Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Wycliffe Hall 'Truth' Shock Horror!

Over on the Fulcrum website, conversation has once again turned to the state of play at Wycliffe Hall Theological College. A certain 'Jimbo' has posted that according to an internal college memo (and one might wonder how that got into general circulation) Wycliffe faces a "big shortfall" in this year's intake as they have "30+ leavers" compared with "14 firm acceptances of ordinands for next year with 3 more places offered dependent on selection conferences."

According to Jimbo this is "puzzling as Richard Turnbull seems to have been telling people that Wycliffe is full for next year."

Paul Eddy, a self-described ordinand and General Synod member, suggested in a follow-up post that this might be because, with Easter coming so early, registration at all colleges was a bit slow at present. Meanwhile, he added that such "negative overtones" on the Fulcrum website were "a joy to the Devil" and made a plea for a bit of editorial control, only to be put in his place by a certain Greg Yerbury with a negative overtone of his own, suggesting that Eddy get off his "high horse" and adding that "Turnbull's claim that Wycliffe was full was an exaggeration".

Personally, I don't know whether or where Richard Turnbull has claimed Wycliffe Hall is already full for 2008, but I was able to use a modern invention, known as the 'telephone', which (as its name suggests) allows one to talk live at a distance, to speak with Simon Vibert, the author of the internal memo. Simon assured me that recruiting for all colleges is, indeed, a bit slow, but that several candidates were being interviewed at Wycliffe next week. This does seem to contrast with Jimbo's implied '17 tops', but since I have no idea who Jimbo is, I have no idea what was his or her source for these figures.

That's the great thing about blogging though - so much easier to post an anonymous statement than speak to someone the story is actually about. Or am I myself being uncivil?

By the way, it is quite true that Wycliffe have cancelled their Summer School due to lack of support from North America, as was also mentioned by Jimbo. It is a shame, but as Simon Vibert says, it owes a lot to the present economic climate.

Revd John P Richardson
6 May 2008

PS: Each 'telephone' in this country has its own allocated number which can be dialled from other 'telephones'. The number for Wycliffe Hall is 01865 274200 if anyone would like to speak to Simon or another staff member themselves.

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  1. I remember being at a Theological college that can boast full numbers, or close to it (Oak Hill). But at this time of year things generally looked pretty bleak. The was always a rush from June and some people weren't confirmed until literally a couple of weeks before term started. So it may be that Wycliff will be down next year, but it could mean absolutly nothing.

    It does beg the question what all the anti-Turnball moaning is about. People can choose where they go, people can go there or not. There are colleges where numbers are much tighter than Wycliff.

    John, I see your phone comment, but isn't it more fun just to make wild accusations and speculations then blame someone for something that might not happen on someone we don't really know - but have decided we don't like, on the basis of something we think we once heard?

    Darren Moore (Tranmere)

  2. (Chelmsford)

    Personally, I don't know whether or where Richard Turnbull has claimed Wycliffe Hall is already full for 2008

    Well, John, I used another modern invention, Google, to check the source of this claim. And in fact it seems to be based on a statement not by Turnbull but by the same Simon Vibert who you spoke to. He was quoted in The Times in October 2007 as saying:

    In terms of where Wycliffe is at the moment, we are full.

    He then clarified his remark with

    We are quarter full already for ordinands next year.

    So it was apparently a misunderstanding that Wycliffe Hall is full for 2008. But Vibert has only himself to blame for the low numbers, since he seems to have allowed a newspaper article which surely most of his potential students read to give the impression that even for 2008 places would be hard to come by.

  3. Thanks for looking that up, Peter. I actually tried phoning Simon Vibert back earlier to see where the attribution of the 'full for this year' claim to Richard Turnbull might have arisen, but I couldn't get hold of him. It may be that 'Jimbo' or others have their own sources later than October last year.

    Incidentally, I don't think Simon Vibert was at all concerned about numbers for this year, so I don't think anyone is being 'blamed' for anything at this stage.

  4. I think Turnball/Virbert are being blamed for 'spoiling' the college and moving it away from an Open Evangelical position, or at least OE friendly - at least that's the vibe from Fulcrum.

    But I think this comes down to market forces. If people want a more OE college, let them go there, if they want something else let them go there and let's see who's viable. The non-Evangelical colleges, from what I gather are struggling. The more Evangelical ones are doing OK. Clearly market forces are demanding something more like Oak Hill (I'm not suggesting Wycliff will be the same, it will have it's own strengths/weaknesses/distinctives) then let them have it. The changes at Wycliff have been experianced there and elsehwere before, in varying directions in their long histories.

    I get a bit impatient with the 'wow is me - oppressed by CE-ism', when infact CE-ism has been quiet and marginalised for years. Look at the balance of Bishops and colleges and you'd still have to ask, what are Fulcrum types worried about?

    Darren Moore (Tranmere)