Oxford Theology Students Are No Longer Extensively Required to Study Christianity

By Arnaud Malon from Paris, France (DSC02870.JPG) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Theology students at Oxford now have the option to explore other world religions instead of a strong focus on Christianity.

For the past 800 years, the study of Christianity has been a mandatory part of the three-year theology curriculum at the University of Oxford. Going forward, the Theology students will have the option to skip the subject in the second and third year. However, Christianity will still be a compulsory subject in the first year.

According to the Times Higher Education magazine, second year students will now have the option to opt for papers like feminist approaches to theology and religion, Buddhism in space and time, and so on. As per the academics, the University has made the changes to accept the changes that are happening in the British society in accordance with the people's religious beliefs and culture.

Professor of historical and systematic theology, Johannes Zachhuber, who is also the board chairman of the theology faculty, said that despite the choice the students have, it is very unlikely that many of them will completely ignore the Christian elements. Zachhuber said that the University recognizes the fact that the students coming to study at Oxford come from various backgrounds, and their interests are genuinely different. They also respect the fact that the students come from the respected communities of Britain.

According to Zachhuber, a very rigid and strict curriculum will only result in a mismatch between the research done and taught by the lecturers. One-third of the lecturer posts being filled by millennials is because of the big generational turnover. He further said that religion is still a big part of the country despite the dominance of the Church of England receding over the last couple of years.

The University wants to offer the students what is interesting for them. In an interview given to the Daily Mail, Zachhuber said that when you talk about religion today, any religion, it is not about marginalization, but about the recognition of a pluralistic and complex picture.

Associate professor of medieval history at Oxford, Benjamin Thompson, said that the change in curriculum is what the students actually want because of how the world is changing around them. For example, coursework may focus on subjects like the rise of ISIS or the impact of Chinese economy in the world market. Andrea Minichiello Williams, the CEO of Christian Concern, a Christian organization in the United Kingdom, called the move a sad one. She said that it was the belief of the founding fathers of Oxford that the truth could only be found via the pursuit of theology, specifically, via the study of Christianity.

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