Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Theology Generation

There's an encouraging article, for those of us teaching Theology in the UK at least, in this week's Tablet:

The theology generation
Christopher Lamb
What lies behind the increasing popularity of theology among university students? We asked one of them to investigate
. . . . It is hardly a "dossers' degree". Research by Manchester University of 18 theology and religious studies departments shows that six have raised their grades in the past year, with record numbers of students being interviewed for places. To get a place at St Andrews University in Scotland requires A-level grades of ABB (up from BBC), while at Durham, students need grades - or predicted grades - of ABC to even be called for an interview.

Even for someone who knows nothing about the subject, theology sounds interesting and looks good on a CV - provided the degree is from a good university. In that sense it is much like any other arts or humanities degree.

"Almost all of our students read theology for general interest, as they would English or history," says Rosalind Paul, admissions tutor for divinity at Cambridge. "A degree is about training the mind."

To learn about history, the Bible, Christianity and the influence of the Churches are good places to start. Theology is extremely flexible: not only does it bring together the disciplines of philosophy, literature, linguistics and history, but the choice of what to study within a theology degree is extraordinarily wide. "I've looked at everything from Buddhism to the Catholic Church's reaction to the Holocaust," says Patrick Scott, who is studying theology at Bristol University . . .

You may need to register (free) first. The article finishes with a quotation from a graduate of Exeter College, Oxford -- nice to see my college represented in the article (and I recognise the name of the student too, Richard Price). It's good to hear of the rising popularity of Theology. Much of the article chimes in with my own experience. I've spoken at two sixth form days this year, which we run in Birmingham for prospective students of Theology and Religion, and both have been well attended and full of really enthusiastic people. On each occasion I have encouraged them not to lose their enthusiasm before they come to university.

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