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Our relationship with the Church

Looking up at York Minster and trees

York St John was originally founded as a teacher training college by the Anglican Church in 1841, with a mission to improve access to education for people from all walks of life.

The University's motto 'That they should have life, and have it more abundantly' reflects the Church's holistic approach to education - as a source of intellectual, moral, physical and spiritual growth.

That mission and motto has stayed central to what our University stands for today, and our relationship with the Church continues to inform and support our work.

The University’s location in the heart of York means we are just a few moments walk from York Minster – one of the world’s most famous and revered Cathedrals.

Building on our faith heritage, York St John and the Minster have a proud history of working together to support and educate the community, and enhance our students' experience.

Graduation in York Minster

Graduates walking out of the Minster

York Minster hosts our annual graduation ceremony, giving our graduates and their loved ones a day they will never forget, and we hold an annual Christmas Carol concert together.

We run an annual programme of public events called the Ebor Lectures and collaborate on wider community projects.

Our strong relationship makes York St John one of the most inspiring places to study Theology and Religious studies, and we remain one of a select group of institutions providing this opportunity.

Work with the Archbishop of York

Archbishop of York, Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell

The University works closely with the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell.

The Archbishop is a Patron of the University’s Institute for Social Justice, reflecting our shared commitment to addressing unfairness and inequality in society and our work to improve opportunities for people across the North of England.

The Archbishop works with the university across a number of partnerships and in his role as Patron, supports the Annual Institute for Social Justice Lecture.

In 2021 The Archbishop delivered this lecture himself, examining social justice in the context of the environmental and economic challenges society faces.

The Cathedrals Group

Our church foundations are the basis for a strong partnership the University has with 14 other universities across England and Wales, who like us, were originally established by the Church to widen access to education.

This partnership of universities is called The Cathedrals Group, and the 15 members work closely with representatives of the Anglican, Catholic and Methodist Church. Together the Group promote a vision for higher education that emphasises the human and holistic benefits of learning, and the role of universities in developing intellectual, emotional, physical and spiritual growth.

The group work together on joint research, projects that support students and graduates, and policy development. The Church uses insights from the Group’s members to inform its discussions with government and other partners.

Schools and colleges

The University has strong links with schools that represent a number of different faiths, and is working to enhance these important relationships, by building on our existing networks and developing new ones.

Our Student Recruitment and Widening Participation teams offer a rich variety of activities to our school partners, and tailor the support and advice they provide, so that a wide cross-section of students from different faiths are encouraged and enabled to progress into Higher Education.

The team can offer general progression advice and more specific information, to reflect the ethos and foundations of individual schools and colleges. Our faith heritage is reflected in the inclusive, respectful, community values that guide how we do things at York St John.

Our Board of Governors

Church representatives play an important role in shaping, influencing and supporting the University’s strategic direction, through their role on our Board of Governors.

The Board of Governors includes a representative of the Archbishop of York, a Diocesan Nominee and two others who are members of the Church of England or a church in commune with it.

The Governors are the custodians of the University and the Church representatives help to ensure the University’s work aligns with its founding mission and ethos. A designated sub-committee, called the Foundation Committee, has a particular focus on the elements of University life and learning that relate most closely to that mission and ethos.

Our Chaplaincy

Reverend Jane Speck

The University has a large Chapel on campus and a Chaplaincy team that offer staff and students a range of support.

Chaplaincy is available for people of all faiths and those of none. Through our Chapel and Chaplaincy we maintain a regular presence of Christian prayer worship and witness within the University community.

The Chapel provides a space for group activity, or quiet reflection and the Chaplaincy team organises weekly events and helps the university to mark and celebrate holy days and festivals that represent different faiths.

The work of our Chaplaincy is complemented by our relationship with a number of Faith Advisors. These Advisors are part of the staff team with York St John, drawing on their connections with the faith community in York and beyond to offer an additional source of support, guidance and understanding for students and staff alike who follow, or are wanting to find out more about different faiths.

Together, they promote community cohesion, tolerance, respect, and understanding. Alongside our Christian Chaplain, the University has Faith Advisors covering Baha'i, Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism. Each Advisor has a personal profile and details relevant to York on our website. You can find these via the page linked below.

Religious respect and tolerance

York St John University is committed to addressing inequalities, injustices and challenges facing society today. Achieving greater equality is central to our social justice mission. The social, cultural and religious diversity that everyone brings to our community is of immense value to the University and we will ensure this continues.

All students and staff are expected to act with courtesy and respect, contribute to our inclusive and welcoming community, challenge exclusion and discrimination, and take responsibility for resolving problems, seeking support when needed.

Religion-related harassment and discrimination will not be tolerated. Our anonymous Report and Support process enables any incidents to be reported. This means the University can combat these behaviours.