Theology and Religious Studies risk disappearing from universities report warns

Theology and Religious Studies risk “disappearing” from universities, a report has warned, as figures show that the number of students has almost halved in six years.Over 14,000 students were enrolled on such degree courses in 2011/12, which dropped down to 7,585 by 2017/18, according to an analysis by the British Academy.The figures relate to all higher education students taking course in Theology and Religious Studies course, including undergraduates, masters, doctorates, foundation courses and diplomas.While Theology and Religious Studies has been on a downward trend for the past six years, there has been an increase in students taking Philosophy courses over the same time period.Prof Diarmaid MacCulloch, an expert in church history at Oxford University and vice president of the British Academy, said the figures are “alarming”.“I am extremely concerned about the drop in such a short period, it is really very alarming,” he told the Daily Telegraph.  “The problem starts at school. Teachers are not directing people in this important direction and not seeing the value in Theology and Religious Studies.”  The report said that the decline cannot be explained by subject choices at school, since A-level entries in Religious Education have increased in the past six years, more than doubling in England and Wales between 2003 and 2017. “Theology and Religious Studies has been on a downward trend in both applications and enrolment of undergraduate students from 2012/13 onwards,” the report says.“If this trend continues, [the] provision will come under serious threat at many institutions and the department closures and mergers, which have already started, will likely continue.”  The British Academy, which promotes humanities and social sciences, said it will work with the Theology and Religious Studies community to “assess the vulnerability” of the subject and “ensure a sustainable future”.  The report also examined the characteristics of Theology and Religious Studies academics, and found that staff were predominantly male, as well as older on average than staff in other humanities departments.  Professor Roger Kain, vice-President of research and higher education policy at the British Academy, said “Not only are the subjects’ popularity on the wane but the problem is confounded by the profile of their teaching staff.“If more ethnically and gender diverse groups do not rise through the ranks, there is a danger that these highly relevant disciplines disappear from our universities.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily  Front Page newsletter and new  audio briefings.

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