Chaplains on Campus: Understanding Chaplaincy in UK Universities
Church of England Education Office Church Universities Fund
Total value of project
Value to Coventry University
Durham University, Canterbury Christ Church University
Duration of project
01/07/2016 - 31/10/2019
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.
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.
This project investigated the role and impact of university chaplains in ensuring that universities treat fairly students and staff who hold a religion or belief and help facilitate them.
The project finding, that chaplains are a major resource for the CoE and for universities, formed the basis of the published 2019 report. The research found that of the c. 1,000 chaplains, c. 60% are volunteers, and they are having a positive impact in helping improve universities’ ‘religion or belief literacy’ and meeting the religious needs of students and staff. Project findings shaped the Church of England vision document, Faith in Higher Education: A Church of England Vision. In this, the Church of England affirms that chaplaincy is a “significant resource for universities and colleges” and a key way for the Church to promote “spirituality for everyone” and “make a vital contribution to equality and diversity by helping to ensure universities and colleges are attentive to the religious needs of students and staff”. This Vision is being incorporated into the Education Office Strategic Plan 2020-25 and the report will continue to shape the FHE Development Group’s work.
Report including recommendations for enhancing chaplaincy provision: full version (80,000 words) and Executive Summary (10,000 words). Chaplains on Campus: Understanding Chaplaincy in UK Universities (http://www.churchofengland.org/chaplainsoncampus) by Kristin Aune, Mathew Guest and Jeremy Law (2019).
Expanded online resource for chaplains at church foundation universities.
Three regional training conferences were run, in Coventry, Durham and Canterbury. Presentations on the research were given at many other chaplaincy, Church of England and academic events.