Jesuit college in London can no longer afford running costs

Heythrop College in London has announced that it will cease to exist as a “college in its current form, as a constituent college of the University of London”, from 2018.

In a statement the college said its governors had discussed ways in which “Heythrop’s mission and work might continue in today’s higher education environment” and that they would try to find mission and work for the college.

However, it marks the end of the educational institution in its present form after 400 years.

In a statement Fr Michael Holman SJ, principal of the college, said: “Since its move from Oxfordshire in 1970, Heythrop has been a constituent college of the University of London. During those 45 years, the college has made a very considerable contribution to the academy, to the life and ministry of the Church in this country and overseas and to the common good.

“The college has educated a great many students at undergraduate, postgraduate and doctoral levels. They have benefitted from the commitment and enthusiasm of those who have taught them and from the personal and formative approach to learning which characterises the Jesuit tradition of education the world over.”

The reason for this change is financial, with the College blaming the costs of increased regulatory requirements “without the economies of scale available to other colleges and universities”. The college added: “Expectations of all that makes up the ‘student experience’ in addition to the quality of teaching and learning (for example, facilities, the technology infrastructure, internships and activities) have also increased and meeting these expectations has become more costly”.

“Meanwhile, government reforms have meant that the market for students has become more competitive and, specialising in just two subject areas as we do, the opportunities to diversify have been limited.”

Heythrop had for 45 years enjoined the “very generous support of the Society of Jesus”, it said, including rent-free property use in Kensington, worth several millions of pounds, but the Jesuits’ ability to fund this was limited.

The college had also been in talks with St Mary’s University, Twickenham, but a deal failed to materialise.

The college added: “We are very grateful to the governors, the vice chancellor and the senior leadership team of St Mary’s, for the time and attention they have generously given over the past year to exploring a strategic partnership.

“Heythrop College in its many incarnations has survived for more than 400 years because it has changed when change has been needed. Further change is now needed and the Governors are committed to working with our friends and collaborators, especially the Society of Jesus, to continue the mission and work of the College. So, although the College in its current form will come to an end, its mission and work will not.”

A spokesman for St Mary’s University said: “Following a formal request from the governing body of Heythrop College to St Mary’s University, Twickenham, in July 2014 to explore the possibility of forming a strategic partnership, both parties engaged in extensive discussions over the past 12 months.

“Despite much progress it became clear in recent weeks that there was not sufficient consensus to move forward with a viable and financially sustainable model. We thank the staff and students of Heythrop College for their constructive approach to the talks over the year and wish all those involved the best for the future.”

Cardinal Vincent Nichols said he “regretted” the fact that Heythrop could not continue in its present form.

“I now look forward to taking up the conversation with the Province (of the Society of Jesus) about how the important contribution of the Bellarmine Institute can be continued and developed,” he said.