The following is a statement released by PCI regarding proposals for the future of Union Theological College.
Rev Trevor Gribben, Clerk of the General Assembly and General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland said, “The 2019 General Assembly appointed a Commission to consider recommendations from the Faculty and Management Committee of Union Theological College, and other relevant bodies, regarding the College’s future. Having considered these recommendations, the Commission was tasked with presenting firm and definite proposals to enable the 2020 General Assembly to make final decisions. This process is now at an advanced stage and the Commission has finalised its recommendations for the General Assembly.
“The vision for Union College moving forward includes three important strands: First, equipping students for effective ministry within PCI, secondly, the provision of post graduate programmes and thirdly preparing students for making effective and positive contributions to society. To achieve fully these goals, an undergraduate programme is necessary and the recommended way forward is through a validation arrangement with another UK institution.
“Following a detailed process and discussions, it will be recommended to this year’s General Assembly that a new undergraduate partnership should be developed with St Mary’s University, Twickenham, through a validation arrangement. Such a partnership, once agreed by the General Assembly and St Mary’s, has the potential to lead to a new and exciting future for Union College. This was the aspiration of last year’s General Assembly, especially in terms of flexibility for training in ministry, an increased student experience and broader academic outcomes.”
Commenting on the proposed validation partnership, Very Rev Professor Stafford Carson, Principal of Union Theological College, said, “Founded in the 1850s, both Union College and St Mary’s have their own distinct confessional identities within a broad Christian ethos. The proposed validation arrangement, which needs to be discussed and approved at this year’s General Assembly, would preserve Union’s confessional identity and control of its own academic programmes. Just as importantly, it would also restore the option for young people from all backgrounds, including different denominations from across Northern Ireland, to study theology together at an undergraduate level.”
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