Faculty of Theology gets a new name: ‘There’s a gap between our image and what we do’

The Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies in the Oude Boteringestraat will have a new name starting September 2023: The Faculty of Religion, Culture and Society.

The change may seem aesthetic, but according to dean Mladen Popović, it is much more than that. ‘The name Theology dates back to 1614, the year the university was founded. It was one of the first four faculties and students from that time were trained to become preachers.’

Over four hundred years later, the faculty no longer trains preachers, but people who study religion as a social factor and a cultural phenomenon. ‘There is a gap between our image and what we actually do and offer,’ says Popović.

Protestant university

That image dates back to the days when the faculty was a Protestant university and did Christian-based training and research. That changed in 1876, when the UG became a public university and took the name Rijksuniversiteit Groningen.

‘We are also part of that public university, while people still have the idea that we work from that Christian identity,’ says Popović.

Open to all

With the name Faculty of Religion, Culture and Society, the dean hopes to make clear that the faculty is open to all. ‘We are the only remaining independent faculty at a public university doing theological research and we are social sciences and humanities par excellence. But people don’t always know that yet.’

According to the dean, the name change is part of a broader strategy to better connect the faculty inside and outside the university. ‘I hear from colleagues that they often get surprised reactions when they explain what they do: “Wow, that’s great, I didn’t know all that was possible at Theology”. With this name, we are closing the gap between our identity and our image.’


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