As one of England’s four Catholic universities, Leeds Trinity was founded in 1966 originally in the form of two teacher training colleges, run by the Sisters of the Cross and Passion and by a forerunner of the Catholic Education Service.
Professor Charles Egbu was appointed as Vice-Chancellor in 2020, amid new Covid variants, lockdowns, and the widespread adoption of online teaching by universities.
A practising Catholic, he had originally planned to study as a medical doctor, but when his father died he realised he needed to study nearby instead and support his mother and other siblings.
He ended up applying for a course in quantity surveying at what is now Leeds Beckett University, achieving a 1st class Honours degree.
After a stint working on construction sites he returned for a Master’s degree in the built environment, then a PhD in construction management at Salford University, and over the course of the next two decades ascended to senior leadership positions in various higher education institutions.
The year before his appointment to Leeds Trinity Professor Egbu served as President of the Chartered Institute of Building, and was recently announced as an Honorary Fellow of The Royal Institute of British Architects.
He acknowledges the significant changes in higher education that pandemic-led online teaching has brought about, that it has enabled a greater flexibility for personalised learning, at a time and place convenient for example to mature students, that students can in effect be remotely supported wherever they are. However, as universities emerge from the pandemic, this has also meant reintroducing an element of in-person learning.
“We’re now trying to bring them back,” Professor Egbu said, “it’s been challenging for certain of our students, work-based learning students would still want to come in one day a week, though those who have caring responsibilities, caring for the elderly, sick, or disabled, who have childcare issues would want to stay where they are.
“There are a lot of benefits, but also challenges in trying to make sure that students really understand what it is to come in, to understand the culture of the university, and work face-to-face with their peers.”
Diversity in leadership
Three years after his appointment, across UK higher education Professor Egbu remains the only black Vice-Chancellor. He said that while there had been an increase in the proportion of undergraduate students from ethnic minorities in recent decades, for instance increasing 24% to 27% in the five years to 2020, a degree award gap has held steady. He added that more students from ethnic minorities drop out from their courses, and are 13% less likely to achieve a good degree grade than their white counterparts.
He said: “Very few from minority communities get into graduate jobs, and it becomes more telling when you look at senior positions, only 0.7% of professors in the UK are black professors, very few people are able to get into a Dean’s position or Pro-Vice Chancellor. The reason is simple, the pipeline is not coming through, by the time you get into that sphere there are very few black people, and also very few people of disability.
“My university is doing quite a lot because we are a university that believes in social justice, in the issue of recruitment, career promotion, mentoring and coaching, but there’s more that everyone has to do to improve this position.”
Catholic higher education
Leeds Trinity, along with England’s three other Catholic universities, Liverpool Hope, Newman, and St Mary’s, was originally set up to train teachers, especially to teach at schools in less privileged areas.
Today, teachers continue to graduate from the university, while the mission has expanded in the form of the university’s social justice framework, and with the appointment of Dr Ann Marie Mealey in November last year as Director of Catholic Mission. She is devising the university’s Catholic mission strategy based on Catholic social justice and social teaching, and has established initiatives such as a series of free online lectures on Catholic approaches to issues such as policing, economics and art, and curated an annual conference on Catholic higher education. Dr Mealey is also setting up continuing professional development sessions for time-pressed local schoolteachers, and supporting the virtues-based Stella Maris Leadership Awards scheme run by nearby Notre Dame Catholic Sixth Form College.
Professor Egbu said: “Fundamentally my Catholic upbringing, that wherever you are you must give more than you get, has meant me trying to support those who are less privileged or who struggle to get into academia. I’ve made it a point of duty to always bring to universities what I call widening participation, for people who are struggling to get there — once they’ve got the promise, and the opportunity, we need to realise their potential.”
However, while many aspects of the university’s Catholic life are flourishing, Professor Egbu said, issues remain for the sector as a whole. “Many of us as Catholic universities are struggling,” he said, “because in a secular society those things that stood us well in the past perhaps are becoming a challenge. In the past if you asked somebody why they came they would say because of the philosophy and ethics, the Catholic mission and Catholic teachings. Very few people are now coming to the university to do this.”
Global family, local mission
Leeds Trinity has recently become a full member of the US-based Catholic Health Association, ahead of plans to introduce nursing degrees next year. Partnerships are also being established through membership of the International Federation of Catholic Universities, and in Latin America. As a result, the number of international students is expected to grow significantly. A year ago there were only 15 international students, at present there are 80, but in the next three years the total is expected to rise to 500.
“We know that many students benefit greatly from being able to travel across the world between Catholic universities,” Professor Egbu said, “so it’s a now new strategic ambition to grow this, prior to that we’ve always been a localised university.”
Closer to home in Leeds, the university is also set to expand its campus estate. A property in the city centre has recently been acquired, with plans to open additional facilities including student support services and a Catholic chaplaincy.
A Catholic approach
Through championing Catholic virtues, with inclusivity and dignity, the university’s aim is to develop well-rounded, resilient students who are sought after by employers, and which is what Professor Egbu believes differentiates Catholic higher education.
“We are obliged to make sure we transform their lives because we’ve seen the potential,” he said. “Not many universities can say that! Once you are in our university we want to develop the wholeness in you, through volunteering, support work in the community, coaching, mentoring, the wider social justice, so you can begin to picture yourself when you are out there, how you can contribute to a challenging world, and you are prepared for that.”
Ultimately, the Leeds Trinity Vice-Chancellor hopes graduates cherish their university experience and maintain its values, of being supportive in any environment they find themselves in, giving everybody an opportunity and, ultimately, seeing Lord Jesus in everyone.
“It’s not antagonistic to how the world is changing, indeed it’s part and parcel of a very challenging world — with the centrality of care and compassion and innovation at the heart of it.”
Amid a national Religious Education (RE) teacher shortage we welcome The Bloom Review and its clear evidence that RE is vital for children and young people to learn.
RE is the core of the core curriculum and Catholic schools dedicate at least 10% of the timetable to this essential subject, while the Church’s RE curriculum and inspection framework are recognised as models of best practice.
There are 2,175 Catholic schools, colleges and academies across England and Wales, representing just under 10% of state education. Catholic pupils achieve the highest GCSE RE results in the country, and represent a quarter of all entrants. The past year has seen the launch of a new RE curriculum and national inspection framework to ensure that the quality of RE in all Catholic schools remains high. We are happy to share our Catholic approach to ensuring high quality RE to help improve RE teaching as a whole.
The Catholic Education Service is committed to continued working with the Government in support of Catholic education, high-quality RE and increased religious literacy in the Government and the wider public sector.
Pax Christi education resources
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
At this stage in the calendar, when we draw close to the summit of the Liturgical Year - the Sacred Paschal Triduum, we celebrate with reverence the passion and death of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and we look forward with joy to celebrating at the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday night and on Easter Sunday morning his resurrection from the dead.
As we come to the end of this term, it is also a time for many students in our schools which coincides with an intense period of study in preparation for examinations in the summer. For young people, it is a time of hope but it can be a time of anxiety also. What is most important though, is that their time in school is a time when they can flourish: in mind, body and spirit. Christ came that we might have life and have it to the full. The flourishing of young lives through Catholic education is indebted to the years of dedication and commitment given by school leaders, teachers, learning assistants, chaplains and by all the staff and governors of our schools.
On the threshold of Holy Week, we catch sight of the new life in Christ which his death and resurrection holds out to us and to the world. It is a vision which we glimpse in the prayers and liturgy taking place in schools and churches up and down the land.
I give thanks to Almighty God for the noble vocation of all of you who work and serve in our schools. I pray that you, your families and your loved ones will receive many blessings from the Lord during this great Solemn Feast of Easter, and that it will be a time of joy and thanksgiving for you all.
With the assurance of my prayers, I remain,
Your servant in our Lord Jesus Christ,
Rt Rev Marcus Stock
Chair of the Catholic Education Service
Bishop of Leeds
Rehumanising a world of post-pandemic volatility is a theme running through a new, free online lecture series from a Catholic university.
Beyond The Dark Clouds, hosted by Leeds Trinity University from April to November, sees 12 lectures from UK and international contributors including a former government minister, centred around justice in contested issues such as the police, law enforcement, business ethics, spirituality, the arts and more.
The title is drawn from ‘dark clouds over a closed world’, a phrase used by Pope Francis in his 2020 encyclical Fratelli Tutti. In this the Pope refers to the ‘desensitised human conscience’ as among the chief causes of global crises, that “local conflicts and disregard for the common good are exploited by the global economy in order to impose a single cultural model...the advance of this kind of globalism strengthens the identity of the more powerful.”
Positioning Catholic higher education as a platform to return religious tradition and thought to public debate, the series features talks on policing, from the internationally renowned Dr Tobias Winright, Professor of Moral Theology at St Patrick’s Pontifical University, Ireland, and from former Chief Superintendent Tony Blockley, now Head of Criminology and Policing at Leeds Trinity University.
Economics, justice and Catholic social teaching are addressed by Philip Booth, Professor of Public Policy at St Mary’s University; and former Labour government Trade and Industry, and Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs minister, Sir John Battle, discusses the Church in the wider, secular, world.
Professor Charles Egbu, Vice Chancellor of Leeds Trinity University, said: “We are pleased to have the participation of such a prestigious line-up of speakers for our lecture series, and look forward to discussing some key social issues affecting communities today and how the Catholic university can be a vehicle for change and progress.”
Dr Ann Marie Mealy, Director of Catholic Mission at Leeds Trinity University, said: “Much of the suffering and alienation that people felt during lockdown has not yet been acknowledged fully or discussed openly, and we should acknowledge the need for healing more.
“Many of us at Leeds Trinity share the Church’s desire to get involved in public discussions about how to humanise our world, and to bring about the conditions that enable the flourishing of all individuals and groups – please join us.”
Catholic schools’ GCSE Religious Education (RE) exam results are the best in the country, according to the latest data.
Analysis by the Catholic Education Service (CES) of GCSE RE attainment for 2022 has shown that results from Catholic schools have overtaken the national average for the exams.
Last year 75.2% of Catholic school RE GCSE candidates scored a C+ or grade 4, compared to 68.3% nationally.
The results at A Level were more comparable, however, with 66.9% achieving A* or B in Catholic schools, compared to 67.7% in all schools.
Just over a quarter (25.6%) of all pupils who sat GCSE RE exams last year were from Catholic schools, while the proportion was 9.8% at A Level.
Across England and Wales there are 2,175 Catholic schools, colleges and academies, which educate more than 849,000 pupils.
This represents 9% of the state sector in England and 6% in Wales.
Philip Robinson, CES RE Adviser, said: “This is good news, and testament to the hard work of RE teachers and students in Catholic education.
In a society both increasingly secular and religiously pluralistic, RE has an essential role in enabling respectful dialogue on contentious issues like faith and science; refugees and asylum seekers; war and peace.”
The CES has recently launched a new RE Directory, for introduction from 2025 – find out more.
A new Religious Education (RE) Directory for Catholic schools, colleges and academies in England and Wales has been launched at an event in Westminster.
The directory was introduced at Cathedral View on 25 January by speakers including Dr Margaret Carswell, Senior Lecturer at the Australian Catholic University; Baroness Barran MBE, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Education; the Rt Rev Marcus Stock, Bishop of Leeds and Chairman of the Catholic Education Service (CES); and Paul Barber, CES Director.
Titled To Know You More Clearly the directory sets out the purpose of RE from Early Years Foundation Stage to Year 9 and features a programme of study with a model curriculum, corresponding to the six half-terms of the school year.
The new directory replaces previous editions published in 1996 and 2012, and states that RE is to be taught for at least 10% of curriculum time up to age 16 in Catholic schools and academies, and 5% in sixth forms.
It was drafted by experts including the late Professor Anthony Towey, Head of Theology, Philosophy and History at St Mary’s University; CES Religious Education Adviser Philip Robinson; Senior Policy and Education Adviser Dr Nancy Walbank; and representatives of the Association of Teachers of Catholic Religious Education and the National Board of Religious Inspectors and Advisers.
Based on the constitutions of the Second Vatican Council and rooted in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the objective of the curriculum is religiously literate and engaged young people, with the knowledge, understanding and skills to reflect spiritually, think ethically and theologically, and recognise the demands of religious commitment in everyday life.
In his preface, Bishop Marcus writes: “As well as seeking to assist parents with the education and religious formation of their children, Catholic schools strive also to be of service to society. Religious education plays its part in this endeavour by enabling all pupils to be confident and secure in their religious faith and knowledgeable and respectful of other religions, and so play a crucial role in building a cohesive society.
“This new edition of the Religious Education Directory strives to embody these inspiring objectives.”
Baroness Barran thanked those present and highlighted “the important role Catholic schools, and schools with a religious character more generally, play in giving children a moral compass, guiding them with values that will be integral not only through their school journey, but beyond that into adulthood, into the workforce and into society.”
Other attendees at the launch included Schools Commissioners from the Catholic dioceses; and representatives from the Church of England Education Office; Board of Deputies of British Jews; Religious Education Council; National Association of Standing Advisory Councils of Religious Education; Culham St Gabriels; Catholic Union; and from the London Jesuit Centre.
While nurturing the faith of Catholic pupils, the curriculum prepares all pupils to play their part as critical citizens in a plural and diverse culture. It develops in them a dialogical attitude, through the content that is presented and through the modelling of respectful dialogue in class, a particularly powerful witness in a context where social media has had such a detrimental impact on the civility of public discourse.
Topics covered include the relationship between faith and science; the problem of evil; nature of human freedom; rights of the unborn; plight of refugees and asylum seekers; war and peace.
There is also a focus on the beauty of Catholicism and its influence on culture through art, music, literature, science, and architecture, equipping young people to engage with the Church beyond intellectual remits, and approach the transcendent.
A series of training workshops on the directory and model curriculum for dioceses are also being planned to take place throughout the year.
Pupils in Catholic schools and academies are significantly more diverse than the England average, according to the latest data.
Overall, 44% of pupils at Catholic state-funded primaries and secondaries are from an ethnic minority background, compared to 36% nationally.
A total of 11.4% of the 820,994 pupils in England’s 2,090 Catholic schools and academies are either Black or Black British, compared to 5.8% nationally. The percentage of black teachers is also slightly higher, at 2.6%, above a national average of 2.4%.
There are more than three times the proportion of White Irish pupils (1%) than in other state-funded schools and academies (0.3%).
Sixty per cent of pupils in Catholic schools and academies are Catholic, as are just under half of the 47,662 teachers employed. Of the 316,070 non-Catholic pupils, just under half are from other Christian denominations. The largest non-Christian religion represented is Islam, with more than 34,000 Muslim pupils.
Only 0.03% of all pupils, or just 277 of them, in Catholic schools across England are withdrawn from acts of collective worship such as Mass and prayers in assemblies.
The figures come from the annual census of Catholic schools and academies conducted by the Catholic Education Service (CES), which acts on behalf of the Catholic Bishops' Conference and has supported Catholic education since 1847.
Paul Barber, CES Director, said: “Catholic schools have led the way on diversity since the nineteenth century, when many were established to meet the needs of immigrants from Ireland.
“Today they outperform national GCSE averages for English and Maths by five percentage points, with more pupils from the most deprived areas, and from ethnic minorities. Parents and pupils of other faiths and none rightly value this success and the distinctive, all-inclusive ethos of Catholic education.”
Due to a 50% admissions cap for new religious schools, only two new Catholic ones have been built in England since 2010. The cap means a new Catholic school could be put in the position of turning away a pupil for being a Catholic, which is against canon law.
Catholic schools continue to convert into becoming Catholic academies, with a 17% increase in the past year. There are now 814 Catholic academies in England, run by 77 multi-academy trusts.
Altogether, Catholic schools and academies make up 9% of the national total of the state-funded sector, making the Catholic Church the biggest provider of secondary education and the second-largest provider of primary education overall.
Pupils in Welsh Catholic schools are significantly more diverse than the national average, according to the latest data.
More than 30% of pupils in Wales’s 82 Catholic state-funded primaries and secondaries are from an ethnic minority background, compared to 12.5% in all other schools.
Catholic schools in Wales also have more than four times as many black pupils, with 4.5% of the 28,176 pupils being Black or Black British, compared to 1.1% in all Welsh schools.
There is also more than twice the proportion of pupils from an Asian or Asian British background (6%), compared to 2.6% in other schools.
Just over half (50.3%) of pupils in the sector are Catholic, as are 43.6% of the 1,644 teachers employed.
A total of 73.4% of pupils in Welsh Catholic schools are Christians, and 80% are from a faith background. Of the 13,992 non-Catholic pupils, 46% of these are from other Christian denominations, 36.8% have no religion, and 5.7% are Muslims.
The figures come from the annual census of Catholic schools conducted by the Catholic Education Service (CES), which acts on behalf of the Catholic Bishops' Conference and has supported Catholic education since 1847.
Angela Keller, CES Wales Adviser, said: “Catholic schools are leading the way on diversity in Wales, with parents and pupils of other faiths and none valuing this as well as our distinctive ethos.
“The Welsh government has made closing the disadvantage gap within education a priority - this too has always been our mission.”
Catholic schools make up 6% of the national total of maintained schools across Wales.
Only five weeks remain for submissions to the 2023 Schools Competition of the Columban Missionaries in Britain – this year’s contest is titled Building Peaceful Futures, with the deadline for entries being 10 February.
The competition, which launched last September, is aimed at students aged 13-18 years old, who are invited to demonstrate an awareness of conflict and peacemaking in the world through either a written article or an original image. Students are being asked to research and spotlight people, communities and / or organisations trying to make the world a better place.
On 5 December Pope Francis tweeted: “The Word of God plunges us into daily life and calls us to listen to the cry of the poor and to heed the violence and injustice that wound our world. It challenges Christians not to be indifferent, but to be active, creative and prophetic.”
One of the competition judges is Columban Justice and Peace Education Worker in Britain, James Trewby, who visits young people in schools and sixth forms and runs workshops, retreats and assemblies to promote justice, peace and the integrity of creation.
He said: “There is much conflict in the world at the moment, but we mustn’t lose sight of the fact there are also many initiatives designed to build bridges and promote peace too! The Columbans are keen to nurture the student voice and provide an opportunity for young people to explore these areas and determine their own thoughts on conflict and whether it is inevitable. Besides this we want to ascertain young people’s understanding of peacebuilding, how and where it’s taking place and how faith can play a part.”
The competition winners will receive cash prizes worth up to £300, with other judges including journalists such as Ruth Gledhill of The Tablet and Josephine Siedlecka of Independent Catholic News. Winning entries will be published in the Columbans’ Far East magazine, Vocation for Justice newsletter, Columban websites and social media and in other Catholic media.
A core aspect of Columban mission is justice, peace and ecology. Besides being members of Pax Christi International, the Catholic Church’s peace organisation, Columbans also support the National Justice and Peace Network of England and Wales. Irish Columban Fr Pat Cunningham, who works in South Korea and is also a judge, is active with the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative and a campaign in Korea to protest the militarisation of the beautiful Korean island of Jeju.
Another judge, Fr Kurt Zion Pala, is a Filipino Columban priest working in Myanmar, a country ruled by a military dictatorship. He particularly mentors young people in environmental education and action.
Teachers and students will find the Columban Competition website a useful resource. It includes information on the theme, an introductory video, examples of Columbans and others dedicated to building peace throughout the world, as well as Catholic Social Teaching on the theme of peace. There are also details on submission of entries and a helpful FAQ page. The website provides material suitable for students, teachers and parents.
This is the sixth annual such schools competition from the Columban Missionaries in Britain, with previous themes including migrants, climate change, racism, throwaway culture and 21st century changemakers.