Faith in Further and Higher education

Faith in Further and Higher Education Institutions (FE/HEI)

Often, chaplaincy provision in FE/HEI reflects ancient history. The older universities were establsihed by the churches and would automatically have had a chaplain. Newer institutions may have a secular constitution which forbids chaplaincy provision. Some HEI fund their own chaplaincy; others are funded by the church. Further education institutions generally do not have such a long and illustrious history as the established universities and often do not have much chaplaincy provision.

Over the years the role of the chaplain has diminished in line with a general decline in adherence and interest in Christianity until recent anti-religious discrimination legislation was enacted. The need to comply with the new laws together with the concern that universities might be a fertile recruiting ground for what are now termed ‘jihadists’ has led to a spotlight being shone into some dusty corners.. In this new world, chaplaincy is seen to have a multi-faith requirement and potentially a broader role.

Reformed chaplaincy organisations within FE/HEI are now regarded (principly by the Government) as potentially encouraging social cohesion, supporting greater provision for religious expression, and also as a group which might ‘police’ what is being disseminated to young people in the name of religion.

Buddhists along with members of all faiths and religions have been caught up in these legislative changes and concerns over social cohesion. They have been approached to support ‘chaplaincy’ in various ways. So, where do Buddhists and those of the less prominent faiths fit into this situation? What can be done to help, and what are the pitfalls awaiting the unwary in this complex area? The attached report gives some background, but this issue raises many others for the diverse range of Buddhist organisations in the UK.

These issues concern ‘accreditation’ of chaplains; how chaplains can properly express and represent the diversity of Buddhism; the training and skills of chaplains; the availability of volunteers for this role; the relationships between chaplains and Buddhist Reverends, Bhikkhus, nuns, Lamas, teachers, and other ‘full-time Buddhists’, how FE/HEI chaplaincy fits with other types of chaplaincy (prisons, hospital, armed forces, and others) and the willingness and ability of UK Buddhist organisations to engage with the whole chaplaincy question.

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