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Course faces axe

02 November 2006

by Margaret Holness

A REVIEW of courses at the Church of England College of St Mark and St John, Plymouth, has proposed the closure of its undergraduate degree in theology, a joint theology-and-philosophy degree, and one of its two MA programmes in applied theology.

If the proposals, accepted by the academic board at the start of the month, are ratified when the college council meets on 16 July, recruitment to the three programmes will cease immediately. Some prospective students have already been told the courses will not run, it is understood.

Dr David Baker, the college principal, said the college was strongly committed to its Christian foundation, but persistent under-recruitment had forced the closure of the undergraduate theology programmes. The department was not being closed, he insisted. For example, an MA in applied theology for ministry and mission, which began last year, was being strongly supported.

Critics of the proposals argue that surviving religious-education programmes cannot compensate for the loss of theology courses, which should, they insist, be at the heart of the work of church colleges.

The problem is largely that supply is exceeding demand. While theology courses have proliferated, the number of prospective theology students has declined.

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