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Chaplains on Campus: Understanding Chaplaincy in UK Universities


Church of England Education Office Church Universities Fund

Total value of project


Value to Coventry University


Project team

Professor Kristin Aune, Dr Lucy Peacock, Professor Mathew Guest (Durham University),  Revd Dr Jeremy Law (Canterbury Christ Church University) 


Durham University, Canterbury Christ Church University

Duration of project

01/07/2016 - 31/10/2019

The Church of England Education Office logo

Project overview

The overall aim of the report is to provide universities, religious bodies and student organisations with an evidence base and recommendations to enhance chaplaincy provision across the university sector. The report takes an innovative approach by examining the experiences and perspectives of the four key constituencies that shape university chaplaincy: (1) chaplains themselves; (2) the students who engage with chaplaincy services, and the decision-makers who determine how university chaplaincy is resourced and managed; (3) university managers and (4) religion and belief organisations. These perspectives are not understood in isolation, but in relation to one another within the social realities of university life.

The report presents fresh empirical data across the majority of UK HEIs, with a detailed focus on five universities, selected to represent the institutional diversity of the UK HE sector. Following a typology developed in Guest and Aune’s (2013) research, these five ‘types’ encompass: (1) one ‘traditional elite’ university; (2) one ‘red brick’ university; (3) one ‘1960s campus’ university; (4) one ‘post-1992’ university and (5) one Cathedrals Group university.

Project objectives

Interviews and surveys were used to explore the following overarching questions:

  • What is the purpose and value of university chaplaincy?
  • How are chaplains and chaplaincy volunteer staff equipped for their work?
  • What are chaplains understood as doing, with whom, and where?
  • Who accesses chaplaincy services and why?
  • How do chaplains’ perceptions of their role differ from those of university managers, religious decision-makers and students, and with what consequences?
  • How and to what extent might chaplaincy within Cathedrals Group institutions – as the group of universities that self-consciously gathers on the basis of their Christian foundation and ethos - constitute a distinguishable phenomenon?

This report analyses different perspectives on these questions in order to build a complex understanding of the vocational identity of university chaplains.

 Queen’s Award for Enterprise Logo
University of the year shortlisted
QS Five Star Rating 2023