Row over Heythrop

The Church of England - - COMMENT -

Plans by the Je­suits to close Heythrop Col­lege in the Univer­sity of Lon­don have led to protests by the­olo­gians and philoso­phers, among them a num­ber of prom­i­nent Angli­cans in­clud­ing Bishop Rowan Wil­liams, the Rev Pro­fes­sors Sarah Coak­ley, Graham Ward and Keith Ward, and the Very Rev Mar­tyn Percy, Dean of Christ Church, Ox­ford. In a let­ter to The Times the Angli­can the­olo­gians are joined by a num­ber of Catholic col­leagues in ar­gu­ing that the clo­sure of the col­lege would be ‘a se­ri­ous blow to the­o­log­i­cal, re­li­gious and philo­soph­i­cal re­search and teach­ing in the UK’. They add that it is ‘un­clear that the pos­si­ble means of meet­ing the rel­e­vant prob­lems have all been ex­plored’. Heythrop has been los­ing money be­cause it has failed to at­tract enough stu­dents, es­pe­cially un­der­grad­u­ates. The Arch­bishop of Westminster urged the col­lege to con­sider a merger with St Mary’s Catholic Univer­sity in Twick­en­ham and pre­lim­i­nary talks were held. There was much to be said for the merger. St Mary’s at­tracts un­der­grad­u­ates (ap­pli­ca­tions were up by al­most 10 per cent this year) and has a good Re­li­gious Stud­ies depart­ment. Af­ter a rocky patch un­der its pre­vi­ous Prin­ci­pal it is now ben­e­fit­ing from the imag­i­na­tive lead­er­ship of its new Vice Chan­cel­lor, Fran­cis Camp­bell, and has moved from be­ing a univer­sity col­lege to full univer­sity sta­tus. Heythrop would com­ple­ment St Mary’s by of­fer­ing grad­u­ate stud­ies in both the­ol­ogy and phi­los­o­phy. Talks are said to have bro­ken down over the fate of the build­ings. Heythrop oc­cu­pies a prime site near Kens­ing­ton High Street. St Mary’s were pre­pared to see the Je­suits sell off part of the site but in­sisted the merger would not work un­less the univer­sity con­tin­ued to have a base in cen­tral Lon­don us­ing part of the Kens­ing­ton cam­pus.

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