Belfast Telegraph

Queen's split with Union Theological College could cost £700k

Union Theological College in Belfast
Union Theological College in Belfast
Rev Trevor Gribben
Allan Preston

By Allan Preston

Union Theological College could face a financial shortfall of up to £700,000 a year after Queen's University Belfast announced it would cut ties, it's been claimed.

The Presbyterian-run college admits around 150 undergraduate students a year, with tuition fees for 2018/19 set at £4,160 annually - which would generate around £624,000.

An academic source at Queen's University has said the actual cost is likely to be as high as £700,000.

The Presbyterian Church did not comment on the potential costs yesterday, but said Union College would have "a positive and exciting future".

The Rev Trevor Gribben, clerk of the General Assembly and general secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, said options for the future were already being considered.

"While [Tuesday] marks the beginning of the end of its relationship with Queen's University, it also marks the beginning of a new stage in the college's journey, one that has already lasted for nearly 173 years," he said.

After anticipating the decision of Queen's in recent months, he said a review group had been specially appointed to look at options for the college moving forward.

He said some of these plans were already in place for the new academic year starting in September 2019.

Queen's University was contacted about the potential cost of the split with Union College but had no comment.

The announcement by the university on Tuesday followed two critical reviews of Union College in 2016 and 2018.

Issues raised included the "highly problematic" situation of a single denomination providing all theology provision, as well as a lack of female teachers.

The former Alliance Party leader Lord Alderdice resigned from the Presbyterian Church last year in protest at a decision not to allow those in same-sex relationships to be full members of the church.

Commenting on the latest development, he said on Twitter: "Queen's University's decision to cut ties with the Presbyterian Church in Ireland's theological college is a further indication of the slide of PCI into religious fundamentalism. It is very sad but QUB could not be expected to promote academic obscurantism."

On Tuesday, Rev Gribben said the decision from Queen's was "a sad day".

"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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