A Bachelor degree program in theology will be offered by the University of Newcastle for the first time, making the University one of just three in New South Wales to offer such a degree.
The University Council today approved the introduction of the degree following extensive discussions with the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle about bringing the broad academic study of theology into a university setting.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), Professor Kevin McConkey, said the new degree would be of interest to people in the broader community as well as people interested in training for religious ministry.
"The Bachelor of Theology degree program offers a study of religious traditions and thought. It will deepen and broaden students' understanding of theology as an academic discipline, and its role in society," Professor McConkey said.
"The partnership between the Anglican Diocese and the University of Newcastle will provide a new avenue of higher education for the religious and broader community.
"Theology was a core focus of study when universities were first established in the Middle Ages, yet in Australia it has mostly resided outside of the university system.
"Theology and religious studies are very popular and the University is pleased to offer the Bachelor degree program with the active support of the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle."
The program commences in July 2007. The University anticipates around 12 students will enrol in the first intake of the three-year undergraduate degree program.
A new position of Professor of Theology will be created, and this position will be funded for the first five years of the program by the Anglican Diocese of Newcastle.
Anglican Bishop of Newcastle, Dr Brian Farran, said world religions were a part of social and political awareness and exploration of them was important.
"Placing theology in the public arena in a tertiary setting where everything can be critically assessed and dialogue can take place, is an exciting way for the Diocese to make links with the community and develop religious conversation," he said.
"We are looking forward to developing this partnership with the University of Newcastle and enabling significant explanation of beliefs and values."