Students and Universities - Innovation, Universities, Science and Skills Committee Contents

Memorandum 31

Submission from the Catholic Education Service for England and Wales



  1.  The diversity of higher education provision in England and Wales is a major strength of the system because it enables students to choose the type of higher education institution (HEI) in which they want to study. Church colleges, including Catholic HEIs form an important part of this diversity.

2.  Church colleges enable students to elect to study within an institution whose mission and structures are informed by the Christian faith and values. This is particularly important for students preparing for careers such as teaching and social work or studying for degrees in theology. Church colleges make a notable contribution to the supply of teachers and educational leaders in both the community and faith based sectors. However, church colleges also appeal to students of other faiths and none.

3.  It is important that funding arrangements do not militate against small institutions or unreasonably reduce choice and diversity by the impact of funding mechanisms.

4.  The introduction of the policy on ELQs has had implications for those studying for Ministry and, although data has yet to be collected, we suspect on other aspects of student recruitment and study.

  5.  Chaplaincies form an important part of student and staff support. They contribute to the unique character and experience in many HEIs, whether of a religious foundation or otherwise.


  1.1  The Catholic Church has a long tradition of involvement in the provision of higher education in England. A Catholic higher education foundation is understood as an academic institution which in a rigorous and critical fashion assists in the advancement of human dignity and cultural heritage through research, teaching and services offered to local, national and international communities. Ex Corde Ecclesiae 1990 para 12: quoted in The Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland The Canon Law: Letter and Spirit, p 442)

1.2  There are three Catholic HEIs in England. They are:

    — Newman University College which has an excellent record for the quality of its courses and consistently has one of the best graduate employment rates of UK colleges and universities. In recent years very positive inspection reports have been received from the QAA and OFSTED, including an "outstanding" grade, for its latest inspection. The relatively small class sizes at Newman enables an interactive teaching style and the staff to student ratio enables students to have individual attention and support.

    — St Mary's University College, Twickenham with over 3,000 students has a strong academic record with an excellent track record of placing graduates in good employment or appropriate postgraduate study. It offers a range of foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate programmes across a wide variety of subject areas, as well as short vocational courses. Research and postgraduate study attract students from all over the country. St Mary's has also been numbered in the top universities in student satisfaction surveys.

    — Leeds, Trinity and All Saints is a Higher Education Institution with just under 3,000 students. It received a glowing report from its latest Quality Assurance Agency Institutional Audit Report (2003). It has "good" Ofsted scores for its primary teacher-training programmes. 100% of newly qualified Primary Education teachers surveyed who trained there rated their training as very good or good (TDA NQT Survey 2007). According to the National Student Survey (2006) Leeds Trinity history students are officially the "most satisfied" history students in the country. 95% of all graduates from Leeds Trinity are in employment or further study within six months of leaving and the college came top in the "best for jobs" Sunday Times list.

  1.3  Additionally there are a number of HEIs which are joint institutions with other providers or which have other clear Catholic connections or foundations. These include:

  1.4  Catholic HEIs play a pivotal role in training teachers for Catholic schools and providing ongoing professional development. They also have a strong focus and good track record in providing courses related to community care, such as youth ministry, youth work, counselling and health. Students at Catholic HEIs come from diverse backgrounds. For example about 25% of the Newman students are Catholic and about 11% of its students are Asian.

  The widening participation agenda has been successfully embraced by all Catholic HEIs and Newman is a good example of a college whose ethos and personal support makes it attractive to women of diverse ethnic backgrounds and non-traditional entrants of HE.


  2.1  (See 1.4) The variety of higher education institutions in England and Wales is an important aspect of provision. Because of the different types of institutions students can elect to study in a context that best fits their needs. Church colleges which include Catholic, Anglican and Methodist colleges enable students to study at an institution which is informed by respect for religious beliefs and values. This makes them attractive to many beyond the Catholic sector and also helps in promoting community cohesion.

The Catholic HEIs have also demonstrated a positive impact on diversity and choice in the way in which they have been in the vanguard of foundation degrees, often recruiting from under-represented groups. Catholic HEIs play an important role in preparing teachers to teach in Catholic schools.

  2.2  The three Catholic HEIs are relatively small institutions. As in the case of Newman College, this means that they can offer students interactive and individualised teaching. It is important that funding for HEIs takes account of the needs of small institutions.

3.  ELQS

  3.1  The Government's policy on not funding qualifications for those students who already possess an equivalent qualification will increase the cost of degrees for some students preparing for Ministry or lay service in the Church. HEFCE has been very helpful in facilitating the development of alternative routes, such as Foundation Degrees but there remains some concern about this issue.


  4.1  Chaplaincies are an important part of student support. In the Catholic colleges and in the older established universities there may be a separate Catholic chaplaincy or a Catholic (ordained or lay) working in an ecumenical or inter-faith chaplaincy. They provide students with advice and support on a variety of issues and also support staff. 4.2  The Church of England supported by many of the main faith communities in the UK, published on 15 January 2008, a report into the work of university and college chaplains, Faiths in Higher Education Chaplaincy. Among a range of insights and recommendations, it calls on Higher Education Institutions and the Government to continue to invest in chaplaincies to help them further their significant contribution to social cohesion.

December 2008

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