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Durham University Visit

 
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Durham University Visit
by David Allen - Friday, 29 November 2013, 3:34 PM
 
(Uploaded on behalf of Nick Ross) We had a very positive student meeting with the validation team from Durham University. The main purpose of the meeting was for them to get an idea of the student experience at Queen's and how we felt about it. We were able to put across how much we value what Queen's offers, both in terms of meeting the core academic needs of theological and ministerial education and the special focus of the Foundation on issues such as gender focussed and Black and Asian theologies. We also stressed the sense of the community and the way in which formational / vocational aspects are delivered and supported. As it was not the primary reason for the meeting, the Durham team were very generous in the time they gave us towards the end of the meeting to bring up any issues or questions about the common award and we were able to raise the major issues from the student feedback. We made clear how important the Queen's ethos was to all the students: the diversity of students' cultural and church background, and the reflection of the diversity of our ministerial vocations in the variety of specialist theologies taught and in all the credited or formational parts of the programme. We expressed concern that some of this might appear to be undervalued in broad and rather non-specific academic modules. We were told that these modules (whatever their title) would allow the special Queen's 'flavour' to be maintained, but our concerns were recognised and Professor Higton said that more focused modules would be welcomed in future years. We spoke about the capacity and willingness of Queen's to tailor programmes to the particular needs and interests of students: part time and full time; taking account of prior learning and wondered how this might be maintained under the Common Award. Although we did not get a clear answer in terms of particular structures and processes, the Durham team were clearly very aware of these issues and the intention was that the Common Award would not restrict such tailoring. Concerns had been expressed about how Durham as the accrediting university would maintain and respond to the diversity of academic background found at institutions such as Queen's. We made clear that the support offered to students who did not have the level of education usually expected for university entry was vitally important and that, as Queens demonstrated, with proper support, such students can thrive. Durham recognised the importance of maintaining a broad intake into ministerial training and that this will mean that they cannot simply apply standard Durham entry and progress / qualification criteria to the Common Award. We came away with a clear sense that the Common Award team at Durham are very aware of the issues; that they recognised the strength of feeling amongst students; and that the Common Award would develop in ways that would accommodate diversity amongst institutions and amongst students. The Durham team were keen to stress that the Common Award is a work in progress and that the programme in the first year (2014-15) is not going to be the finished product. Queen's as an institution will have continuing opportunities to influence that development as well as to maintain its particular ethos. Although the move to Common Award will not directly affect Queen's students on their current programmes of study, the student voice is clearly welcomed, giving us an opportunity and a responsibility to speak up for the students who will follow us.