As members of staff at Heythrop College in solidarity with the Principal and Governing Body we are writing to clarify the situation regarding the college’s proposed partnership with the University of Roehampton.
Since the announcement in 2015 that Heythrop could no longer continue as an autonomous college within the University of London, the Governors and the Society of Jesus have been committed to finding a way in which its mission and work, including its ecclesiastical faculties for educating priests and others for pontifical degrees within the Bellarmine Institute, will continue in a new form after 2018. Eight months of creative and positive discussions with the University of Roehampton have concluded that a merger between both institutes would be financially viable and academically and pastorally fruitful. The Society of Jesus has sought the support of the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and of the Bishops' Conference of England and Wales, in order to continue the mission of the College. Staff confidently hoped to receive support for a merger that holds so much promise but there are signs that this support may not be forthcoming.
Staff are confident that the Catholicity of the Bellarmine Institute and Heythrop College within the context of the University of Roehampton will be safeguarded by robust governance structures. The content of the ecclesiastical degrees taught and the academic staff teaching in the Bellarmine Institute were approved by the Congregation for Catholic Education in 2013. Any modifications are subject to re-approval by the Congregation.
The Heythrop-Roehampton partnership constitutes the only viable option on the table. The funds generously provided by the Society of Jesus by means of its charitable trust: Trustees for Roman Catholic Purposes (TRCP) do not allow for the continuation of Heythrop beyond the academic year 2017-18.
Within a year the vast majority of staff will be made redundant and steps will begin to sell the property and disperse and dispose of the library. Thus the practical consequences of a decision by the Cardinal and the Bishops' Conference not to support the current partnership with the University of Roehampton will effectively be a decision to terminate Heythrop College, bringing to an end a 400 year history, and creating an unbridgeable gap in the provision of Catholic Higher Education in Britain.
It would be a tragedy with reverberations on the international stage if Heythrop College should be forced to close. Such a loss would raise serious questions within and outside the Church worldwide as to the credibility of the Catholic Church in England and Wales in fostering and protecting serious academic study of philosophy and theology. Support for the proposed Heythrop-Roehampton partnership is consistent with concerns to safeguard the Catholicity of the education of Catholic clergy and laity in England and Wales and to strengthen collaborative partnerships between academic institutions in the Catholic tradition in the UK Higher Education sector.