Northern Ireland news

Queen's University Belfast agrees to break links with theology colleges

Union Theological College Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell

QUEEN'S University is to end its links with theological colleges.

The ruling senate yesterday endorsed a recommendation to stop awarding theology degrees.

Undergraduate courses are delivered by the Presbyterian Church-run Union Theological College (UTC).

There are three affiliate colleges providing postgraduate courses to small student cohorts.

UTC prepares some students for the Presbyterian ministry, but also educates those of other denominations who take theology degrees at Queen's.

An internal review by Queen's in 2016 raised concerns about UTC. It found that the curriculum was "largely based on Protestant evangelical teaching" with little input from other perspectives.

A further review last year came after the Presbyterian Church was criticised for deciding anyone in a same-sex relationship could not be a full member.

It confirmed "ongoing serious concerns" regarding the lack of diversity in theology elements of the undergraduate curriculum.

Queen's last night said it considered the longer-term implications of the review and would no longer award theology degrees.

A temporary memorandum of understanding will be developed, a spokeswoman said, which will "enable the necessary support to allow currently enrolled students to complete their programmes within a reasonable time".

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland said it deeply regretted the decision.

"We regret that other options were not more fully explored and a different solution found," said general secretary Rev Trevor Gribben.

"After such a long and fruitful relationship this is indeed 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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