Sunday, February 3, 2008

Expensive to be trained? Well, it just got more expensive!

Government to impose higher fees for theological degrees

Under current Government plans, trainee priests may be charged nearly four times the present tuition fees for their theological degrees.

by Daniel Blake

Posted: Tuesday, January 29, 2008, 7:36 (GMT)

Controversial plans to reform university funding have indicated that people training to be priests may face a massive rise in tuition fees, according to senior clerics.

The Church of England is warning that new Government plans to remove £100 million worth of funding for students wishing to take a second degree could have a catastrophic effect on the quality of training for clergy, and have a knock-on effect in church finances.

A report in The Times newspaper has said that a massive 75 per cent of the 1,500 students currently training to become Church of England clergy are studying a second university degree, as a majority had not decided to enter the priesthood until later in life.

Current Government funding means students taking a second degree pay tuition fees of £3,000 a year. However, the new plans could see fees rise to the same level as international students are paying - up to £11,000 a year.

The Government said it needs to impose the £100 million cut from ELQ degrees to add to funds for students taking their first degrees.

The new plans, however, have allowed for exemptions for strategically important and socially desirable subjects. Under the exemption, trainee nurses, teachers and scientists have all avoided the controversial reduction in funds. Theology, on the other hand, has been resisted by the Higher Education Funding Council for England despite repeated lobbying from the Church.

The Church has been told by Government officials that if possible it should pay the tuition costs for its theology students, or that it should even plan a revamp of the theology degree by converting them into cheaper two-year vocational courses.

If either of these options is pursued, the Church could find itself faced with a £1.5 million increase in the training budget, or a downgrading of the quality of training for ordained priests.

A number of leading theological leaders have spoken out against the proposals, warning that they could potentially be catastrophic for the Church’s future, and that a number of leading theological institutions could be closed down under the new pressures.

A final decision on the funding issue will be taken within two months, The Times reports, during which time the Church will attempt to turn over the situation.

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