Row over Heythrop
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.