Oxford’s Theology degree will no longer contain an obligatory Christianity component past first year as of Michaelmas 2016. While Theology prelims will retain two compulsory Christianity modules, Theology FHS will not. The same applies to Theology and Oriental studies as well as Philosophy and Theology. The Theology course itself has also been renamed Theology and Religion.Johannes Zachhuber, Board Chairman of the Theology Faculty and Professor at Trinity College, told Cherwell that this was a result of “a five-year review process involving both academics and students.”He attributed the change to the wishes of both undergraduates and academics, saying, “We recognise that the people who come to study at Oxford come from a variety of different backgrounds and have legitimately different interests. They come from the respected communities of Britain.“If you have a very rigid curriculum, there will be an increasing mismatch between what lecturers are doing in their research time and what they’re having to teach.”Zachhuver said that the course will now include “a wide variety of papers covering Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism as well as many different methodological approaches to the study of religion including theological, historical, sociological, and anthropological ones.”He hopes it will also allow students to “critically [question] Western assumptions about religion which often imply the inferiority of non-Western cultures.”Dr Benjamin Thompson, Coordinator of Undergraduate History, told Times Higher Education that this fell into a broader pattern, saying, “With the Cecil Rhodes statue debate, this ‘decolonisation’ of the curriculum is now quite interesting.”Harry Cain, a third year Philosophy and Theology student, was enthusiastic about the proposal. He told Cherwell, “If the Christianity papers weren’t compulsory, I potentially would have looked into an area of theology like Islam or Buddhism to see how the worldviews interlink and draw on each other; with this change, hopefully students like myself will pursue their interests more rather than learning modules which are taken solely out of necessity for the course.”However, he highlighted a fear that the course might risk “becoming an assortment of distinct topics rather than separate insights into an overarching worldview.”Oxford’s Christian Union (OICCU) replied to Cherwell’s request for comment by stating that it was not the place of the society to comment on decisions made by the Theology Faculty.The Oxford Islamic Society has been contacted for comment.
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