Heythrop College, University of London, ceased its academic activities at the end of the 2017/18 academic year. A brief history of the College since its beginnings over 400 years ago is given below.
Like most ancient places of learning, Heythrop's name, character and location have changed over the years, with occasional episodes of high drama along the way.
In 1614 England was a dangerous place for Roman Catholics, and it was not possible to educate Catholic priests there. A wealthy English Catholic gave a sizeable sum of money to establish a college at Louvain (in modern-day Belgium) to educate English Jesuits in philosophy and theology. After a few years the College moved to Liège where it remained for around 170 years, carrying on when the Jesuits were suppressed worldwide in 1773.
By 1794, however, revolutionary France had dissolved all religious orders, guillotined the king and queen and embarked upon the “Reign of Terror”. France was at war with England. It was dangerous to be a priest and dangerous to be English, and the armies of revolutionary France were advancing. By this time, though there were serious restrictions for Catholics, England was relatively safe. The decision was made to come home.
Staff and students settled at Stonyhurst in Lancashire. Soon after the University of London was established in 1836, the College at Stonyhurst was recognised to prepare students for University of London degrees. Philosophers remained in Lancashire whilst Theology relocated to North Wales. After 70 years or so apart, they came together again in 1926 at Heythrop Hall, near Oxford – the name which the College has retained. In the second half of the twentieth century the pace of change quickened. Heythrop began to admit lay people as well as Jesuits, and women as well as men. In 1970 the College moved to London and in 1993, to Kensington. In 1971 a Royal Charter established it as a College of the University of London specialising in Theology and Philosophy, with a mission “to offer its students an education marked by intelligence, scholarship and generosity of spirit”.
Heythrop College’s Philosophy, Theology and Pastoral Studies Departments managed various undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes, whilst maintaining their own research and housing specific research Centres and Institutes.
Following the end of the 2017/18 academic year, Heythrop College regrettably closed its doors to students. Changes in the Higher Education sector and increasing administrative pressures faced by smaller institutions meant Heythrop could no longer continue in its current form.
The College ran its final summer conference, ‘Let Him Easter in Us’ in July 2018. Videos recordings taken during this three day conference can be viewed here.
'Heythrop College 1614-2014: A Commemorative History'
by Michael J Walsh
As part of Heythrop’s 400 Year celebrations, a publication entitled 'Heythrop College 1614-2014: A Commemorative History' was written by Michael J Walsh (former Heythrop Librarian and Fellow of the College). In his book, Michael talks about the College’s various locations, and explains why it moved; he describes the people who taught in it and the lives of the students who studied in it; and he discusses what was taught, not least the surprising amount of science that used to find a place in the Jesuit curriculum.