Religious rethink

January 7, 2000

In his review of Joseph O'Keefe's Catholic Higher Education at the Turn of the New Century, part of a seven-volume series on international issues in higher education ("The appearance of incoherence", THES, December 10), Peter Scott suggests that whereas there are many universities or colleges with religious affiliation in the United States, "in Britain and the rest of Europe universities are secular institutions, with only a few small colleges retaining any religious connections, which typically are largely of historical significance".

This is an inaccurate representation of Europe. The Directory of Catholic Universities lists more than 200 Catholic higher education institutions, including almost 100 universities and ecclesiastical universities.

It is true that in Britain colleges with religious connections are of historical significance as the first universities were Christian foundations.

The position of church colleges should not be so lightly dismissed. There are about 75,000 United Kingdom students enrolled in the 18 church colleges (Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, Free Church and Congregationalist) that are members of the Council of Church and Associated College in England and Wales.

This is the equivalent of five or six medium-sized universities. These colleges are major and successful providers of education in teaching, health care, the humanities, business and management, science, art and design and the social sciences. The recent performance indicators demonstrate the contribution church colleges have made to increasing access and maximising achievement for all.

Arthur Naylor. Principal, St Mary's Strawberry Hill Chairman, Council of Church and Associated Colleges

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