Northern Ireland

Queen's University to review theological college link

Union Theological College Image copyright Albert Bridge
Image caption Union Theological College was founded in 1953

Queen's University will conduct a "comprehensive" review of its relationship with Union Theological College, BBC News NI has learned.

The college is run by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI), but delivers theology degrees to Queen's students.

The PCI faced criticism after it decided anyone in a same-sex relationship could not be a full member of the church.

The college said it would work closely with the university on its review.

BBC News NI understands the review will be carried out by a panel which includes external experts.

They will be expected to produce recommendations regarding the future of the collaborative relationship between Queen's and Union Theological College.

Dual role

"The university is taking forward a full and comprehensive review of the governance, management and delivery of Queen's academic programmes within Union Theological College," a Queen's spokesperson said.

"It is expected that this review will be completed by October 2018."

The college is based in a separate building just behind the main Lanyon campus of the university.

It has a duel role in that it prepares some students for the Presbyterian ministry, but also educates students of other denominations studying theology degrees at Queen's.

There are about 200 students at the college. The majority are undergraduates or postgraduates enrolled with the university.

Image copyright Man Vyi

A spokesperson for Union Theological College said: "To ensure students are offered an enriched learning experience with high academic standards, like all academic institutions we participate in a range of regular reviews."

"We look forward to working closely with Queen's regarding this anticipated review."

'Lack of diversity'

A previous internal review carried out by Queen's in 2016, and seen by BBC News NI, raised a number of concerns.

It said the college's curriculum was "largely based on Protestant evangelical teaching with little input from other perspectives", and said there was a "lack of diversity in the teaching provision and staff".

It added: "In a post-conflict Northern Ireland, it is highly unsatisfactory that the teaching of theology is not provided across denominational lines."

That review noted there were no full-time female staff teaching undergraduates in the college.

It went on to recommend a radical increase in diversity among the "teaching staff, student body, teaching methods and teaching content as well as in issues of gender, race, sexual orientation and most particularly in faith affiliation."

It also said the university had "no control over college staff appointments."

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