Welcome to the webpage on Christianity.
Curriculum & Student Provision Specific Issues:
Source: HEA Faith Guides for HE: A Guide to Christianity
Debunking Common Stereotypes -
Students active in on-campus Christian groups have identified a number of stereotypes they feel are unfair:
‘Christians are moral prudes—they have no sense of fun’
One student pointed out, ‘Campus Magazines will often run satires on theological students and the Christian Union portraying them as cliquey, naive, uptight and preachy—but would these magazines portray Muslims or other faith groups in this way?’
It is true that some Christians take a stance on issues of courtship, sexuality, alcohol and drug consumption and feminism that might easily be labelled conservative in today’s social climate. However, each Christian surveyed reported having no trouble maintaining friendships with those who lived by different moral standards. In addition to this many Christians active in on campus Christian groups reported having no trouble attending most events at the Student’s Union and no difficulty having a drink at a bar. Some Christians have suggested that popular culture’s preoccupation with drinking and sex actually limit the number of ways fun can be had.
‘Christians do whatever their priests tell them to do’
Whether or not a person decides to do everything their priest tells them is an issue that certainly transcends Christianity. Atheists, Muslims, Agnostics and Buddhists might decide or not decide to exercise their personal autonomy in the face of their own authority figures. Many Christian students would not be ashamed to receive guidance from a variety of sources, including their spiritual leaders. In traditional churches priests preside at the rituals deemed to be the most significant in relating people to divine reality. In addition to this priests teach, preach, and sometimes offer counselling. In non-conformist traditions pastors or lay ministers offer many of the same roles described above. Many priests, pastors and church workers have received professional training in counselling and offer their services free of charge.
Key Sensitivities -
All Christians interviewed for this Guide expressed anxiety about being type cast as naive or puritanical. Finding other Christians on campus with whom they can share their faith is seen as highly desirable. Also, finding a church or chapel in the community where they can feel comfortable is a high priority among Christians active in Christian groups on campus.
There are a number of areas where adherents of other religions might have strong sensitivities but where Christian students generally do not. Students interviewed did not have strong feelings about offensive language or dress codes. One student remarked, ‘Some people do dress too provocatively, I feel, but I don’t find it offensive.’ International students who are Christians may vary from the more broadly tolerant characterisation of UK Christianity that permeates this section—especially if in their country of origin Christianity is a more prominent and influential social force and/or is characterised by more charismatic and fundamentalist expressions than those found where the church has been long established.
Creation and Evolution -
While there are occasional news stories about small groups of Christians who oppose the teaching of evolution in favour of the belief of a literal six day creation period, this attitude is relatively rare among British Christians. A little more common would be the objection by some Christians that the educational system is dominated by only one type of evolutionary theory (Darwinian) to the exclusion of alternate theories on the origins of life, including the possibility of several different models of creation. Some Christians would even call themselves ‘theistic evolutionists’, adhering both to what they believe can actually be proven by science (an old earth and evolution on a micro scale) alongside the belief in a creator. Many Christians would view the opening chapters of Genesis not as a scientific account of origins but as a testimony to the reality that there is meaning, purpose and direction in life.
Inter-Faith Dialogue and Proselytising -
Interfaith presentations and dialogues are likely to prompt a variety of responses among Christian students. Some, a minority, would value such events only if they were a part of a larger programme of seeking to convince others of the truth of the Christian faith—to the exclusion of truths being found in any other faith. Most Christians, however, would welcome such events, able to find some truth in faiths other than their own, yet believing that their faith holds the ‘final’ or ‘complete’ truth. Other Christians are pluralists (it could be argued that Christian pluralism was born in the UK), believing that their faith is simply their chosen path and making no claim for its finality for others. This same range of attitudes can be found about proselytising. Only a small minority of Christians would actually pursue the conversion of others. Most Christians would see as their mandate to simply ‘love their neighbour’, though would be happy if someone wanted to become a Christian. Some Christians would actively disassociate themselves from those who wanted to proselytise.
Sexual Intercourse -
There is a strong view among many practicing Christians on campus that sexual activity is to be reserved for marriage. This can translate into a reservation towards some of the more sexually explicit activities sponsored by the Student’s Union (eg mud wrestling) and a concern that overnight HE field trips offer separate sleeping quarters for women and men.
Women in Leadership -
1994 saw the ordination of the first woman to the priesthood of the Church of England— in 2005 there were nearly 1,000. Most Christian students accept this decision, though some reported that there might be hesitancy in accepting a woman chaplain.
Field Trips -
There were few objections among Christian students to the way field trips had been conducted by their higher education institution. Some students reported they would be more comfortable with separate sleeping quarters for women and men on overnight trips. Some students wanted the freedom to attend church on a Sunday morning, though none insisted on this. There was some concern if the only planned leisure activity involved drinking alcohol; however, many Christian students would have no difficulty spending some time in a pub.
Use of Media -
There were also few objections to the use of media in the classroom. One student remarked, ‘Perhaps a film which displayed a blatant disregard for the Bible and its message, like ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’, might be offensive to some Christians—though it wouldn’t be a problem for me.’
Prohibitive Activities -
Only two types of activities were named as possibly being offensive to Christian students: the more rowdy evenings in the Students’ Union which involved an abundance of drinking, and Religious Studies field trips that asked students to participate in the worship of a non-Christian religion. (Simply observing or learning about another religion would be acceptable to nearly all Christian students).
Recruitment and Retention -
Christian students were able to point to several ways their university or college could help them adjust to life in their new surroundings.
Provision of a List of Area Churches -
Many students active in campus Christian groups are also eager to find a church in the community in which to worship on Sundays. Lots of these students are eager to ‘church-shop’, having never had the opportunity to attend different denominations. Others will prefer to find the type of church in which they were raised. Many churches in a university town sponsor regular events for students—their ministers acting as part time chaplains when a full time higher education chaplain for their denomination is not available on campus. A list of area churches complete with contact phone numbers and a listing of events for students will help many Christian students make the types of contacts necessary for a rewarding time of life and study.
Advertising Chaplaincy Services -
Many students, particularly mature students, will wish to contact the campus chaplain for counselling and guidance. Contact information with the chaplain’s phone number and a map of where to find her or his office should be a part of the university’s welcome package for new students. The campus chaplain will also sponsor the university’s Christian group (sometimes called ‘The Chapel Group’, or the ‘Anglican Student’s Group’). The time and place of meeting of this group should also be visible.
The Christian Union and Other Church Groups -
Some Christian students who are uncomfortable with the Anglican Church—or who want to join several Christian groups available—will want to know about the university’s Christian Union group or any other Christian student organisation on campus.
Please refer to the 'Higher Education Academy Guide to Christianity' for an
overview and examples of adjustments specific to staff/student in universities:
HEA Guide to Christianity (PDF, 968 KB)
Chaplaincy guidance from the Scottish Inter Faith Council, please refer to: