School looks to suspend program

School of Religion proposes to halt programs to combat low admissions

Queen’s Theological Hall, which houses the School of Religion.
Queen’s Theological Hall, which houses the School of Religion.
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With a decline in applications, the School of Religion has unanimously requested to temporarily suspend admissions to its theology programs for two years.

The Master of Divinity, Master of Theological Studies and Bachelor of Theology are the three programs at risk of suspension. The Master’s in Religious Studies program is not being considered as part of the proposal, which was put forward to the Faculty on Oct. 11.

“If a decision is made to temporarily suspend theology program admissions, the School of Religion will continue to offer a full complement of theology courses until August 2015,” Richard Ascough, the director of the School of Religion, told the Journal via email.

This will ensure that full-time students currently enrolled in the programs are able to fulfill their degree requirements as planned, despite a decrease in admission rates and a possible suspension, he added.

In 2006, 25 students enrolled in the programs, dropping to 15 in 2012. This year, only one student was admitted. A minimum requirement of 30 full-time students is necessary to maintain a sustainable program at Queen’s.

Ascough said these trends aren’t exclusive to Queen’s.

“Over the past decade, there has been a noticeable declining trend in applications to theology programs across North America,” he said.

Despite the efforts of the School’s extensive recruitment efforts, efforts, a curriculum redesign in 2010 and an increase in student bursary funding, enrolment rates continue to decline, Ascough said.

“The School’s goal to have a strong cohort of students contributing to the academic culture does not currently seem possible,” he said.

Ascough confirmed that no full-time faculty members or staff will lose their positions as a result of a temporary suspension.

“All members of the unit will continue to work at the School in our growing programs in religious studies,” he said.

The School will work individually with part-time students to create plans for their studies and are expecting to hear back from the university by the end of November at earliest.

Queen’s Chaplain Kate Johnson, who is a graduate from a program at risk of suspension, emphasized their importance.

“The Presbyterian seminary that evolved into Queen’s Theological College and now the School of Religion is the root from which Queen’s University has sprung,” Johnson, MDiv ’06, said.

“It is an excellent school which challenged and formed me in some very important ways. The knowledge that this day would come was with us then and earlier.”

She added that people are finding other ways to have a spiritual community, and that society is changing.

“It is a reality that the so-called ‘mainline’ Christian traditions that dominated the Canadian religious landscape until the late 1900s are not dominating anymore,” she said.

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