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Presbyterian theological college in Ireland to team up with Catholic university

by Ruth Sax
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Albert Bridge

Union Theological College (UTC) has proposed to team up with St Mary's, Twickenham, after having its ability to award degrees from Queen's University Belfast removed. 

Queen's University Belfast announced it was cutting ties with UTC in 2019 after a number of critical internal reviews.

The church subsequently claimed Queen's had taken the decision due to its stance on same-sex relationships.

Queen's said the move was down to academic concerns.

Rev Trevor Gribben, General Secretary of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland said: "The vision for UTC moving forward includes three important strands: First, equipping students for effective ministry within PCI, secondly, the provision of post graduate programmes and thirdly preparing students for making effective and positive contributions to society. 

"To achieve fully these goals, an undergraduate programme is necessary and the recommended way forward is through a validation arrangement with another UK institution.

"Following a detailed process and discussions, it will be recommended to this year's General Assembly that a new undergraduate partnership should be developed with St Mary's University, Twickenham, through a validation arrangement. 

"Such a partnership, once agreed by the General Assembly and St Mary's, has the potential to lead to a new and exciting future for Union College."

Commenting on the proposed validation partnership, Very Rev Professor Stafford Carson, Principal of Union Theological College said: "Founded in the 1850s, both Union College and St Mary's have their own distinct confessional identities within a broad Christian ethos.

"The proposed validation arrangement… would preserve Union's confessional identity and control of its own academic programmes. Just as importantly, it would also restore the option for young people from all backgrounds, including different denominations from across Northern Ireland, to study theology together at an undergraduate level."

The proposed partnership between Union College and St Mary's University, Twickenham will be discussed and approval sought by the General Assembly in June.

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