates studying for this degree: 86 are ordination candidates or clergy completing the qualification after ordination. Of these, 71 ordination/clergy candidates and five other candidates are studying for an ELQ.

Master of Theology (MTh)

  1.  Church of England ordination candidates who are graduates in theology with first or upper second class honours.

  2.  Baptist ordination candidates with a theology degree.

  3.  A small number of non-ordinand students in the PPHs and former PPHs.

  There are currently 34 full time and part time candidates studying for this degree: 26 are ordination candidates or clergy completing the qualification after ordination. Of these, 10 ordination/clergy candidates and one other candidate are studying for an ELQ.

Diploma in Biblical and Theological Studies (DBTS)

  This programme is validated by the Oxford University Department for Continuing Education and is for part time candidates only.

  1.  Some Baptist ordination candidates at Regent's Park College.

  2.  Some non-ordained students at Wycliffe Hall.

  There are currently 86 candidates studying for this diploma. Eighteen are Baptist ordination candidates of whom 12 are studying for an ELQ; no figure is available for the proportion of non-ordained candidates at Wycliffe Hall who are studying for an ELQ.

Other Graduate Degrees

  Some students for the degrees of Master of Studies, Master of Philosophy, Master of Letters and Doctor of Philosophy are studying for an ELQ.

  At Wycliffe Hall there are 14 students studying for higher degrees in theology, of whom 13 are studying for an ELQ.

Argument for Exemption

  The proposed withdrawal of ELQ funding affects two categories of student currently studying theology at the University of Oxford:

    1.  A larger cohort of principally Anglican and Baptist candidates for ordination. For these candidates it is argued that an exemption is appropriate because:

    (a)  The social utility of ordination training merits inclusion within the exempted categories of professional training.

    (b)  There is a statutory requirement for a chaplaincy service in the armed forces and the prison service, and extensive chaplaincy provision in the NHS and in various parts of the education system. Those undertaking this work need to be trained.

    (c)  Parity of vocational training in theology with Islamic studies as a SIVS.

    2.  A smaller cohort of students who are not ordination candidates studying theology at undergraduate and post-graduate level. For these candidates it is argued that the withdrawal of ELQ funding will result in a disproportionate increase in the University fee especially for the BTh and MTh, which are exclusively taught within the PPHs and so receive no tutorial support from the staff holding official posts within the faculty.

  The following individuals and institutions were consulted in the preparation of this submission:

The Revd Canon Professor George Pattison

Chairman of the Theology Faculty Board

Mansfield College United Reformed Church
Harris Manchester CollegeUnitarian Church

Permanent Private Halls
Blackfriars Order of Preachers
Campion HallSociety of Jesus
Regent's Park CollegeBaptist Church
St Benet's HallEnglish Benedictine Congregation
St Stephen's HouseChurch of England
Wycliffe HallChurch of England

Anglican Theological College
Ripon College Cuddesdon Church of England

January 2008

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Prepared 27 March 2008