Higher Education after Brexit

Here are a few brief observations from Chaplaincy on the uncertainty created by Brexit for  UK  Higher Education.

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Chris Hale, Head of Policy at Universities UK spoke at the HE Chaplains annual conference in January 2017.  He outlined  the general uncertainty that now affects staff and  students, as well as threatening future research funding and partnerships.It is a picture chaplains see in thier own universities.

I have had conversations with staff from EU countries worried about whether they can stay in the UK. Some have been working here for decades.There is now much evidence that the usual right to remain procedures don’t work for existing EU nationals. See the LSE Brexit blog on this.

At Imperial about  20 per cent  of  students and 25 percent of staff  come from EU countries other than Britain. Student applications from EU countries are down by 7%.

A significant  amount of research funding comes from the EU’s Horizon 2020 programme. The UK Government has now agreed to meet any loss of funding to these projects when the UK leaves the EU. This may do something to maintain collaborations between EU and UK  universities.This area is being watched closely. What will happen to science funding after 2020 is not yet clear.

 

See also Universities UK Brexit round-up.

 

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Tom Beaudoin: speaking a second religious or secular langauge.

thomas-beaudoinAs a team of Buddhist and Christian chaplains at Imperial we were really excited to hear Tom Beaudoin’s key-note talk at the Conference of European University  Chaplains  in the Netherlands last year.

Tom is Associate Professor of Religion at Fordham University. In his talk he was looking at life in a globalized world. He argued that there would be great advantages if we were all to learn to speak a second religious or secular  language.

Language, as a metaphor for our worldview, suggests that we all have a religious or secular ‘first language’ for talking about how we see the world and what we believe, for example Christianity, Islam, Buddhism  or atheism, humanism, agnosticism.

To learn a second ‘religious language’ does not mean  giving up our first language, our ‘mother tongue’. In a world were we are constantly meeting people whose world view is very different from our own it is good to be able speak even a little of another language.

So, while Christianity is my first language, I can ‘speak’ a little Buddhism. I have learned this second language from working with colleagues, sharing silent meditation together and hearing about their traditions. I am not fluent and I am not a native speaker.  But I know enough to be a good ‘house guest’ and (I hope!) to travel courteously  with my second language. This way I learn more, and see a little from the Buddhist perspective.

The other gift of learning a new language is returning to our first language with new eyes, and a better ear for the language itself. I now have a better understanding of my mother tongue for having started learning a second language!

Space for Spirit, Room for Religion

Here is a copy of a post about the European Conference coming up in June ’15 for ‘Thinking Chaplaincy’ – a blog for university chaplains.

Hi, as the UK and Ireland rep for the Conference of European University Chaplains I want to invite all of you working in HE Chaplaincy to  our conference in the Netherlands, June 8-12th 2015.

All the practical details are on the website and there is a very ambient trailer to watch too!

The theme is ‘Space for Spirit, Room for Religion’.DSC_0225

As Higher Education Chaplains we are always talking about space. “What kind of space do you have?” is a frequent question we ask each other- some of us work from a desk in student services, some of us manage multi-faith centres, some of us have space ‘off campus’, and while some dream of what could be done with ‘more space’, others deal with the daily caretaking issues of ‘shared space’.

Along with these very practical issues the conference will explore the question “Is any space left for Spirit in contemporary, secular society?”

I like the approach of the organisers when they say,

“We won’t approach secularity as a problem nor as something to regret. Rather, we consider it as a given fact that shapes both our context and our work. In the keynote speeches, we will be considering society, secularity and the changing role of religion and spirituality. Among the many related themes we will consider some contemporary tasks of theologians, the room we give to our ‘clients’, as well as the rooms we are given and spaces we claim for ourselves.”

There is information on the conference website about the key note speakers but here is my own summary of what’s going to be on offer in the Netherlands.

Hope to see you there.

Andrew Willson, UK and Ireland representative for the Conference of European University Chaplains  a.willson@imperial.ac.uk

The conference will be opened with an address by Karin van den Broeke, Chair of the Protestantse Kerk in Nederland (PKN).

The first key note speeches are on ‘Exploring chaplaincy in a dispossessed world’  with Prof Tom Beaudoin, from Fordham University, New York, USA and Prof Theo de Wit, Faculty of Catholic Theology, Tilburg University, the Netherlands.

There’s a trip to Amsterdam, where we will hear Prof Mechteld Jansen, Protestant Theological University, ask ‘Why does society need theologians?’

Followed by a visit to ‘De Nieuwe Poort’, a pioneering chaplaincy Center at the Amsterdam Financial Center and a meeting with its founder the pastor and social entrepreneur Rev’d Ruben van Zwieten. (There is free time in the great city of Amsterdam too!)

There is also a key note talks on “chaplaincy, theology and innovation – what can we learn from internet marketing and customer feedback?” by Florian Sobetzko, Innovation Evangelist and teacher at University of Bochum, Germany.

Finally, Prof Martin Walton (who has a great reputation for using singing, drama and artistic improvisation in his talks), will reflect on these themes from his perspective as professor in spiritual care and chaplaincy studies at the Protestant Theological University, in Groningen.

Interfaith Action for Social Justice

News flash! You need to follow the link to see the pictures and get the details

I have just seen details of this great project ‘Sukkah’ at St Jame’s Church Piccadilly who are working with the Jewish Social Action Forum at West London Synagogue. It’s  joint celebration of the Church’s Harvest Festival and the Jewish Sukkot Festival. With food donations going to local food banks.

Very pleased to see the involvement of

  • RCA sculptor and alumni Anna Sikorska
  • the Trussell Trust
  • scriptural reasoning

Great event!

Memorial Service for a well loved and much respected engineering entrepreneur

Colin with Turbine editedIt was a great honour to assist at the memorial service for Prof Colin Besant, who died suddenly during the summer. The service was an opportunity for friends and colleagues to pay their respects and give thanks for the part that Colin had in their lives and work. Colin was a highly creative engineer, and engineering entrepreneur. He began working to develop nuclear reactors in the 1960s. In the late 1960s he saw the potential for Computer Aided Design for engineering and manufacturing. He also worked on power generation, heat exchange and electro-magnetic imaging. Colin was one of the pioneers of what is now known as ‘the spin-out company’, the way of developing ideas from PhD research into businesses. You can read more about his career in this obituary.

With all memorials – whether for someone with religious or philosophical beliefs – we want to prepare an event that is true to the values and beliefs of the person being remembered. So, for Colin, this was something very traditionally Anglican. He was a member of his local Church and a Church Warden – one of the key elected lay leaders. Yet, with academic colleagues coming from a wide range of world views, we also explicitly say that everyone is welcome, and that we do not presume that everyone has the same beliefs. Those attending are, I hope, then free to use the liturgical space and time for their personal reflections, thanksgiving and farewells. That’s not exactly rocket science. But it is, I hope, a rooted, and open, expression of Anglican Christianity.

For those who are interested, the engine in the picture is an Auxiliary Power Unit for a Vulcan aircraft. This was discovered by Colin in Derby and brought back to the department of Mechanical Engineering for experimentation!

Colin Besant, may he rest in peace, and rise in glory

Pieta from Product Design on Good Friday

Here is something for your visual meditation this Good Friday. It is a short film by Emilie Voirin, who graduated last year from the Product Design Course at the Royal College of Art.

Play link to ‘Pieta’ on Vimeo.

I really like the questions about religious practice and art that Emilie asks as a product designer – they were great conversations.

For the majority of us thankfully, holding the body of a dead adult child is not an experience we are likely to have. Yet religious practice does set aside days of the year as invitations to contemplate subjects we might prefer to ignore. And there are many places where, tragically, the Pieta experience happens to many.

Today is Good Friday – the day of the year when Christians remember Jesus’ death and this scene of his body being held by Mary his mother. So time to ponder both art and life.

These are Emilie’s own words on the project;

“I have deconstructed the gesture of the famous Pieta, which depicts the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus, and created tools to reproduce it as a filmed performance. In this way I want to reinvigorate traditional religious art by re-contextualizing its production, conveying the power of religious codes and their interpretation through the language of objects.”

 

 

sharing the context: fashion

Model viewed from side wearing pink/purple knitted top and feather like skirt with pink purple

I am starting a new thread of posts to showcase some of the work that goes on in the Colleges where I am Chaplain. I hope it gives a glimpse of the different contexts of Chaplaincy.Out of these diverse subjects come many of the ideas and encounters behind my posts about faith, spirituality, the secular and religious, and above all, conversation and dialogue.

So,here is ‘sharing the context: fashion’ – video of the Royal College of Art’s Fashion Show – the work of this year’s MA students. Enjoy.

Muslim Chaplaincy in the US

I have been following the tweets of Dr Ingrid Mattson on the ‘Innocence of the Prophet’ film and the violent protests against it. Dr Mattson was a key-note speaker at the Global Chaplains conference I attended in Yale in the Summer.  She talked about developing the first university accredited training course for Muslim Higher Education Chaplains in the US. It is an interesting story of establishing a new role within Islam.

What I especially liked was the way she was able to describe the role of the Chaplain in helping students to reflect for themselves on their own religious tradition. She was good too on how religions contain multiple views on the same topics . What she was describing was how Chaplains helped to develop personal religious literacy. This is not the role of policing doctrine and enforcing ethics. Dr Mattson described the way she encouraged student chaplains to respond sensitively to the personal issues of their students.

Her key-note talk is at  http://new.livestream.com/accounts/551391/GlobalChaplains2012/videos/1731149

or follow her  @IngridMattson

Jubilee, boats, rain and ‘the shared life’.

The Queen’s Jubilee was for me an experience of waving at people on boats in the rain and then staying at home to watch TV of other people in the rain.

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Among all this I was struck by Rowan Williams’s sermon for thanksgiving for the Queen’s 60 years of service since her coronation.  He talked about the ‘…recognition that we live less than human lives if we think just of our own individual good.’

He is drawing attention to simple and rarely remarked upon idea that we find the meaning and value of our lives only in relation to other people.

 I like the idea that being human is about being turned out from ourselves towards others. It is a key part of having good encounters and conversations, especially with those who have different views of the world from our own. There is a link here to the growing importance among students of having good dialogue between people of different faiths (see also the posts about Alain de Botton).

Rowan Williams also suggests that the ‘shared life’ is transforming.

‘Moralists (archbishops included) can thunder away as much as they like; but they’ll make no difference unless and until people see that there is something transforming and exhilarating about the prospect of a whole community rejoicing together – being glad of each other’s happiness and safety. This alone is what will save us from the traps of ludicrous financial greed, of environmental recklessness, of collective fear of strangers and collective contempt for the unsuccessful and marginal – and many more things that we see far too much of, around us and within us.’

The whole sermon is at http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/2514/archbishops-sermon-at-st-pauls-for-national-service-of-thanksgiving

More boats and rain…

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To Chemistry for cake…

 

On Friday after work I went to Chemistry. I was invited to a staff party to celebrate Doris Pappoe’s 25th anniversary working for the department’s administration.

It was great to see the huge affection that the staff have for her and for all that she has done for them over the years.
It really was a privilege to be part of this celebration. It is so good to see people appreciated and loved by colleagues.

And thanks for the cake Doris!