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Durham University

Research & business

Universities would be £4.5m poorer without chaplains

(9 May 2019)

University chaplains play an important role in the lives of students of many different faiths and are believed to contribute around £4.5 million per year of volunteer labour to the UK Higher Education sector.

That’s the finding of a new report, which has calculated that volunteer university chaplains give around 3,500 hours of free labour each week, in total.

Pastoral care

The report, co-authored by a Durham University researcher, found that university chaplains spend the most amount of time on pastoral activities and welfare provision including one-to-one support, counselling and working with socially marginalised students.

Religious activities, including conducting religious services and running inter-faith events, were their second priority.

Religious diversity

Many chaplaincies follow a multi-faith model, with a full-time coordinating chaplain who is most likely to be Anglican.

The Christian proportion of chaplains has fallen from 70 percent to 59 percent since 2007 and there has been a rise in the proportion of chaplains who are Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Baha’i, as well as a significant rise in numbers who are humanist, inter-faith, or Pagan.

Varied provision

The provision for religious students varies widely, with universities having between zero and 54 chaplains. The average number was 10.4 chaplains with the time that they offer equivalent to 3.3 full-time equivalent roles.

More than a quarter (28 percent) of chaplains were funded by religious bodies, whilst 23 percent of chaplains were paid solely by their university with a further 7 percent paid jointly by the university and a religious body. The rest were volunteers.

The researchers worked with over 400 university chaplains, managers and religious or belief organisations across the UK, and nearly 200 students, to examine the role of chaplains and their impact on campus life.

Find out more

Researchers from Durham University, Coventry University and Canterbury Christ Church University co-authored the report ‘Chaplains on Campus: Understanding Chaplaincy in UK Universities’. It was funded by the Church of England, via its Church Universities Fund and the report can be downloaded here.

Professor Mathew Guest, in our Department of Theology and Religion, is the co-author from Durham. The report will be launched at an event for chaplains and student support staff from universities in the North of England, Scotland and Ireland, at Prior’s Hall, Durham Cathedral.

Students are increasingly turning to religious leaders for mental health support - comment piece by Mathew Guest.

Learn more about Durham’s Department of Theology and Religion.

Undergraduate and postgraduate study in Theology and Religion at Durham University.

Chaplains at Durham are either based in Colleges where their care is for all members of College, or they work across the University where the Chaplain usually represents a particular denomination or faith community although they are still available to everyone. Information available here.