Heythrop College, University of London

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Heythrop College, University of London
MottoNil Sine Fide (Latin)
Motto in English
Nothing Without Faith
Active1614 (in Louvain, Belgium)–2018
ChancellorThe Princess Royal (University of London)
PrincipalClaire Ozanne
AffiliationsCathedrals Group
University of London
Universities UK
Websitewww.heythrop.ac.uk Edit this at Wikidata
Heythrop College logo.jpg

Heythrop College, University of London, was a public university and the specialist philosophy and theology college of the University of London located in Kensington in London and 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 Roman Catholic links and ethos while offering an educational experience that respected all faiths and perspectives.[1] Heythrop closed at the end of the 2017/18 academic year,[2] with the final graduations taking place at the Senate House on 12 December 2018.[3] It formally ceased operations and left the University of London on 31 January 2019.[4]

Heythrop was situated on Kensington Square in London, whilst students also had access to University of London facilities, such as Senate House and its extensive library. The college had three main departments offering undergraduate and postgraduate degree courses in philosophy, theology and related social sciences as well as five specialist institutes and centres that promoted research in their respective fields.

Heythrop had a relatively small student population of, allowing one-to-one tutorship with its academic staff, one of the few institutions outside of Oxford or Cambridge to do so in the United Kingdom. The college was also widely regarded as being home to one of the largest philosophy and theology related libraries in Britain;[5] following the college's closure the library (which remains the property of the Jesuits in Britain) is available thorough the University of London's Senate House Library.[6][7]

In June 2015 the Governing Body concluded that the College in its current form, as a constituent college of the University of London, would come to an end in 2018.[8] The college attempted to negotiate an arrangement with another British university that would have enabled it to continue existing in some form, but these efforts were unsuccessful.[9] Meanwhile, its site (on prime Kensington real estate) has been sold, with some of the proceeds reverting to the Religious of the Assumption,[10][11] and is to be redeveloped as a luxury retirement complex.[12] It was confirmed in June 2017 that the college would close in October 2018, with no plans to transfer any departments or continue on another location.[13][14] From 1 August 2017, the University of London took over the academic direction previously given by Heythrop for the Bachelor of Divinity and related Diploma and Certificate of Higher Education programmes offered through the University of London (Worldwide).[15]


Maximilian I, Elector of Bavaria, Patron of the College

The Faculties of theology and philosophy for English Jesuits were founded in 1614 by the Society of Jesus in Leuven, Belgium, before moving in 1624 to Liège.[16] Whilst in Liège, the College received patronage from Maximilian I, Elector of Bavaria, and the blue and white of the Elector's coat of arms was incorporated into the college's own coat of arms. During the French Revolutionary Wars, the College moved to Great Britain with the faculty of philosophy being located at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire and theology in St Beuno's College in Denbighshire. Being over 400 years old, Heythrop is one of the oldest universities in England,[17] 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 faculties came together in Heythrop Hall, Oxfordshire. As a Collegium Maximum, the College's right to admit its students to degrees was confirmed by the Holy See in 1932. In 1964, the College was raised to the status of a Pontifical Athenaeum, called the Heythrop Faculties of Theology and Philosophy, open to lay men and women and clerics from outside the Society of Jesus.[18] However, the college sought integration with the British educational system and moved to London in 1970, gaining a Royal Charter of incorporation as a School of the University of London in the Faculties of Theology and Arts on 11 March 1971, and began to award University of London degrees.[19] 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.[20]

In January 2014, the College received decrees from the Congregation for Catholic Education of the Holy See, therefore officially reactivating its ecclesiastical faculties under the patronage of Robert Bellarmine. The ecclesiastical faculties are today grouped together as the Bellarmine Institute. In June 2014, Heythrop College celebrated 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.[1]

In September 2013, Heythrop College announced that it would stop recruiting undergraduates for University of London degrees, noting its current discussions for a strategic partnership with St Mary's University, Twickenham. This move was due to financial difficulties the College faced as an autonomous College of the University of London.[21]


Heythrop College and the Marie Eugénie Chapel
Heythrop College gardens

Heythrop College was 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 was provided for all students, in addition to the University of London chaplaincy, as well as an Islamic prayer room. The site is now being redeveloped as sheltered accommodation.

Unlike many University of London colleges, which are divided among many campuses, the Kensington campus housed all Heythrop College facilities. Its library housed one of the largest philosophical and theological collections in the United Kingdom which is now located at Senate House. All lecture halls were located in the Kensington campus, giving students the ability to communicate with academics more easily. On this site the Alban Hall of Residence was 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 served as the London centre for a Jesuit University in the United States, Fordham University. Meeting facilities on the premises were often used by external groups: one such meeting in 2012 led to the formation of A Call To Action (ACTA, British Catholic Association).


The College library contains some 180,000 volumes, which constitutes one of the largest Theology and Philosophy libraries in the United Kingdom. Its collections dates back to the founding of the College in 1614. The collections were housed in two buildings. The Theology, social sciences and literature collections were held in the Copleston Wing of the College while Philosophy collections were held in the Maria Assumpta library in its main building. Heythrop also hold many of its more precious volumes outside in the College repository in Egham. It has a large and important collection of pre-1801 books, such as Edward Baddeley's collections and a first edition of Isaac Newton's Opticks. The College library is owned by the Society of Jesus in Britain. With the closure of the college the library was transferred to the University of London Library in Senate House.

Students at Heythrop College were 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 was 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.[22]

Academic profile[edit]

Heythrop prepared students for a range of specialist taught and research degrees. The college had five specialist institutes and centres which promoted research, conferences and a variety of educational outreach activities. These were 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 conducted research in their own field with the academic staff based at Heythrop College.[23]

It offered both full-time, and part-time courses. Teaching consisted of a combination of lectures, seminars and tutorials. Significantly, Heythrop College, Oxford University and Cambridge University made up the only three universities in the United Kingdom to offer one-to-one tutorials after every assignment.[24] This high level of tutelage made the college noted for excellence in research and a high proportion of undergraduate students went on to study at a postgraduate level.

The College had a growing research profile in its final years. It participated in the most recent Research Excellence Framework (2014) and gained considerable recognition for its research. The combined results for all elements of the REF placed Heythrop at 16th in the overall ranking for the Theology & Religious Studies unit of assessment. Overall, 22% of its research outputs was deemed world-leading and a further 40% was deemed internationally excellent. The research works recognised in its submission reflected efforts in both its Theology and Philosophy departments.[25]

Department of Philosophy[edit]

The Philosophy Department offered a variety of specialist philosophy degrees, either as single honours or as joint honours with theology, ethics or religious studies. The College had a thriving postgraduate research community, with students often attached to one of the many Institutes or Centres at the College. Students were 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 had 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 offered a wide range of degrees. In addition to theology, religious studies and ethics, Heythrop was 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.[26] The Theology department also offered 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 were encouraged to take one of the broader theology courses.[27]

Department of Pastoral and Social Studies[edit]

The college had 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 offered 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.[28]

Bellarmine Institute[edit]

The Bellarmine Institute was the new name given to the Heythrop Faculties of Theology and Philosophy in 2013.[29] It was named after St. Robert Bellarmine, a Cardinal and Doctor of the Catholic Church to whom Heythrop has been dedicated to since 1926. The faculties were opened up to those outside the Society of Jesus in 1964, when the college (then located in Oxfordshire) became a 'Pontifical Athenaeum'.[30] However, after moving to London and becoming established as a constituent college of the University of London the faculties became dormant. They were re-activated on 17 September 2013 by a decree of the Congregation for Catholic Education from the Holy See, expanding the opportunities and teaching the college could offer to seminarians, priestly candidates.[31] Before the closure of the college it was stated that the Society of Jesus, the college governors and the Archbishop of Westminster would look for ways for these ecclesiastical faculties to continue.[32][33] In July 2019 both faculties were transferred to St Mary's University Twickenham and renamed Mater Ecclesiae College[34]

The institute offered degree programmes in Theology and Philosophy, intended for those preparing for ordination to the Catholic priesthood, those already engaged in church ministry and other scholars. The ecclesiastical degree programmes offered covered all three cycles for priestly formation in the Catholic Church:[35]

Public lectures[edit]

The College hosted a number of free public lectures, research seminars and study days throughout the year on a variety of philosophical & theological topics. Concurrently, Heythrop ran a number of paid events that were open to the general public.

Heythrop College ran the Loschert Lecture, a lecture series delivered by eminent philosophers, theologians and people of faith. The series was intended to reflect from a consciously Christian perspective, on significant social, political and ethical issues in society. The series was named after William Loschert, Chairman of the Trustees of the London Centre of Fordham University, who donated the funding for the lectures. Lecturers included Charles Margrave Taylor, Baroness Scotland, Peter Sutherland KCMG, Lord Brennan.

The Heythrop Journal[edit]

Heythrop College sponsored 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 as a format for research on the relational dialogue between philosophy and theology. Still retaining this original function, the current editor is Patrick Madigan, who was a faculty member of Heythrop College.[36] As of 2019, the journal continues to be published.[37]

Student life[edit]

Students' Union[edit]

The Union was managed by a team of eleven officers, elected annually. Officers had individual responsibilities, including student welfare, entertainments, societies, communications, development, campaigns and mature students. The team was headed by the sabbatical President and the sabbatical Vice-President, students who had either completed their studies or had taken a year out in order to fill this full-time position and help provide and foster the close-knit society that existed at Heythop College.[38][39]

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 was operated by eight students editors, including two Senior Editors and an Editor-in-Chief. The Lion was a founding newspaper of the London Student Journalism Support Network, which won the NUS "Best Student Media" Award in 2011. In 2015, the Lion ceased future publications of future newspapers. From September 2015, the Lion continued to be published in the form of magazines instead of newspapers.[39]


Heythrop had 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 was also relatively small housing only ninety-six students. Housing was also available through the University of London Intercollegiate Halls, and the University of London housing service and most first year students chose to remain in or around Heythrop's Kensington Campus.

Notable people[edit]

List of rectors and principals[edit]

Notable alumni[edit]

George Tyrrell
John Carroll

Notable faculty and staff[edit]

See also[edit]

Coordinates: 51°29′57.12″N 0°11′25.32″W / 51.4992000°N 0.1903667°W / 51.4992000; -0.1903667


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  4. ^ "Heythrop College". University of London. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
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  18. ^ "Heythrop Opens Doors to All". The Catholic Herald. 5 March 1965.
  19. ^ Catholic Directory, 1971 on.
  20. ^ "Heythrop College history". Heythrop College.
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  24. ^ "Letters: Don't give bigots a platform". The Independent.
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  33. ^ "Heythrop College to close after 400 years". Catholic Herald. 26 June 2015. Cardinal Vincent Nichols said he “regretted” the fact that Heythrop could not continue in its present form. “I now look forward to taking up the conversation with the Province (of the Society of Jesus) about how the important contribution of the Bellarmine Institute can be continued and developed,” he said.
  34. ^ "Mater Ecclesiae College – Ecclesiastical Faculties at St Mary's University".
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  38. ^ "Student Union". Retrieved 26 September 2017.
  39. ^ a b "The Enrichment Programme". Heythrop College. 2014-10-03. Retrieved 2017-09-26.
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  42. ^ "Matt Malone, SJ, Named New Editor in Chief of America". America Magazine.

External links[edit]