Religion in education: Towards division or inspiration?
An event to mark 140 years of the University Tests Act
Wednesday 15 June 2011
VENUE: UCL Cruciform Building, Lecture Theatre 1, UCL Gower Street, WC1E 6AU
PLEASE NOTE: Professor A.C. Grayling has withdrawn from this event in order to prevent inconvenience to UCL and to allow the discussion to focus on the subject of the meeting rather than being diverted to other concerns. Professor Grayling is making contact with those concerned about higher education to talk with them directly about the matters that would have distracted attention here.
Join us at UCL for this panel discussion exploring the role of religion in education, which has again become a hotly disputed area of public debate, as it once was in the nineteenth century. Until the 1870s most schools in England and Wales were provided and run by the Church of England. The Church was also heavily involved in higher education and until the passing of the University Tests Act in 1871, colleges at Oxford, Cambridge and Durham Universities restricted fellowships and places to study to Anglicans. It was in this environment that University College London (known then as London University) was founded in 1826, as the first university institution in England to admit students regardless of their religious beliefs and later to admit women on equal terms with men.
The University Tests Act represented an important advancement in the freedom of religion and belief in the UK. It continued to allow colleges to provide religious instruction and worship, but prevented them from barring students and fellows from being involved in non-theological courses on the grounds of religion; it also prevented them from requiring staff and students to engage in worship, to receive religious instruction or to conform to any particular religious observance.
Many universities and colleges have explicitly religious foundations, while most universities have numerous religion and belief student groups. However, discourse on the role of religion in education today focuses largely on school age education.
Faith schools comprise of around 1/3 of state funded schools in England and Wales, and most can employ teachers and select pupils on the grounds of religion, as well as provide instructional RE. Some claim that these practices help to create a more segregated school system, which may undermine community cohesion, while others believe these freedoms allow schools to foster a unique character preferred by many parents. Almost all faith schools are Christian; some argue that many more non-Christian faith schools should be created, while other contend the state should not fund faith schools in principle.
How can we balance the rights and freedoms of religious groups, their adherents, pupils, staff and parents in the education system? What would proponents of the University Tests Act argue today?
19:00 Event start
21.15 Event Ends
Dr Muhammad Abdul Bari (Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, 2006-2010)
Charles Clarke (Labour Party MP, 1997-2010 & current Visiting Professor in the Department of Politics, Philosophy and Religion at Lancaster University)
Andrew Copson (Chief Executive of the British Humanist Association)
Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain MBE (Chair, Accord Coalition)
CHAIR PERSON: Dr Sherrill Stroschein (Lecturer, UCL Department of Political Science)
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When & Where
UCL Interaction Centre
University College London