Oxford’s theology dept set for multi-faith rebrand

Oxford University’s historic theology department looks set for a controversial multi-faith rebrand.

The department may also ditch the requirement for all theology undergraduates to study Biblical subjects such as Old Testament and New Testament.

And a revised syllabus could place more emphasis on religions such as Islam and Hinduism.


The controversial proposals feature in a 40-page review document of Oxford’s Faculty of Theology.

The review urges the department to “strongly consider” changing its name because many theology students want to study Islam, Hinduism and Judaism as well as Christianity.

Some of the alternative titles being considered are Faculty of Divinity, Faculty of Theology and Religion and Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies.


The review also recommends a “radical” rethink of the department’s teaching.

It says: “The requirement for all students to study Old Testament, New Testament, ancient doctrine and modern doctrine is old-fashioned by both national and international standards, and whilst Oxford has traditional strengths in these areas, the argument that it offers a distinctive programme is no longer adequate.”

It claims that a revised syllabus would make the degree more attractive “to students whose primary interests lie outside the Judeo-Christian tradition”.


Diarmaid MacCulloch, Professor of the History of the Church, said: “I think it would be useful if we did change our name or made it more inclusive to cover both theology and religious studies.”

“But not all my colleagues agree”, he added. “It would reflect what we are doing now, which is branching out beyond the historic base to Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and Judaism.

“Not that we want to lose any of our Christian teaching at all, we just want equal quality in the other religions.”

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