Teachers and lecturers who do not adhere to a "Christian ethos" could face future employment difficulties at U.K. colleges and universities sponsored by the Church of England.
An October 25 report in the country's Times Higher Education Supplement said that universities with Anglican foundations have been told to emphasize their Christian credentials in order to make it easier to dismiss members of staff who do not share those values.
According to the weekly newspaper that has a strong readership among academics and teachers, the Council of Church Colleges and Universities (CCCU) is responsible for the directive. The council seeks to advance and develop public education in church colleges and universities, and to support the role of the church in higher education.
The report says that the council wants the Christian ethos of such institutions in employment contracts to be emphasized so that staff who "openly flout" an institution's ideals and beliefs can be said to be in breach of contract.
Senior staff, chaplains and teachers of theology are most likely to be affected.
Earlier in 2007, staff members at several universities with Church of England foundations were asked not to undermine their "Christian ethos." The new guideline issued by the CCCU is targeted at universities such as Chichester, Canterbury Christ Church, Gloucestershire, Winchester and York St. John, the newspaper reported.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, has described the CCCU "advice" as "deeply disturbing."
"This report obliquely suggests ways of ensuring that some positions are not held by those whose lifestyle is at odds with some Christian doctrine, presumably in terms of sexual orientation, attitudes towards abortion and maybe even to marriage," said Hunt.
So far, no lecturer or teacher has been dismissed for failing to adhere to what the council refers to as a "Christian ethos" but one lecturer at Christ Church Canterbury told Ecumenical News International that the advice represents "the thin of the wedge." It could be used to dismiss people who might offend governors, principals and heads of departments at tertiary educational institutions that have Church of England foundations said the lecturer, who asked not to be named.