On 1 January 2012, the century old Melbourne College of Divinity (MCD) became Australia’s first “university of specialisation”, following a rigorous 15 month assessment process and subsequent approval by the Victorian Regulation and Qualifications Authority, with the title ‘MCD University of Divinity’.
Founded on 17 December, 1910, MCD is the nation’s sixth oldest self-accrediting Higher Education Institution, and is listed in the Higher Education Support Act 2003 as a Table B institution with Bond University and the University of Notre Dame, and therefore eligible to compete for public research funding together, although not Commonwealth supported places (Table A institutions being Australia’s public universities).
MCD was established by an act of the Victorian Parliament to provide for the higher learning and research needs of religious communities, with the University Act of 1853 specifically prohibiting The University of Melbourne from offering awards in divinity, a prohibition that is maintained for the eight Victorian established universities.
The MCD has played a pioneering role internationally as an ecumenical provider of higher education awards in theological education, and today its governing Council comprises members from the Anglican, Baptist, Churches of Christ, Lutheran, Roman Catholic and Uniting Churches, with the Salvation Army Training College and Saint Athanasius Coptic Orthodox Theological College offering some of its awards.
Over the past century, the MCD has graduated more than 10,000 students in its area of specialisation, ‘Divinity and associated disciplines’. Under its new status and title, MCD University of Divinity’, will continue to deliver Australian Qualifications Framework higher education qualifications (including Research Masters and PhDs or equivalent Research Doctorates) and to ‘set standards for those qualifications which are equivalent to Australian and international standards’ (National Protocols for Higher Education Approval Processes).
MCD University of Divinity intends to do this by further cultivating its research culture, which was rated ‘at world standard’ in the Australian Research Council’s 2010 Excellence in Research for Australia exercise, and by remaining in the forefront of theological teaching programs, nationally and internationally.
At its founding in 1910, the MCD offered a graduate degree, the Bachelor of Divinity, and a Doctor of Divinity was awarded to Bachelor of Divinity graduates of seven years’ standing who had completed a thesis or publication. Currently, the MCD offers awards from Diplomas to Doctorates, including a broad range of Graduate Diplomas, five masters’ degrees and three doctoral degrees. These degrees are taught and supervised by almost 200 faculty members at the institution’s Recognised Teaching Institutions (RTIs), 97% of whom hold higher degrees, compared to 77% in the national university sector. Currently, 10 RTIs operate within MCD University of Divinity, and are comprised of 11 Colleges and one specialised institution.
Since 2005, the MCD has awarded 176 higher degrees by research, 54 of which have been doctorates. In line with the Council of Deans and Directors of Graduate Studies best practice guidelines, all of these doctorates were examined internationally. A specialised library collection of more than 600,000 titles and a Theological Research Repository–a web-based digital and searchable warehouse for all of the College’s research output–offer scholars and students alike access to resources that would be expected of a university of specialisation.
The average age of MCD University of Divinity students is 42, with two thirds of these mature age students who come to the MCD with higher education qualifications. Faculty members regularly comment that, with the advantage of smaller, focused classes, they feel that they are not teaching students, but are engaging with their peers. With the addition of the Australian Lutheran College (Adelaide) in December 2010, and Morling (Baptist) College (Sydney) and Saint Athanasius Coptic Orthodox Theological College (Melbourne) in 2012, the number of MCD faculty members and students has increased considerably.
The retiring Dean and CEO of MCD University of Divinity comments:
The approval to operate as the nation’s first Specialised University gives due recognition to the scholars, academic administrators and students, who, with the support of the Churches and Religious Orders have for one hundred and one years, created a richly woven tapestry of teaching, learning and research in Divinity and its associated disciplines, to the benefit of society. Under its new title, ‘MCD University of Divinity’, we are confident that, as in its first century, tradition and innovation will combine seamlessly to create a vibrant ethos of academic excellence in this historic and much valued ecumenical institution.
Professor Paul Beirne is the Dean and CEO of MCD University of Divinity. Professor Beirne holds an MA in East Asian Studies from Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea, a Masters in Divinity from Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, a Doctor of Ministry from Chicago Theological Seminary and a PhD from the School of History, Philosophy, Religion and Classics at the University of Queensland
He will retire from this role on 15 April 2012 and at that time Professor Peter Sherlock will begin his duties as the inaugural Vice-Chancellor of MCD University of Divinity. Professor Sherlock graduated BA (Hons) in 1995 and MA in 1997 from The University of Melbourne . From 1997 to 2000 he was a Commonwealth Scholar at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and was awarded his DPhil in Modern History in 2000. From 2001 to 2004 he was a Lecturer in History at the University of Melbourne, teaching medieval and early modern European history, British imperial and colonial history, and a range of thematic subjects. From 2004 to 2008 he was an Australian Research Council (ARC) Postdoctoral Fellow in Historical Studies. In 2008 he was appointed Dean of the UFT where he continued to be research active as a writer and supervisor in the fields of early modern British, gender, and religious history.