More student concern over Stirling religion department

By staff writers
September 25, 2015

Following the recent reports of continuing concern from students at the University of Stirling over the imperilled future of the globally recognised religion programme there, we have received another communication from a student about a recent university meeting to discuss the issue.

The student who made the following comments, and whom we will call Mary, wished to remain anonymous. Ekklesia has received a number of similar written and verbal observations from other students.

“I recently attended a meeting held by the University in order to provide us with information regarding the news of the closure of the religion department, and to ease any anxieties we might have surrounding this. The Head of Arts and Humanities led the meeting.

“An immediate problem was that the first year students could not be in attendance. Instead, they were to be provided with a separate information meeting of their own.

“While this may have practical advantages, it also ends up separating the new students, who may have very little understanding of the situation, from those students who have been best informed and most vocal in their concerns and anxieties.

“We were repeatedly told that the upcoming changes would make no difference to the overall quality of our degrees, with the guarantee that they would not be negatively affected. How this is going to be ensured in practical terms was not specified.

“The concern about the present specialist academic staff not being there to teach the modules was dismissed. We were told that ‘academic staff change all the time.’

“We were also told that any ‘real decisions’ have yet to be made, so we should stop worrying about eventualities.

“During the meeting the claim was made that the fact that the religion course has ‘Religion’ in the title was deterring prospective students from applying. Several students reacted to this, as it seemed a very odd claim to make. We asked for evidence of this, but none was provided.

“It was repeatedly denied that there was any threat of redundancy to the staff, [despite a clear statement to the contrary by the UCU], but the university is unable to say if all of the remaining staff will be present next year.

“There was then a series of statements which I can only assume were intended to make us regard the staff with suspicion, warning us to be weary of academics trying to ‘cling to their posts’.

“There was even what appeared to be a dismissal of the present existence of the religion department. We were told that we needed to ‘get real’ and to admit that it is not a ‘real’ department, because it only contains four members of staff.

“Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the meeting was the response to news of the potential closure of the religion department being made available to students. Press reporting of the matter was described as ‘malicious’.

“It seemed clear to many of us that had the threat to religion at Stirling not been made public, the department would have been shut down quietly and without warning, and the students would not have been told until afterwards.

“Overall, the meeting did very little to soothe any concerns. In fact, many students expressed feeling even more anxious after the meeting, as the information given was so lacking.

“As it stands now, the threat of closure continues, leaving the students to try not be overwhelmed at the task of completing coursework for a degree which might not have any real standing in the near future.”

Full background here:

* Reporting and statements of support at the Critical Religion Association: http://criticalreligion.org/events/august-2015-religion-at-stirling-unde...

* Global concern continues over Stirling University religion programme: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/22111

Stirling University students dissatisfied over future of religion department: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/22108

* Union negotiates, confirming continued threat at Stirling: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/22029

* University of Stirling to close pioneering religion department: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/22005

* Widespread dismay at university plans to end religion courses: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/22008

* Religion, higher education and critical thinking: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/22009

* Response but no clarity on Stirling University religion department: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/22012

* Petition launched to save religion department at Stirling University: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/22018

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.