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The largest Catholic higher-education college in England and Wales, St Mary’s, Twickenham, has been granted full university status. The college, in south-west London, was awarded the title by the Privy Council on 23 January following a series of setbacks in its campaign to be upgraded.
The development coincides with the high-profile appointment of Francis Campbell, the former British ambassador to the Holy See, who takes over the running of St Mary’s in April. He was appointed as principal but will now take the title of vice chancellor.
Mr Campbell, 43, is expected to oversee a period of diversification of subject choice, with the university offering more professional and part-time courses. The new status is likely to boost the college’s profile internationally and attract more overseas students.
“These are exciting times for St Mary’s and the granting of university title will facilitate its development both at home and abroad,” said Dr Arthur Naylor, the interim principal. Bishop Richard Moth, chairman of the governors, added: “This is excellent news for St Mary’s and recognises all that the university offers to students and staff alike.”
Founded in 1850, St Mary’s becomes the country’s newest university just a year after acrimonious divisions culminated in the resignation of its former principal in January 2013. Professor Philip Esler cited “friction” and negative attention from the Catholic press after rows over his plan to merge the school of theology, philosophy and history with the school of communication, culture and creative art.
St Mary’s, now to be known officially as St Mary’s University, Twickenham, enjoys a close relationship with the countries’ bishops. Pope Benedict XVI met children from Catholic schools and other faith leaders at the college during his 2010 visit to Britain.
Photo: Jason Hawkes