Belfast Telegraph

A sad day, says Church after Queen's severs links to college

Disappointed: Rev Trevor Gribben
Disappointed: Rev Trevor Gribben
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

The Presbyterian Church said yesterday was "a sad day" after Queen's University confirmed it will sever links with Union Theological College.

The University's ruling senate yesterday officially notified the Presbyterian-run college of its decision to separate following two critical reviews.

It's believed that it could cost the college a significant six-figure sum each year.

Queen's also intends to end links with the three other colleges that make up the Institute of Theology.

The Presbyterian Church said it regrets the decision after a "difficult and unsettling period" for both Queen's and UTC.

Around 150 theology students are admitted to UTC each year, with some being trained for the ministry.

Following reviews in 2016 and 2018, Queen's suspended admission to undergraduate programmes.

The criticisms by Queen's included the "highly problematic" situation of a single denomination providing all theology provision, as well as a lack of female teachers.

The university said that it had now considered "the longer-term implications" of the 2018 review.

This means Queen's will no longer award theology undergraduate degrees or postgraduate courses after current students finish.

The existing arrangements with all four theological colleges will run to the end of the current term on August 31 and will not be renewed.

A temporary memorandum of understanding will now be developed, to allow current students to complete their programmes.

"The university is committed to ensuring that its educational standards are met for existing students for the remainder of their studies and will be working constructively with UTC to achieve this," Queen's said.

Rev Trevor Gribben, clerk of the General Assembly and general secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, said: "After a long and mutually beneficial academic relationship that has lasted for nearly a century, we are naturally disappointed and deeply regret today's decision by the Senate of Queen's University."

While recognising the decision, he said that the Church regretted more had not been done to find a solution.

"It is important that we acknowledge that this has been a difficult and unsettling period for both institutions, especially in the context of last summer's intense reporting and speculation around the relationship between Queen's and Union College," he added.

Rev Gribben said that it was at this point UTC was informed by Queen's that it was taking active steps to review its links.

He said UTC remained committed to active engagement in teaching and research "that extends our theological understanding of important issues in contemporary life".

Looking to the future, he said UTC would work "constructively" with Queen's for the benefit of existing undergraduate students.

"After such a long and fruitful relationship this is indeed a sad day," he said.

"It is our hope and prayer, however, that these long-established institutions, which are literally side-by-side, will continue to prosper, working to further understanding as communities of learning and attracting students from home and overseas to study here."

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