Submission from the Rev Canon Gordon Oliver,
Director of Ministry and Training, Diocese of Rochester
I write in two capacities:
(a) Director of Ministry and Training responsible
for initial and in-service training of Church of England clergy
and licensed lay ministers. Vocational training given at HE levels
1-4 (undergraduate certificate to MA) in partnership with Christ
Church Canterbury University.
(b) Chair of the Council of the South East
Institute for Theological Education (SEITE) which is the lead
providing body in the South East Regional Training Partnership
for pre-ordination theological education for clergy for the Church
of England, the Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and
the Lutheran Church of Great Britain. Vocational theological education
given at HE levels 2-4 in partnership with the University of Kent.
2.1 Around 50% of all clergy candidates
enter pre-ordination training after age 35, having already taken
careers in other settings, often requiring HE qualifications at
graduate level. Around 90% of all candidates for licensed lay
ministries (eg Reader, Pastoral Assistant, Youth and Community
Workers, etc.) enter initial training after qualifying and serving
for a time in other fields.
2.2 The Churches work ecumenically in partnership
with each other and with universities to deliver vocational theological
education and training which is disciplined, progressive and quality
assured to people who will serve the communities beyond as well
as within the churches. These people contribute in major ways
to the growth of community cohesion and the flourishing of people
who are often in the poorest of circumstances. Furthermore, each
ordained and licensed minister, like other community workers,
draws together and focuses the contributions to community well-being
of many volunteer workers. The financial rewards for ordained
and lay church workers are minimal or nil.
2.3 HEFCE funding is a significant factor
in prospering the partnerships between religious bodies and universities
which serve to help the growth of vocational higher education
that is of high quality, broadly based, vocationally focused,
professionally delivered and fully accountable. These are values
worth preserving at a time when HMG are concerned about the influence
of religious groups whose standards do not reflect these ideals.
2.4 Registered Charities such as the Churches
do not have the financial base to sustain the hugely increased
costs of vocational ministerial education that would arise if
the HEFCE funding part of the partnerships with universities were
to be withdrawn. It is important to emphasise that what is involved
here is vocational higher education, not merely "learning
for leisure" by the middle classes.
3. WHAT GOVERNMENT
It is only right that HMG should aim to focus
limited resources where they are most needed. Nevertheless, blanket
withdrawal of HEFCE funding on the basis of ELQs is such a blunt
instrument that it is bound to lead to massive injustice and to
the withdrawal of large amounts of vocational higher education
provision that otherwise would continue to serve to build up the
effectiveness of people working for low level or no financial
rewards who are seeking to serve the community to the highest
of professional standards.
3.1 The question then is how to achieve
the proper focusing of HEFCE funds.
Clearly, discriminating on the grounds of subjects
studied would lead to charges of arbitrary decisions which would
be a nightmare to administrate and please no-oneand could
lead to deep injustice.
4.1 Withdraw the policy and seek to increase
HEFCE funding on the grounds that universities, especially those
which specialise in vocational HE, are under enormous financial
pressure already, and career re-direction HE is not a luxury but
a necessity in a progressive and rapidly changing society.
4.2 If the policy must be applied, then
ensure that people sponsored for HE programmes offered through
fully documented partnerships between Registered Charites and
Universities are designated as exempt from the application of