Decline of Theology and Religious Studies Students

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Theology and Religious Studies at British universities are at risk of disappearing due to a steep decline in student numbers. A report from the British Academy reveals there are 6,500 fewer students on such courses than six years ago, while religion plays a dominant role in the world. The report suggests further work is needed to ensure the subjects have a sustainable future, including te ender imbalance of staff where women made up 64% of students on first degree programmes but only 37% of academic staff.

Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University, and Vice-President of the British Academy:

‘Theology and religious studies risk disappearing from our universities just at the time when we need them most. Mocking two centuries of apparent secularisation in the West, religion has an all-pervasive role on the world stage….

Theology and religious studies offer antidotes to an increasingly adversarial culture. Given the chance for analytical study of belief systems, morality, art, philosophy and history in varying faiths and cultures, graduates in these disciplines leave university with an unrivalled understanding of humanity in its glorious untidy complexity.’

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Stephen Pattison, Professor of Religion, Ethics and Practice Emeritus, University of Birmingham; and Secretary of Theology and Religious Studies UK

‘TRS-UK welcomes the publication of this report and is very concerned at the clear picture of decline in the study of TRS in Higher Education institutions.

In a diverse society it is very important to understand the world views of all our citizens. So it is very worrying that our capacity to critically understand and engage with the beliefs and communities amongst whom we live seems to be diminishing when it should actually be expanded. TRS-UK is working hard to lobby for the importance of TRS in society and in the academy by engaging with politicians, teachers and other interested groups.

We deeply regret the inequalities of age and gender in our work force, which again reflects a worrying situation, and we are actively going to research the factors lying behind this with a view to addressing this issue, bearing in mind that we ourselves are not the actual University institutions who employ scholars in religion and theology.’


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