A new private college seeking to offer a course in the Catholic intellectual tradition has submitted materials to the Quality Assurance Agency and is negotiating with a university over validating its degree, although it is not seeking an official mandate from the Church.
Founding trustee and director Clare Hornsby is hoping that Benedictus College, which plans to operate from a central London location and charge students £12,0000-a-year, will offer a liberal arts education found nowhere else in the United Kingdom.
She said a course – which includes a term studying in Italy – had been written and submitted for approval to the Quality Assurance Agency, which oversees academic standards in higher education.
Ms Hornsby, an art historian who has worked at the British School in Rome, is also negotiating with a non-Catholic university over validating Benedictus’ degree course although did not wish to disclose the name of the university.
Last weekend, one Sunday newspaper said the college was being billed as “the first proper Catholic university since the reformation” but a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Westminster said the college had not asked for the official recognition needed in order to call itself a Catholic college or university.
Ms Hornsby said Benedictus is not seeking official Catholic status nor is it presenting itself as a Catholic college or university. It is simply, she added, inspired by the Catholic intellectual tradition. She added that Benedictus had “cordial relations” with the hierarchy in England and Wales.
In order for a college or university to call itself Catholic officially, an episcopal mandate from the local bishop, in this case Cardinal Vincent Nichols, is required.
Ms Hornsby said it was “looking difficult but not impossible” for Benedictus to start admitting students from next year.