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Chris Rolfe

Regents Theological College welcomes 65 new students

Dave Newton, Principal of Regents reflects on the summer months and Covid-19

"Uncertain times", the "new norm", and "social distancing" have become familiar phrases in the context of Covid-19, and with last summer's difficulties around A-level results, it's an understatement to say it was a difficult time for students looking to the future.

As we continue to hear of university lockdowns, the new tier four system, and with the winter term finishing early so students could self isolate before Christmas, Regents Theological College became very aware of every scenario.

Dave Newton, Principal of Regents, said “Last March, lockdown was a shock, but as soon as it was announced, we decided to send all our residential students home because we didn't know how long it would last. Within a week, we'd transferred everything from face-to-face delivery to online teaching.

"Over the summer months, we realised we would have to re-imagine how Regents could continue to deliver its undergraduate, postgraduate, and PhD programmes. With everything we were hearing from the government, from our academic partners at the University of Chester, and from the Office for Students, things would have to change.

"We’re validated through the University of Chester, and they basically said, ‘you need to make your courses Covid-safe, so whatever gets thrown at you, your courses have to work, and your assessments, assignments and teaching all has to be above board’.

"So we created a programme of ‘blended learning’ – a mix of face-to-face teaching for up to 45 students in our 250-seat lecture theatre, which we can be live-streamed to allow for distanced learning for the 20% of students who have chosen that option. It's fairly unique because lots of universities are doing face-to-face or online, but not necessarily both at the same time.

"With over 250 students currently studying with us across all the courses we offer, creating this set-up was a major undertaking, with significant financial investment needed to update computer equipment. We even added new windows to improve ventilation.

"The dining room was also redesigned, with Perspex screens added across tables to allow students to socialise safely during meals.

"After that, the biggest fear was recruitment, and we wondered if anyone would come back in September?

"But it is a true answer to prayer that student numbers this year are up 10%. Recruitment for our master's course is higher than it had been for the past five years, with 25 students enrolled instead of a typical 20. Forty-five undergraduates enrolled, instead of 40, and we also have a further 25 new students on our Ministry Foundation Certificate.

"I wouldn't have been surprised if the numbers had been 20%-30% down, but for them to be 10% up is miraculous. We are really grateful to God for that.

"Once the issue of recruitment was eased, the next question was whether it was possible to get students back on site in September for the new academic year, and what face-to-face teaching would look like in a Covid environment?

"We have restructured the courses, and assessments, so a student's location is not an impediment to learning. Face-to-face exams have been removed, with open book or case study assessments being introduced, and there is now a greater emphasis on written assessments, with presentations being done via Zoom.

"Despite the challenges of this situation, it has created unexpected opportunities for growth, and opened up a whole world of learning.

"One of our students is in Germany, for example, has decided to stay there to study this year. That would never have been possible previously, so the situation has created a global platform for Regents, opening up new opportunities for the global market. It could have a very positive impact on recruitment in who we’re able to equip and train.

"Crisis often leads to innovation and imagination, and we've been encouraged by the Lord opening up these new avenues, and these new ways of working; there’s been a sense of peace in doing that. Even in the unknown, you know God is always working.

"For the 50-plus students remaining on-site, modest, socially-distanced activities continue. They have been put into household groups and bubbles according to the course they are studying on."

"It’s different, but we have adapted, and the campus remains the vibrant spiritual environment we all enjoy. Even though we’re in a new world where we do things differently, people are able to grow and find new ways of doing ministry.

"My hope, going forward, is that we get a new vision for what church needs to be, and where God is leading us in this.

"We've seen Him at work, and found the way through, and been blessed in the process."

Just Looking open days

If you're thinking of a degree in theology, Regents is running virtual 'Just Looking' open days on Zoom, with dates as follows:
Thursday 28 January at 7pm – undergraduate and postgraduate
Saturday 20 February at 11am – undergraduate and postgraduate
Thursday 22 April at 11am – undergraduate
Tuesday 25 May at 7pm – postgraduate
Saturday 19 June at 11am – undergraduate
Saturday 17 July at 11am – postgraduate

If you would be interested in joining one, and finding out about everything on offer at Elim's theological college, please see click the link here for details:  Regents web site.


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