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Ushaw College and Durham University lighting an educational beacon

(13 June 2011)

St. Cuthbert’s Chapel ©Alex Ramsay

St. Cuthbert’s Chapel ©Alex Ramsay

At their meeting on Thursday 9th June the Trustees of Ushaw College, the Bishops of the Northern Province and Shrewsbury Diocese, agreed to commission a detailed feasibility study to identify appropriate future uses for the College.

This proposal has the full support of Durham County Council and of English Heritage. The Trustees have also agreed to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with Durham University to explore, as part of the feasibility study, a proposal put forward by the University to create a Centre for Catholic Scholarship and Cultural Heritage at Ushaw under the auspices of the University's existing internationally regarded Centre for Catholic Studies.

The intention is that the Centre for Catholic Studies (then renamed "The International Centre for Advanced Catholic Studies") would continue to have its primary academic home within the University's Department of Theology and Religion on the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Palace Green, situated between Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle (University College), but would expand to include the proposed Ushaw Centre for Catholic Scholarship and Heritage within its total operation and mission. It is thus envisaged that the library, archives and other collections will remain at Ushaw and will be used as part of this facility and made available to a wider public.

These decisions follow the recommendations of the Steering Committee which the Trustees established in January to advise the Trustees on the future of the College. The Steering Committee was charged with giving advice and providing a report to the Trustees about options for the future. The Steering Committee, under the chairmanship of Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, was asked to look strategically at the entire estate including its buildings, land, libraries, archives and collections. Meetings have taken place with Durham County Council and English Heritage and other expert advisors.

The Right Reverend Mark Davies, Bishop of Shrewsbury, said: "We are looking forward to working in partnership in this way with Durham University and with the other public bodies towards securing a new future for Ushaw. The College can no longer provide for the training of priests but true to its inheritance across more than two hundred years on this site can continue to be a centre for Catholic scholarship and be accessible to the wider community."

Monsignor Marsland, President of Ushaw College, said: "We are delighted that the work and efforts of the Steering Group have resulted in a proposal that will allow the heritage of Ushaw College, its collections and library as well as its educational traditions to continue and secure a future for this very important estate within the Roman Catholic community."

Professor Chris Higgins, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, said: "Ushaw College and its collections have a very special place in the Christian heritage of Durham and the North East of England. Together with the special collections in Durham University and Cathedral they comprise one of the most important and distinctive collections of books, manuscripts and other artefacts in the world.

"We look forward to working with the Ushaw Trustees to ensure that these collections and remarkable buildings are not only preserved intact in Durham, but are also made more widely known and available to the community as well as to educators and researchers from Durham University and around the world."

Professor Paul D. Murray, Professor of Systematic Theology and Director of the Centre for Catholic Studies, Durham University, said: "The Trustees' decision demonstrates vision and care and holds real promise and potential for this region, for the UK and international Catholic community, and for the international scholarly community.

"Ushaw College and its holdings are of unique if, hitherto, largely unknown significance. Bringing them into formal relationship with Durham University and the proposed International Centre for Advanced Catholic Studies will provide a secure means of opening them to international attention and usage.

"Ushaw is now set to become a beacon of possibility, of light, life and learning. We look forward to working with the Catholic community and other key partners to realise this vision and potential for the good of all."

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