Changes at Heythrop College
After already serving more than four and a half years of what was originally intended to be a four-year mission, Fr Michael Holman SJ, will step down as Principal of Heythrop College later in the year, Fr Holman made his decision after consulting with his Jesuit Superiors.
In a message to staff and Governors, Father Holman wrote: “It has been my pleasure and privilege to work with the Governors over the past four years and two terms. I have the highest regard for Heythrop’s work, for its students, who are such a credit to the College and the Society, for its wonderful staff and, of course, for my equally wonderful colleagues on the senior leadership team. I am very grateful to everyone and I shall miss you all. Please be sure that before I go I shall do all I can to help with the hand-over to my successor.”
Fr Dermot Preston, Provincial of the Jesuits in Britain, said of Fr Holman: “Michael has been an impressive Principal of the College; his dedication and commitment have been remarkable. He has managed to combine a pastoral and apostolic enthusiasm with great gifts for administration; he has been a grace to the College in these turbulent years.”
In mid-2015 Heythrop College announced that it would be closing as a college of the University of London at the end of the academic year 2017-2018. This decision was reached because it was no longer economically viable to operate a small, independent specialist college in the challenging environment of higher education in Britain.
For the last twelve months, the College has continued to deliver a high standard of service to all its students, while the Governors and the Jesuits in Britain have been consulting with a range of stakeholders, including the international Society of Jesus and the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, to research possible options to continue its mission in modern Britain.
Discussions were opened with the University of Roehampton in the autumn of 2015 and over the months that followed various imaginative and intricate plans were explored which were hoped might have continued Heythrop’s mission of the teaching and learning of philosophy and theology in a new and sustainable form. However, despite the best efforts of all concerned, it became clear to the Trustees that it would not be possible to find a satisfactory arrangement which met the requirements of all the major stakeholders. Consequently, in June 2016, the Trustees decided to formally end their negotiations with the University of Roehampton.
The Trustees of the Jesuits in Britain are grateful to the Vice Chancellor, Professor Paul O’Prey, and the Governors of the University of Roehampton for their willingness and generosity in exploring a wide range of possible options in order to continue the Jesuit mission.
The Trustees will continue to assist the Governors of Heythrop in the teach-out the University of London programmes, and have already pledged the resources to ensure that the College honours all its commitments to its students and staff during this process.
In due course the Jesuits in Britain will decide how best to develop their ministry in theology and philosophy.