DURHAM University has won a contract to validate ordination
training for Church of England clergy from 2014.
The partnership fulfils a recommendation of the Working Party of
the Ministry Council, that the Church should develop a suite of
Higher Education (HE) Awards with a single validating partner. It
is intended to make validation simpler and more affordable.
Currently, 19 universities validate training at 23 theological
From 2014, Durham University will be responsible for granting
awards, and overseeing their assessment and regulation. The
vice-chancellor of Durham University, Professor Christopher
Higgins, said that the university was "exceptionally well-placed"
to work with the Church because of its "experience over 100 years
of close partnership in ministerial training" through St John's
College, and, at one time, St Chad's College.
Representatives of the Baptist, Methodist, and United Reformed
Churches will continue to be involved, with the intention of
sharing the awards in due course. Current students will continue
with the awards for which they have been entered, and current
validation schemes will be honoured.
The Principal of the South West Ministry Training Course,
Prebendary David Moss, congratulated the C of E on the partnership,
but said: "I would be very disappointed if we were forced to finish
our relationship with University of Exeter. . . The question for us
is what we lose from this arrangement."
Other institutions are also asking this question. The Principal
of the South East Institute of Theological Education (SEITE), Canon
Jeremy Worthen, said he hoped that the project would "allow greater
coherence between training before, and after, ordinations". But he
echoed concerns about relationships with local universities,
something that institutions had been "strongly pursuing". SEITE has
an "excellent" partnership with Canterbury Christ Church
He agreed with the conclusion of the Sheffield report, published
in December, that "there are many different ways of working in
partnership [with universities] which need not include HE
validation," but believes that such relationships will "inevitably
be weaker. . . Universities will ask the question: is it worth
The Principal of Ripon College, Cuddesdon, near Oxford, Canon
Professor Martyn Percy, said that colleges and courses would be
working closely with the Ministry Division and Durham University to
ensure that "distinctive regional and theological characteristics
remain supported and affirmed under the new arrangements".
One of the drivers of the reforms is the rising cost of
ministerial training. The Sheffield Working Party estimated last
year that HE reforms would cause theological institutions to lose
£924,000 in funding from the Higher Education Funding Council for
England in 2012, while increasing Vote-1 funding requirements to
£626,000 as a result of rising student and validation fees.
The report also referred to a "deep desire" within the House of
Bishops, training institutions, and the General Synod to "bring
into clearer focus the common elements of our training". The offer
made by a partner university "varies immensely", and institutions
"often find themselves working in competition".
The report argued that it would be possible to create the awards
while preserving a "mixed ecology" of training, partly by allowing
exceptions where courses are fully or part-taught by university
The Principal of Ridley Hall, Canon Andrew Norman, said that a
"mixed economy" would prevail at Cambridge, some students receiving
a Cambridge degree, and others receiving one that was validated by
There remained, however, concerns about independent and
international students, and it would also be important to ensure
that the new awards take into account the needs of ecumenical
partners, he said.
On Monday, the Director of Ministry at the Archbishops' Council,
the Ven. Julian Hubbard, said that all 23 institutions "will
continue to teach according to their tradition and ethos".