13 July 2016, The Tablet

Deal between Heythrop and Roehampton collapses

The partnership was the remaining lifeline for the 400-year-old institution due to close in 2018

Negotiations to secure the future of Heythrop College by partnering with the University of Roehampton have failed. 

This afternoon the Chair of Governors at Heythrop, Andrew Kennedy, announced his immediate resignation and confirmed that the Society of Jesus, which runs Heythrop, had ceased talks with the London university.

The partnership was the remaining lifeline for the 400-year-old institution, which is due to close in 2018.

In a statement the Jesuits said: "The Society of Jesus regrets it is unable to support any continuing negotiation with Roehampton University, as it believes it will be impossible to form a partnership which meets the requirements of all stakeholders. In due course it will consider how best to continue its work in the intellectual apostolate."

Mr Kennedy’s resignation comes a week after the sudden resignation of Heythrop’s principal, Fr Michael Holman SJ, who cited ill health.

Last week 42 members of staff from Heythrop wrote a letter to The Tablet expressing concern that Cardinal Vincent Nichols had failed to support the merger. The Tablet also understands that the Jesuit Provincial, Fr Dermot Preston, sought the cardinal’s approval for the merger, and that it was not forthcoming.

“The Society of Jesus has sought the support of the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster and of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. We confidently hoped to receive support for a merger that holds so much promise but there are now signs this support may not be forthcoming,” they wrote.

Concerns about the Bellarmine Institute, the ecclesiastical faculty at Heythrop that helps form seminarians, were understood to be a sticking point. Cardinal Vincent Nichols told The Tablet: “The future of Heythrop College is inseparable from the priorities of the British Province of the Society of Jesus. I have offered further discussions with the Society about its future priorities, among which the continuation of the Bellarmine Institute is, in my view, central.”

The current Deputy Chair of Governors, Mr Jeremy Heap, becomes Acting Chair of Governors with immediate effect. He will serve as Acting Chair in the short time it should take for Governors to appoint a new Chair.

For the inside story on what happened to the merger read Catherine Pepinster’s article in The Tablet this week.

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