A new Catholic university backed by philosophers Roger Scruton and Anthony O’Hear is to open in London.
Benedictus aims to open in central London next year, offering honours degrees and charging £12,000 a year. Students will spend the first term on a grand tour of Italy and will learn the canon of Western thought during their time at the university.
It will be the fourth Catholic university in England, alongside St Mary’s Twickenham, Leeds Trinity and Newman University in Birmingham.
Named after St Benedict of Nursia, its mission statement argues that “the Catholic faith and Liberal Arts education share a proud tradition across Europe and despite our separation from Rome by the Reformation, England has played a large part in this development. The stream of Catholic intellectual life has persisted in Britain since those times, running through our university traditions. The brilliant 19th century Oxford scholar, teacher and influential Catholic convert Cardinal Newman – beatified by Pope Benedict in 2010 – is rightly one of the inspirational figures for educators in the UK and one of the patrons of Benedictus. At Benedictus all areas of study – not only our readings in theology – are informed by an awareness of the central position of Christianity in the development of Western civilisation.”
Among its founders is art historian Clare Hornsby, former assistant director at the British School at Rome, who told the Sunday Times that Oxford and Cambridge no longer given humanities students an enlightening education.
She said: “Knowledge for the sake of itself is no longer valued and too many universities ignore the rich intellectual heritage on which western civilisation is based.
“Philosophy didn’t start with Descartes or Kant and literature didn’t begin with the novel. A university education should acquaint students with the logic of Aristotle, the poetry of Dante and the beauty of Fra Angelico.
“We want to offer the broad, liberal arts education that is available in the United States but that is almost totally lacking in the UK. Students in Britain deserve an alternative to the single-subject courses that dominate the undergraduate market.”
The university will be open to 50 students next year, who will study, among an exhaustive list, Galileo, Descartes, Leonardo, and Chaucer, as well as Plato, Aristotle and Aquinas. They will also study the Bible and Homer.