About 120 postgraduate students studied for taught doctorates or an MA on the nine theology and ministry courses at King’s, which are due to be axed to save money.
Among those being shut are master’s programmes on Christian education, contemporary ministry, youth ministry and contemporary worship, and doctorates in theology and ministry.
The closures follow the departures of two leading theology scholars, Anna Rowlands, who has moved to Durham University, and Alister McGrath, who has become Andreos Idreos professor of science and religion at the University of Oxford.
Professor McGrath, who was formerly chair of theology, ministry and education at King’s, told the Catholic newspaper, The Tablet, that the closure of the postgraduate programmes was “deeply regrettable”.
“I believe it was one of the best in the land,” Professor McGrath said of the postgraduate theology centre, adding that it had “contributed very significantly to the intellectual and pastoral well-being of the churches”.
Dr Rowlands, who is now lecturer in contemporary Catholic theology and deputy director of the Centre for Catholic Studies at Durham, told the newspaper “something irreplaceable has been lost”.
She added that the courses “attracted a very significant constituency of younger Christians who were actively involved in politics and social justice work”.
“It gave them an encounter with the breadth of Christian and political social thought, including Catholic social teaching,” she said.
A King’s spokesman said the closures had been made to make the department of education and professional studies, where the programmes were taught, more “viable”.
It follows a strategic review last autumn, which suggested the department refocus activities “to develop a more cohesive and specialised identity around core areas of strength”.
“The aim of this was to secure a more sustainable financial base to support the longer-term viability of the department,” he said.
“We had to make some difficult decisions in formulating the proposals, including the potential closure of a small number of programmes, including our theology and ministry programmes.”
A formal consultation process was undertaken and in June 2014 a decision was made to close the courses.
“We are fully committed to ensuring that current students continue to receive appropriate levels of supervisory support and are taking all possible steps to ensure minimal disruption to their studies,” the spokesman added.
Theology courses will now lie solely with King’s department of theology and religious studies, which “has a vibrant research culture and has made over 20 new academic appointments since 2008”, he added.
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