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The Elim Bible College, now Regents Theological College, was founded in 1925 with the aim of training ministers to serve in the new church denomination through ministry and mission. Today, that focus has widened considerably, and whilst many students still enter the Elim ministry or a connected church based activity, others go on to a wide range of careers following graduation. Such careers include teaching, public service, business and commerce and third sector charitable work.

As a church denomination which operates throughout the whole of the UK and internationally, the Elim Pentecostal Church engages with people of all ethnic backgrounds, gender, age and socio economic categories. Many of our city based churches in particular have people from over 40 different nationalities in their congregation.

Elim Pentecostal also seeks to influence society, culture and the local community through its programmes and activities, with particular focus on serving young people, disadvantaged people, and people who have suffered life controlling problems such as drug addiction and alcoholism.

As a result, the Elim Pentecostal Church has a strong track record in offering higher education pathways to a diverse range of people, with a particular focus on helping those who may have struggled with education in the past or who may not qualify to study at many other institutions. This is particularly relevant to mature students who we successfully attract to study at Regents, often based on their desire to serve in Christian ministry and mission.

The areas we are seeking to address

Regents Theological College does not offer what could be described as “high tariff” higher education provision, and already draws its students from a wide range of backgrounds. For example, analysis of data from our most recent September 2018 undergraduate student intake indicates that the vast majority access the student loans system, and over 30% of students qualified for a maintenance loan of over £8,000, indicating they are from a household with a lower income level.

We believe that as a provider of higher education we are strong in providing such education to the following groups of students:

• Students from family backgrounds with lower average incomes
• Mature students
• Students who have had limited benefit from educational opportunities in the past
• Students who have previously suffered from addictions and other lifestyle challenges
• Female students, who regularly make up 50% or more of our student intake

Currently, we have a number of students from backgrounds suck as Gypsy/Roma, military families, care leavers, and people estranged from their families. We provide additional support where required to such students with the aim of helping them thrive in the Regents community.

We wish to welcome students from a wide variety of backgrounds and our data indicates that we currently have a lower ratio of students from ethnic backgrounds, and a lower ratio of students with physical disabilities, than might be expected, and we would like in particular to address these areas.

Our ambitions and strategy

Our overall ambition

As the higher education provider of an international Christian church which embraces diversity, we very much want the student population of Regents Theological College to reflect the diversity we see across the church network.

The college has a relatively small intake, and so small changes in numbers to particular groups of students can alter percentage figures disproportionately.

The particular groups of students we plan to work with

The Elim Pentecostal Church has a number of larger churches in UK cities, and the ethnic diversity of the majority of those churches is significant, often with over 40 nationalities and ethnic backgrounds represented in each church. Ethnic diversity is less strong in rural areas in line with general UK population patterns.

The college demographics do not necessarily reflect the ethnic diversity of our church network as we believe it should, so it is a target for us to increase the ethnic diversity of students studying at Regents, especially from inner city areas.

Secondly, whilst Regents has many students who study with us who have disabilities associated with academic learning such as dyslexia or dyspraxia, we have relatively few physically disabled students studying with us. Whilst this may reflect difficulties caused by our geographic location, we would nevertheless like to increase our numbers of physically disabled students and are prepared to make the appropriate adjustments as necessary to accommodate this.

We have in recent years seen an increase in students with mental health issues, and have increased our support for those students through our Pastoral Dean and The Lyttelton Well counselling service. Whilst we cannot actively target such a group as they do not present in the manner of other health issues, we are nevertheless keen to develop our capability in supporting mental health as part of our disability strategy.

Who else we will work with to improve access and participation

As a relatively niche provider of higher education, the majority of our students are drawn from the world of evangelical Christianity. However at least 50% of our students, in most years, are drawn from our own Elim organisation where we have strong connections. We therefore plan to liaise more closely with the leaders of our inner city churches in particular, with the aim of increasing ethnic diversity by attracting a greater number of students from their churches with diverse ethnic backgrounds.

Additionally, we have strong links with The Church of Pentecost, a Ghanaian based church denomination with a strong UK presence, particularly among African Christians in the UK. Whilst they have their own college, it does not offer validated degrees, and so there is an opportunity to develop training links with them which could draw students from their network to Regents.

How we are involving students in developing our approach to access and participation

Existing students are actively involved in the college decision making processes through the Student Union Council, and the range of committees on which student council representatives sit. In this area, we will be encouraging students to become involved in the process of improving access and participation through the staff-student liaison committee and through student community reps.

We also operate a student introduction reward system whereby existing students are invited to recommend friends and contacts to study at Regents. Students receive a financial incentive through a fees discount if they make such introductions, and this helps students engage in the process of student recruitment.

Our activities and support for students

The Elim Pentecostal Church and Regents Theological College have a passion to see every student thrive – academically, socially, spiritually and emotionally. It takes great care to provide the individual level of support which each student needs, and as a small college we are able to get to know each student personally. This means that arrangements can be put in place to support students in a variety of ways as follows:

Academic Support

Formative assessments – Some students, especially those who are mature and/or have not studied for some time are naturally nervous of undertaking the academic rigours of a BA (Hons) or Masters degree. We are able to support students in the early stages of their course by providing coaching on assessments, and allowing a range of practice opportunities.

Study skills – Academic processes such as referencing and footnoting amongst others, are new to many students and we offer help through additional non assessed workshops in how to study at degree level. Combined with the formative assessments above, this helps prepare students for success on the course, particularly those who have previously had limited academic opportunities. This is supported by a range of study aids on our student virtual learning environment platform, which students can self-select as required, and which includes links to the support available from the University of Chester, our validating university partner.

English Language test – All students are required to hold a grade C (now G4) pass at GCSE English or equivalent, in order to enter a course. This academic requirement is designed to ensure that students possess sufficient writing skills to be able to communicate their points in degree level submissions. However many mature applicants, particularly those who have come from difficult backgrounds (sometimes with life controlling addiction or mental health problems) do not have such a qualification. Such applicants are given the opportunity to sit a GCSE English Language paper at the college, and if they are unable to pass, we are often able to offer a deferred place for the following year subject to them sitting an English GCSE or access course in the interim.

Non accredited course pathway – Elim Pentecostal and Regents offer the Ministry Foundation Certificate, a non-accredited course of 6 modules which sits alongside the degree programme. Many people take this course who already have a degree and are seeking to enter Christian ministry. However the course is available on a modular basis for students who wish to study without academic pressures, and it can be a helpful pathway for students who have not studied for some time, prior to applying for a full degree programme.

Pastoral Support

Personal tutor – All students are allocated a tutor who they meet with on a regular basis. As a small college, we are able to get to know every student individually. As a result, we are able to identify a student’s individual needs, and look to put in place a care plan to provide appropriate support if necessary. Different students have different needs ranging from physical health issues, mental health issues, and disabilities (either educational or physical) through to financial challenges, difficulties with studies, and family problems. Our aim is to help each student thrive and overcome their challenges, and so help them with both their studies and overall lifestyle.

Pastoral Dean – Our Pastoral Dean heads up our pastoral support, as an extension to the personal tutor system. Students are able to book appointments with the Dean to discuss particularly challenging matters and, the Dean has a range of tools at his disposal to support students with particular concerns or issues.

Counselling provision – Regents Theological College also has access to trained counsellors at The Lyttelton Well in Great Malvern, which provides sessions for students at the college’s expense when referrals are made by the Pastoral Dean. The Lyttelton Well is able to help students with a wide range of issues including certain aspects of mental health, and will if required make referrals to other healthcare professionals.

Community & Lifestyle Support

Disabled facilities – Regents welcomes students with all kinds of disabilities. Notwithstanding that, the college is situated on a steep hill which can make access difficult. We have a range of ramps and lifts to help students with mobility issues access the site. In addition, we have fully equipped disabled bedrooms with bathrooms, and can provide special meals in our dining room if required.

For example, we have had hands on experience of supporting a part-time student with locked-in syndrome over, who graduated in 2019, and we made a series of adaptions to support his condition.

Family accommodation – Regents Theological College welcomes mature students, and we recognise that such students are often married and have children. We have seventeen family flats on site of various sizes which are prioritised for married couples and families; these facilities are offered on a self-catering basis.

We also offer our context based mode of study which allows students to continue to live at home and travel to Regents for lectures five or six times a year. This option allows spouses and children to remain in situ and prevents family disruption whilst still allowing students to study on a full time basis.

Employment opportunities – Regents offers a range of part time employment to students in areas such as catering, house-keeping, estates and retail. Whilst employment is not guaranteed, it can provide useful extra income for students requiring additional finance.

Summer on site accommodation – Some students who study with us have no other home for a variety of reasons including past lifestyle issues, family break-up or having come from the care system. Regents Theological College is able to offer continued on site accommodation (subject to availability) for such students who require it as an added support in their student journey, and individuals from those backgrounds are prioritised.

DSA student support – Regents Theological College is registered with the DSA, and those students with an identified disability or learning difficulty can receive a variety of help from the UK government. This programme is administered and monitored by the Pastoral Dean.

Extracurricular activities – the activities provided by Regents are wide ranging. These include individual tutor time, Christian devotions, student away days, a lecturer open door policy and Student Union organised events such as barbecues, quiz nights, film nights, and college parties. This is in addition to the normal sports facilities available to students including the gym, sports pitches, a tennis/basketball court, and the outdoor heated swimming pool.