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St Mary's University

Call for Papers for a symposium on the theme: Faith and Education: contemporary and global issues in historical perspective

Date: Wednesday 17th April 2024

Venue: St Mary’s University

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Hosted by the Centre for Catholic Education, Research and Religious Literacy

2024 marks the 80th anniversary of the 1944 Education Act, which in England and Wales at least has defined the nature, character and governance of faith-based education, Religious Education and Collective Worship for the entirety of the post-war world to the present. Indeed, its iconic status in this regard has made it virtually impervious to radical alteration.

However, the role of the churches and faith communities in state-funded schools and higher education has an even longer history, the fundamental issues having resonance beyond the national and parochial concerns of one jurisdiction, indeed it is of global significance. This symposium aims to bring together those at the forefront of the historical, philosophical, theological, and political debates surrounding the question of the continuous legitimacy of the state-funding of faith-based schools and universities.

Issues to be discussed

Amongst the issues under discussion and towards which contributory papers are invited will be:

  • On what bases can faith-based education be justified?
  • What have been the historic contribution of the faith communities to education, and what are its legacies?
  • What rights, freedoms, constraints and responsibilities does this historic contribution command today?
  • What is the role and place of faith and belief in schools, and in the school curriculum, in a contemporary national education system?
  • Are the issues facing faith-based education in way comparative across national jurisdictions?
  • What is the role and place of religion and belief in contemporary further and higher education, whether in the curriculum or in chaplaincies?
  • Do schools of a religious character retain a legitimate place in plural and increasingly non-religious societies; if so, how have they, or might they, need to adapt?
  • What place does theology have in the continuing justification for the involvement of the church in education policy, curriculum, and practice?
  • To what extent should faith and belief education take into account the changing character of religious perspectives on life, and the secularisation of society?
  • What is distinctive about faith-based education other than as a state-legitimated form of indoctrination?
  • Is a new form of theology of education to draw upon to meet the challenges to the legitimacy of faith-based schools and universities?
  • What form of religious education is legitimate in faith-based schools and how is this distinguishable from those in non-denominational schools?

Aims of the event

This event aims to:

  • Promote debate concerning contemporary issues on matters of faith and education issues in historical, global, theological and political perspective.
  • Consider and evaluate the historic contribution made by the faith communities to educational policies and practices, and their merit and weaknesses as ongoing arguments for the legitimacy of faith-based education.
  • Promote debate about the relationship between the historic contribution and the nature and future of religious education in all publicly funded schools.


The symposium is generously subsidised by the Society for Educational Studies, such that hospitality if provided free-of-charge to all registrants of the symposium (a returnable deposit of £50 will be expected from those registering and subsequently attending).

Travel and accommodation costs of invited keynote speakers (to be confirmed) are also covered by this subsidy. Bursaries are available for travel and accommodation for doctoral researchers on a first-come, first-served basis up to a maximum of 5 bursaries.

Special issue

A special issue of Religions is being planned as a result of this event. Those who wish to have their paper considered for this special issue will be invited to submit their papers by the end of June 2024.

Please send title, abstract (no more than 300 words) personal details, including institutional affiliation to by 29th February (date extended from previous deadline).

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