Oxford ‘must do better’

29 July 2009

by Pat Ashworth

THERE needs to be more trust among the four theological colleges that are core members of the Oxford Partnership for Theological Education and Training (OPTET), an inspection team has pronounced.

OPTET is declared fit for purpose, but fails to get more than one “Confidence” rating among the six criteria, and scores an overall rating of “Confidence with Qualifications”.

The Principals of Ripon College, Cuddesdon, St Stephen’s House, Wycliffe Hall, and the Baptist Regent’s Park College are recommended to “set aside time to reflect on present levels of mutual trust among the institutions”.

The three Anglican colleges collaborated to produce the Oxford Diploma of Ministry (ODM) course. Considerable energy had been devoted to developing the proposed Certificate and Diploma in Theology and Pastoral Studies, but the inspectors “detected a much lower level of energy in the Steering Groups’ commitment to the formational and ecumenical dimensions of OPTET’s role”.

Collaboration with the Faculty of Theology to develop the new course was identified as a strength. Areas needing attention include an agreed statement of OPTET’s aims.

For the Colleges’ part, OPTET “offers students the educational advantages of encountering and interacting with diversity, while at the same time challenging any temptation to find security within a prevailing sub-culture . . . opening a window on the wider Church, and enabling students to ‘map’ their own spiritual experiences.”

OPTET must address issues of accountability, along with a review of its membership, the inspectors say. The other members of OPTET are Blackfriars (RC, Dominican), Campion Hall (RC, Jesuit), St Benet’s Hall (RC, Benedictine), and Harris Manchester (Free Christian). The Diocese of Oxford Ordained Local Ministry Scheme, the Westminster Institute of Education (Oxford Brookes University), and the Church Mission Society are associate members.

They inspectors found “no evidence that any initiatives to further develop collaboration between the colleges was envisaged, or to share resources, or to learn from each other’s experiences of ministerial training”. They recommend that students should be represented on the steering group, and a vice-chair be appointed to help the chair over decisions about “formational and educational priorities”.

College authorities should make it clear that they trust the quality of the OPTET lectures “by resisting the temptation to duplicate the lectures in their own colleges”.


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