On 1 January 2012 the University of Divinity commenced operations as an Australian University, building on over 100 years of academic quality and community service as the Melbourne College of Divinity.
A University’s purpose and reputation is nowhere more evident than in its graduates. In its first year as a University, two decisions were made that have served us well for the past decade.
The first was to shift our graduation ceremonies to the churches, cathedrals and chapels of our partners, whether in Melbourne or around Australia. This was a powerful symbolic change, reflecting the University of Divinity’s distinctive mission to deepen faith, provide leaders for the churches and religious orders, and through theological education and research, to serve the communities around us.
These ceremonies have brought together the best of our traditions and contemporary creativity, from music and prayer to scripture and speech. They have also been profoundly ecumenical, not least in the diverse backgrounds of our graduates.
The second was to create five Graduate Attributes that have shaped the curriculum: Learn, Articulate, Communicate, Engage and Serve. These form the basis for the nomination at each ceremony of Vice-Chancellor’s Scholars, graduates who excel in one or more of these attributes, and reflect the range of motivation and destinations of our students.
Since 2012, the University has held some 25 Graduation ceremonies around Australia, at which 4,656 graduates have received one or more of the University’s awards and been recognised as having achieved these Graduate Attributes.
108 graduates have received the University’s doctoral degrees, an impressive rate for a small institution of approximately 10 a year.
The mix of vocational and professional outcomes is seen in the two largest graduating cohorts. 679 students have completed the Bachelor of Theology, for 50 years our fundamental degree in theology providing academic formation. Another 590 have received the Graduate Certificate in Teaching Religious Education, with most being accredited to teach religious studies in faith-based schools.
In 2020 we switched ceremonies online due to the pandemic, but a welcome development in the midst of this necessary and challenging time has been the creation of valedictory speeches from students. These will become a permanent feature of future graduation ceremonies, giving an opportunity to hear the human stories behind the statistics, and helping us acknowledge the immense impact education can have on us all, individually and communally.
Professor Peter Sherlock is the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Divinity. He is a cultural and religious historian of Renaissance and Reformation Europe and an expert on governance and leadership in educational and church settings. A graduate of the University of Melbourne and the University of Oxford, his academic career has included an ARC Postdoctoral Fellowship in History at the University of Melbourne and four years as Dean of the United Faculty of Theology, Melbourne.