Northern Ireland

Queen's University to end link with theological college

Union Theological College Image copyright Albert Bridge
Image caption Belfast's Union Theological College is run by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland

Queen's University is set to end its link with the Presbyterian-run Union Theological College (UTC).

That is the recommendation of an internal university review, seen by BBC News NI.

UTC trains some students for the Presbyterian ministry, but the majority of its students are studying theology degrees at Queen's.

The teaching arrangement between the two institutions has been in place since 1927.

Queen's had previously decided not to admit any new theology students in 2019.

That followed two separate university reviews in 2016 and 2018 which had raised a number of concerns about UTC.

They said, for instance, that UTC's teaching was not broad enough to include other faith perspectives and criticised the lack of women in full-time teaching roles.

'Serious concerns'

The latest review - which was presented to members of the university's academic council on Tuesday - goes further.

"Serious concerns remain unresolved and are contributing to an increasingly unsustainable and unsatisfactory position," it said.

"It is recommended that the university disengage from the current arrangement for the delivery of theology.

"All undergraduate and postgraduate programmes in theology should be withdrawn and no further intake of students should be permitted."

It said that the collaboration with UTC should be "discontinued".

However, arrangements will be made to ensure that current theology students will be taught so they are able to complete their course of study.

Image copyright Man Vyi
Image caption Last year, Queen's University suspended admissions to UTC undergraduate courses

UTC is the only affiliated college to teach Queen's undergraduate theology students and also teaches a number of postgraduates.

However, a small number of Queen's students are also taking postgraduate degrees through Edgehill Theological College, Irish Baptist College and Belfast Bible College.

The university's link to those colleges is also set to end once those students complete their course of study.

Aspects of religion will in future be taught within Queen's departments like English, History, Sociology, Politics and Philosophy.

However, the proposals have yet to be approved by the university's governing body - the senate.

In a statement, Queen's said it was "committed to ensuring that issues raised by the review will be addressed and its priority is to continue to support students who have already begun their course".

The Presbyterian Church is aware of the latest review, but declined to comment.

However, a spokesperson for UTC criticised the previous decision by the university to suspend recruitment of students in 2019.

At the time it asked: "Is the real issue that there is no place for a Christian college linked to the Queen's University of today?"

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