TROUBLED PPH Wycliffe Hall has come under further pressure after the Church of England announced this week that it had brought forward a scheduled inspection earlier than planned.
The Bishops’ Committee for Ministry is to carry out its inspection next October, three months before the original date of January 2009.
Wycliffe Hall’s Principal, Dr Richard Turnbull, denied suggestions that the inspection had been brought forward because of concerns about recent events at the Permanent Private Hall.
He claimed that the earlier date of inspection “allows the normal inspection of Wycliffe at the beginning of a wider inspection of the Anglican theological institutions in Oxford”. He added, “There is no urgent or rapid inspection since there is no need for such.”
Inspections at the Hall, a leading centre for evangelical training, normally occur every five years.
The PPH, which can present students with Oxford degrees in the same manner as colleges, has become mired in controversy surrounding its leadership.
Earlier this year, three former Principals called for the resignation of current Principal Richard Turnbull.
In September, a University panel concluded that Oxford’s seven PPHs were at risk of not providing a broad liberal education. Referring to Wycliffe, the report raised concerns that it did not offer an “an Oxford experience in its essentials” and was not “a suitable educational environment for the full intellectual development of young undergraduates”. It recommended that school-leavers be barred from going to Wycliffe to study for their undergraduate degrees.
Last month Council member Clare MacInnes resigned, and five other staff members have also left in the last year.
Louis Henderson, a spokesperson for the Church of England’s Communication Office, said that it was unlikely Wycliffe Hall would lose recognition from the Church, which would advise on management and how to rectify any weaknesses.
Henderson said, “If an institution is failing so seriously, appearing unable or unwilling to rectify the faults identified by the inspection, the Bishops’ Committee’s ultimate sanction is to recommend the House of Bishops, to which it reports, to withdraw recognition of the institution for training for ordination. This, I might add, is almost inconceivable, and certainly has never happened in my time.”By Mohsin Khan