BRITISH Methodism’s last remaining higher education institute, Southlands College, is in talks to hand over responsibility for management of the college to its parent body, Roehampton University.
Southlands is one of four constituent colleges of Roehampton University, along with Digby Stuart (Roman Catholic), Whitelands (Anglican) and the Froebel Institute (Humanist). They amalgamated in 1975 to form the Roehampton Institute, which gained university status in 2004, now based in south-west London.
In a bid to centralise its services, the university has asked Southlands, Whitelands and Digby Stuart colleges for a long-term lease of their properties. The university already holds a 999-year lease on Froebel College, while Digby Stuart was due to enter into a formal 125-year lease this week.
If agreed, the university would take full responsibility for ongoing “maintenance and development” of Southlands, paying staff costs and managing areas such as accommodation, catering and conferences. Some of Southlands’ services are already being subcontracted to a centralised university authority from this summer.
The proposals have been in the pipeline for some time. However, the Methodist Council and the Conference are required to give approval to any changes agreed.
Senior Methodist leader Revd Lord Griffiths has requested prayer over discussions to hand over the denomination’s sole remaining higher education college. Southlands College is described by Lord Griffiths as one of Methodism’s ‘best-kept secrets’. The college has 1,500 students, houses a Methodist research centre and most of its governors are currently appointed by the Methodist Council. The chair of governors, Revd John Pritchard, told the Methodist Recorder, they are consulting with ‘eminent Methodists’ over handing management of the college to the university. This would centralise services and reduce costs in the face of rising financial demands. Consultations are said to have produced a ‘mixed’ response. Lord Griffiths, a former chair of governors, said they need God’s help in knowing ‘How do we keep the Methodist interest alive?’
Source: Methodist Recorder (31/7)