Heythrop College, University of London, which celebrated its 400th anniversary last year, says that it has agreed to continue discussions with St Mary’s University, Twickenham, over a possible “strategic partnership”.
In a statement released on 17 April, Heythrop said that its governors hoped to conclude talks with St Mary’s – which gained full university status in January 2014 – in the summer term.
“The aim remains a partnership which will promote the teaching and research of theology and philosophy, be in the interests of both institutions and be of benefit to the mission of the Church and to wider society,” the statement says.
The extent of the “strategic partnership” is not yet known, but internal discussion at Heythrop has consistently referred to the changes as a “merger” or “merger proposals”.
It is believed that the Jesuit-run college, which is based in Kensington, west London, has been hit hard by the changes to student funding since 2012.
According to its latest available accounts, it had a deficit of about £600,000 in 2012-13 partly due to a lack of students. The Society of Jesus agreed to give up to £3.5 million to the college over the next three years, the accounts also show.
However, some 60 per cent of Heythrop students voted to oppose a merger with St Mary’s, according to minutes of an extraordinary governors meeting held in January, although Catholic news website The Tablet reported last week that students had now voted in favour of discussions continuing.
In its statement, Heythrop – which was established in what is now modern-day Belgium in 1614 before moving to the UK in the 18th century – said that it wanted to “provide a high quality experience for our current students who, on successful completion of their studies, will graduate with a University of London degree”.
Francis Campbell, vice-chancellor of St Mary’s, said that his own board of governors had “given us the green light to enter final discussions with Heythrop College on the structure of the proposed partnership”.
“Our guiding principle has always been that any partnership must be for the greater good of both institutions, financially sustainable and to the benefit of Catholic higher education in the UK,” he said.