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Increase funding for chaplains, universities told

31 May 2019

Chaplains should better reflect the diversity of the student and staff body, new report says

University of Exeter

The Chaplaincy Hub at the University of Exeter

The Chaplaincy Hub at the University of Exeter

UNIVERSITIES should increase funding for chaplains, and appoint chaplains to better reflect the diversity of the student and staff body, a new report says.

The study, Chaplains on Campus: Understanding Chaplaincy in UK Universities, was published this month. It argues: “As student pastoral needs grow, universities increasingly depend on chaplains to supplement other student support services.”

It is written by Kristin Aune, Mathew Guest and Jeremy Law, academics at Coventry, Durham, and Canterbury Christ Church Universities, and is based on interviews with 374 chaplains across the country.

The report concludes that while chaplaincy is used by a minority of students, “more than half of the chaplaincy users we surveyed used chaplaincy at least once a week.”

Furthermore: “Its users were more likely than an average student to be socially marginalised, for example to be an international, ethnic minority or lonely postgraduate student.

“Students use chaplaincy to participate in religious services run by chaplains, for pastoral support from a chaplain, to join group or social activities, and for prayer and reflection.”

Out of the 1058 chaplains across the country, nearly two-thirds were Christian (62.7 per cent), and the next largest groups were Muslim (9.5 per cent) and Jewish (7.5 per cent). The average university has 10.4 chaplains.

71 per cent of those interviewed chose pastoral support as one of the four activities which they spend the most time on, and 38 per cent chose “building community”.

One Christian chaplain at a “traditional elite” university is quoted in the report as saying: “I offer pastoral care to students and staff and in any given week I would see about perhaps ten people in that way, one-to-one in this office usually. . .

“I see students sometimes just once, but sometimes for a few times and occasionally I get into an ongoing pastoral relationship where they come quite regularly, over more than a year.”

An Anglican chaplain from a “1960s campus” university is quoted as saying: “I do get students coming in and seeking me out sometimes just for a chat about something that’s on their mind. Either they might be trying to get me to book a room for them or something that they can’t do themselves. Or they could be potentially in trouble, struggling with exams or finances.”

The report also recommends that the C of E should look at how it can support and influence chaplaincy.

It argues: “The Church of England should use its influence to uphold voices of religion and belief across the higher education sector, and its resources to build partnerships of trust and mutual respect. This will enable others to speak and be heard, enhancing university chaplaincy for the good of all.”

It also concludes: “Universities should recognise that chaplains’ contribution extends beyond serving the needs of people of faith; chaplains also serve the wider university and the non-religious.”

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