An academic conference on Newman at Liverpool Hope University has been arranged to coincide with the papal visit in September

A major international conference to celebrate the work of John Henry Cardinal Newman will coincide with the Pope’s visit to Britain in September.

Liverpool Hope University has arranged the conference, “The Idea of a University – Revisited”, in association with the International Federation of Catholic Universities.

Pope Benedict XVI will beatify Cardinal Newman in Birmingham on September 19 and for the days immediately beforehand, experts and scholars will gather in Liverpool to reflect on Newman’s legacy in the development of the modern university.

Newman’s major publication, The Idea of a University, was written in the 1850s and helped form many of the ideas which governed higher education in the decades that followed.

Leading education experts and theologians have been invited to speak including eminent Newman scholars Fr Ian Ker and Professor Mark Chapman, both from Oxford University. Fr Frazer Mascarenhas SJ, of St Xavier’s College, Bombay, and Fr Jamal Khader of the University of Bethlehem are among those adding an international dimension to the event.

The opening address will be given by Professor Gerald Pillay, vice-chancellor of Liverpool Hope University, himself an eminent theologian.

John Henry Newman was a priest in the Church of England who converted to Catholicism in 1845. A celebrated writer and poet, he was proclaimed Venerable by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in 1991. His beatification on September 19 is a source of great interest, given the early years of his life were spent in the Anglican tradition. Appropriately, Liverpool Hope is Europe’s only ecumenical university.

The conference is the idea of Professor Bart McGettrick, Liverpool Hope’s dean of education, who said: “We will be celebrating Newman’s massive contribution to education. Over the centuries, he has made one of the most significant contributions to educational thought by an English intellectual. Any serious scholar of education in contemporary Britain will have reflected on some of the ideas in Newman’s work. He described in the most articulate terms the nature of a university in his time.

“The world has changed dramatically, however, since Newman wrote The Idea of a University.

“There were just a handful of universities in his time and now there are many, many more across the world and they vary hugely in their ethos and their scope. We wish to honour Newman by reflecting on what he might now consider to be the idea of a university.”

The conference will have speakers from every continent, and is aimed at a wide audience, including academics, teachers, theologians, and those who think more generally about values in education and public life.

It will provide a forum for discussing various views about modern universities and provide a congenial forum for discussing matters of significance in higher education.

Scholars and practitioners from different parts of the world are invited to come together in a spirit of scholarly fraternity to share and explore ideas of mutual interest. Bookings are now being taken for the conference which runs from Thursday September 16 to Sunday September 19.

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Liverpool Hope University is Europe’s only ecumenical university. Its foundation colleges – the Sisters of Notre Dame and Christ’s colleges (Catholic) and St Katherine’s College (Church of England) – joined in an ecumenical federation in 1980. In 1995 a single, unified, ecumenical college called Liverpool Hope was formed.