COURSES in Christianity will remain compulsory for first-year theology undergraduates at the University of Oxford, a spokesman for the university said last week, responding to media reports that it was now possible to take a degree following only non-Christian religious, philosophical, and ethical options.
Two papers in Christianity are compulsory in the first year, and Christianity remains a significant component of second- and third-year studies, which most students would be unlikely to neglect, the spokesman said. The theology faculty, one of the oldest in England, added religious studies to its title two years ago, however, to reflect a wider range of options that were added after a course review. The University of Cambridge, where the title Faculty of Divinity has so far been retained, has also broadened its options.
The development at Oxford follows the trend among even the more traditional English universities to broaden their titles and range of options to include other faiths and contemporary philosophical and cultural perspectives on religion, honorary research fellow at the University of Oxford Department of Education, the Revd Dr John Gay, said. “This approach attracts a wider range of students, and reflects the broader nature of the evolving religious landscape and the religious education curriculum taught in schools,” he said.
King’s College, London, which has traditionally educated a high proportion of Anglican clergy, still offers a theology degree with compulsory Christianity components in each year. But it also offers degrees in Religion, Philosophy, and Ethics; and Religion, Politics, and Society. The BA course at the University of Sheffield’s Department of Religion, Theology and the Bible, has core modules on Christianity in all three years.
The broad approach is common among Cathedral Group institutions, typified by the Theology and Religious Studies departments at the Church of England Canterbury Christ Church and Chester Universities. Both offer single honours degrees in theology and, additionally, religious studies degrees that include a wide range of ethical and cultural choices.