Durham University and Archbishops’ Council sign historic agreement
(25 April 2013)
Durham University has linked with the Archbishops’ Council in an historic partnership to provide a suite of higher education awards for ordinands, lay ministry students and others studying in colleges, courses and dioceses in England.
Durham University Vice-Chancellor Professor Chris Higgins and Archbishops’ Council Secretary General William Fittall will sign the Common Awards agreement today, Thursday, April 25 at Church House, Westminster.
In the initial cohort, there will be around 1,000 students studying for the Durham University awards, which will be available from September 2014. Church of England, Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed Church students are included, making this a significant opportunity for ecumenical cooperation.
Professor Higgins said: “Since Durham University’s foundation in 1832 we have aimed to foster education and research in theology and religion which is second to none in the world, and we are immensely proud to be able to broaden our reach through this historic partnership with the Archbishops’ Council.”
The Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Revd Steven Croft, who chairs the Ministry Division as well as the working group that led to the partnership, welcomed the signing of the agreement.
He said: “These Common Awards are a real opportunity for the church to develop its theological education in a more coherent and collaborative way and to secure validation with an excellent higher education partner at a time of change and uncertainty in the sector.”
Under the arrangement, theological colleges and courses will continue to be responsible for the learning and teaching of students and their preparation for ministry. On successful completion of their studies, students will receive a Durham University degree or diploma. In some cases students will continue to study towards a higher award in their first years of ministry after ordination and licensing.
As part of the agreement, a new professorial post has been created in Durham University’s Department for Theology and Religion, which is listed as the UK’s number one department of Theology or Religious Studies in the 2013 Times Good University Guide. In the UK’s most recent Research Assessment Exercise it was rated as the top department in the field.
Dr Mike Higton has been appointed to the new post of Chair of Theology and Ministry with effect from September 2013.
Dr Higton has for the past three years been Academic Co-Director of the Cambridge Inter-faith Programme, where he had responsibility for developing a number of collaborative research projects, including a two-year study of Religion and the Idea of a Research University. Before that he was head of the Department of Theology and Religion at the University of Exeter, where he worked very closely with the South West Ministry Training Course.
He teaches and writes on a variety of topics in modern Christian theology, with recent books including A Theology of Higher Education (OUP, 2013), The Text in Play (with Rachel Muers; Wipf and Stock 2013), and Christian Doctrine (SCM, 2008). He is a member of the Church of England's Faith and Order Commission.
Dr Higton will have a key role in the development of the new partnership, and the Bishop of Sheffield warmly welcomed his appointment: “Dr Higton will bring to this new role an excellent blend of high academic achievement and commitment to ministerial education as a vital part of the life of the church. I am sure that a good partnership will develop under his leadership between Durham, the theological education institutions and the churches.”
Professor Alec Ryrie, Head of the Department of Theology and Religion at Durham University, said: “I am delighted that Dr Higton is joining Durham at an exciting time in developing our partnership with the Church of England and other participating churches and furthering our existing scholarship, research and collaborations in ministerial education.
“Dr Higton is well known nationally for developing collaborative scholarship, and his appointment signals Durham University’s commitment to fostering a solid and creative dynamic within the partnership drawing on the complementary strengths and interests of the University and the theological education institutions.”