Heythrop College, University of London

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Heythrop College, University of London
Motto Nil Sine Fide (Latin)
Motto in English
Nothing Without Faith
Established 1614 in Louvain, Belgium
1971 constituent college of the University of London
Type Public
Chancellor HRH The Princess Royal (University of London)
Principal Fr Michael Holman, SJ
Students 800[1]
Undergraduates 415[1]
Postgraduates 385[1]
Location Kensington, London, England
Campus Urban
Affiliations Cathedrals Group
University of London
Universities UK
Website www.heythrop.ac.uk
Heythrop College logo.jpg

Heythrop College, University of London, is a public university and the specialist philosophy and theology college of the University of London located in Kensington in London and is the oldest constituent college of the federal University of London, being founded in 1614 by the Society of Jesus. Heythrop joined the University of London in 1971, maintaining its Catholic links and ethos whilst offering an educational experience that respects all faiths and perspectives.[2] Heythrop is a centre for inter-religious dialogue and modern philosophical inquiry and is a member of the Cathedrals Group of British colleges and universities.

Heythrop is situated on London's Kensington Square, whilst also having access to University of London facilities, such as Senate House and its extensive library. The college has three main departments offering undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in philosophy, theology and related social sciences as well as five specialist institutes and centres that promote and research in their specific field.

Heythrop has a total student population of 800, allowing one-to-one tutorship with its academic staff, one of the only institutions outside of Oxford or Cambridge to do so in the United Kingdom. The college is also widely regarded as being home to one of the largest philosophy and theology related libraries in Britain.[3] The college is a registered charity under English law.[4]


Maximilian I, Elector of Bavaria, Patron of the College

The College was founded in 1614 by the Society of Jesus in Leuven, Belgium before moving in 1624 to Liège. Whilst in Liège, the college received patronage from Maximilian I, Elector of Bavaria, and the Elector's crest was adopted as the blue and white of the college Coat of Arms. During the French Revolutionary Wars, the college moved to Great Britain with philosophy being taught at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire and theology in St Beuno's College in Denbighshire. Being almost 400 years old, Heythrop is one of the oldest universities in England,[2] although its origins lie outside England itself.

The University of London's charter of foundation, written in 1836, enabled it to grant degrees not only to students of the two existing colleges, University College and King’s College, but to students of other colleges around the country who had reached the required standard. Stonyhurst applied for recognition as an institution preparing for London degrees, and this right was granted it in 1840, allowing both lay and clerical students to prepare for London University degrees: the lay students were called "Philosophers", as had been the students at Liège back in the 1620s. In 1926, the colleges came together in Heythrop Hall, Oxfordshire. At the time of moving to Heythrop, the college was awarding degrees from the Jesuit Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. However, the college sought integration with the British educational system and moved to London in 1970, officially becoming a specialist college of the University of London in 1971, and began to award University of London degrees. Upon moving to London, the College retained the name of its previous home, and has continued to be called 'Heythrop College'. The College moved to its current Kensington Square site in 1993.

In 2014, Heythrop College will celebrate the 400th anniversary of its foundation. While the college still retains its original function as a centre for the education of future priests and ministers of the Catholic Church, its student body is now much larger, more international and more diverse.[2]


Heythrop College and the Marie Eugénie Chapel

Heythrop College is located on Kensington Square, near Kensington High Street. The premises were previously in use by the Roman Catholic Religious of the Assumption, a religious order of sisters founded by Saint Marie-Eugénie de Jésus. A number of the sisters continue to live on the current site, and the Marie Eugénie Chapel is available for student use, where a College Mass is celebrated weekly, with the College choir. A chaplaincy is provided for all students, in addition to the University of London chaplaincy, as well as an Islamic prayer room.

Unlike many University of London colleges, which are divided among many campuses, the Kensington campus houses all Heythrop College facilities. Its library houses one of the largest philosophical and theological collections in the United Kingdom. All lecture halls are located in the Kensington campus, giving students the ability to communicate with academics more easily. On this site the Alban Hall of Residence is also located, the college's sole residence for its selective student population, as well as the students union, and fully catered student dining hall.

Through Heythrop's affiliation with the Jesuits it also serves as the London centre for a Jesuit University in the United States, Fordham University. Meeting facilities on the premises are often used by external groups: one such meeting in 2012 led to the formation of ACTA.

Academic profile[edit]

Heythrop has 800 students who prepare for a range of specialist undergraduate, graduate and research degrees. The college has five specialist institutes and centres which promote research, conferences and a variety of educational outreach activities. These are the 'Centre for Christianity and Inter-religious Dialogue', the 'Centre for Eastern Christianity', the 'Centre for Philosophy of Religion', the 'Religious Life Institute' and the 'Heythrop Institute for Religion and Society'. All of these institutes conduct research in their own field with the academic staff based at Heythrop College.

It offers both full-time, and part-time courses. Teaching consists of a combination of lectures, seminars and tutorials. Significantly, Heythrop College, Oxford University and Cambridge University make up the only three universities in the United Kingdom to offer one-to-one tutorials after every assignment.[5][6] This high level of tutelage makes the college noted for excellence in research and a high proportion of undergraduate students go on to study at a postgraduate level.

Department of Philosophy[edit]

The Philosophy Department offers a variety of specialist philosophy degrees, either as single honours or as joint honours with theology, ethics or religious studies. The College has a thriving postgraduate research community, with students often attached to one of the many Institutes or Centres at the College. Students are free to choose from a wide range of modules, embracing both the continental and analytic traditions, as well as the history of philosophy. The department has also recently attempted to expand its programme with the introduction of a 'Politics' module into a small amount of its undergraduate degrees.

Department of Theology[edit]

The Theology Department offers a wide range of degrees. In addition to theology, religious studies and ethics, Heythrop is the first college in the world to offer undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses specifically focused upon the Abrahamic Religions, a course led by members of each of the three Abrahamic faiths.[7] The Theology department also offers a Divinity programme to candidates for the Catholic priesthood, making it a centre of Roman Catholic training and learning in the United Kingdom and students not following a vocation are encouraged to take one of the broader theology courses.[8]

Department of Pastoral and Social Studies[edit]

The college has a unique history and range of teaching in pastoral theology and allied disciplines, with a strong profile both in the United Kingdom and internationally. The Pastoral and Social Studies Department currently offers degree programmes in the following fields: Pastoral Theology and Practical Theology, including Sociology of Religion; Christian Spirituality; Ethics; Liturgy; Canon Law; and Psychology, including a unique specialism in the Psychology of Religion.[9]


The College library houses 180,000 volumes, which constitutes one of the largest Theology and Philosophy libraries in the United Kingdom. Students at Heythrop College are also able to access the Senate House Library, and the libraries of the other colleges of the University of London due to the college's membership and specialist status. Through the University of London, Heythrop is also able to offer access to a wide range of digital journals and learning resources, such as JSTOR, giving its students a variety of material to access.

The Heythrop Journal[edit]

Heythrop College sponsors The Heythrop Journal, the international philosophy and theology academic journal. Published on a bimonthly basis, The Heythrop Journal was founded in 1960 by Bruno Brinkman SJ as a format for research on the relational dialogue between philosophy and theology. Still retaining this original function, the current editor is Patrick Madigan SJ, a faculty member of Heythrop College.

Student life[edit]

Students' Union[edit]

The Union is managed by a team of eleven officers, elected annually. Officers have individual responsibilities, including student welfare, entertainments, societies, communications, development, campaigns and mature students. The team is headed by the sabbatical President and the sabbatical Vice-President, students who have either completed their studies or have taken a year out in order to fill this full-time position and help provide and foster the close-nit society that exists at Heythop College.

The Lion Newspaper[edit]

Heythrop's student newspaper, The Lion, was established in 2010 to provide Heythrop students with an independent source of information about the college as well as providing a platform for discussion and debate. The Lion is operated by eight students editors, including two Senior Editors and an Editor-in-Chief. The Lion is a founding newspaper of the London Student Journalism Support Network, which won the NUS "Best Student Media" Award in 2011.


Heythrop has its own on-site hall of residence but, due to the college's relatively small size in comparison to other constituent colleges of London University, the Alban Hall is also relatively small housing only ninety-six students. Housing is also available through the University of London Intercollegiate Halls, and the University of London housing service and most first year students choose to remain in or around Heythrop's Kensington Campus.

Notable people[edit]

Notable alumni[edit]

Notable faculty and staff[edit]

  • Elizabeth Burns, Lecturer in philosophy of religion
  • Alan Carter, former head of the philosophy department
  • Dan Cohn-Sherbok, visiting research fellow
  • John Cottingham, professorial research fellow
  • The Rev. Fr. Frederick Charles Copleston, SJ, CBE, taught as lecturer in philosophy
  • The Rev. Fr. Michael Holman, SJ, current Principal of Heythrop College
  • The Rev. Fr. Kevin T. Kelly, former lecturer in moral theology
  • Stephen Law, senior lecturer in philosophy
  • Martyn Percy, professorial research fellow
  • The Most Rev. George Stack, former governor
  • Peter Vardy, former Vice-Principal and senior lecturer in philosophy
  • Miguel Vieira, former research assistant to the Dean of Research
  • The Rev. Fr. James Hanvey, SJ, Jesuit priest, theologian, Director of the Heythrop institute for Religion, Ethics and Public life. Currently Master of Campion Hall, Oxford.
  • The Rev. Fr. Maurice Bevenot (1897-1980), SJ, taught as lecturer in ecclesiology
  • The Rev. Fr. Theodore Davey (1935-2013), CP, taught canon law from 1965-2006.
  • Gemma Simmonds, CJ, senior lecturer in pastoral studies and theology. Current President of the Catholic Theological Association of Great Britain.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Table 3 - HE student enrolments by HE provider, level of study, mode of study and domicile 2013/14". Higher Education Statistics Agency. Retrieved 31 January 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c d Heythrop College, [1].
  3. ^ "University of London: Heythrop College". london.ac.uk. 
  4. ^ Heythrop College, Registered Charity no. 312923 at the Charity Commission
  5. ^ "Letters: Don't give bigots a platform". The Independent. 
  6. ^ Heythrop College
  7. ^ "Undergraduate Study". Heythrop College. 
  8. ^ "BD Bachelor of Divinity". Heythrop College. 
  9. ^ Heythrop College, [2].

External links[edit]