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VHI praised in Triennial Review by Professor Janet Soskice

last modified May 14, 2019 12:09 PM

The VHI is delighted to report that Professor Janet Soskice has recently completed the Institute’s Triennial Review which is enthusiastically positive.

The review by a senior external academic, commissioned by St Edmund’s College, examined the Institute’s intellectual vision, programmes, outputs and impact over the last three years. Professor Soskice highlighted how the VHI has successfully positioned itself alongside related institutions, both at the national and international level, such as the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Studies and the Institute of Religion and Critical Inquiry at the Australian Catholic University, to establish both its distinctive contributions as well as work on fruitful international collaobrations. The new vision and title of the Von Hügel Institute for Critical Catholic Inquiry, establishes the ambitious goal of VHI to be "the first Institute of Advanced Studies in Europe inspired by a catholic worldview […] a forward-looking, Catholic-inspired research hub in an ancient and esteemed University which understands its Catholicism in both the generic (small 'c') sense of catholicity, and in relation to the Catholic Church. This vision strikes me as timely and well-judged for the Cambridge context as well the positioning within the international ecosystem of competitor institutions".

With regard to VHI activities, the review highlights how "the VHI has run three years of extremely attractive programs which manage to be 'catholic' in this more generic sense, while keeping an anchor in Catholicism.  The 2015-6 Programme in the Year of Mercy, for instance, had speakers (Catholic and non-Catholic) on Dante, neuroscience, music, law, and painting around the mercy theme.  The 'Wonder' theme of 2017-8 showed similar breadth. This imaginative programming has meant that graduates students and senior members alike from a range of Faculties, as well as members of the public, now keep an eye out on what is happening at VHI and attend its events, and they have begun to be commented on by the media, both national and international. Workshops have considered such diverse themes as oncology, the Palestinian situation and disability research, also forging links across the University with a number of departments".

Professor Soskice concluded: "The Von Hügel Institute for Critical Catholic Inquiry is rapidly establishing itself a first-class international centre for critical and interdisciplinary research in the Catholic tradition. The Institute’s home in the University of Cambridge, and particularly in St Edmund’s College with its Catholic legacy, provides an ideal platform for the imaginative interdisciplinary programming that has, under Dr McCosker’s Directorship, become the VHI’s hallmark. The Institute’s strong and developing profile is attracting donors and will surely attract more, both from here and abroad. The VHI’s links with the University of Notre Dame and Australian Catholic University will enrich the College community. The stream of excellent research outputs in fields as diverse as oncology and spirituality (and sometimes such as these linked) is a tribute to the staff and research associates, and something any university department would be proud of tabling for an approaching a REF. St Edmund’s College is to be praised for the support given to this creative venture which, in increasingly utilitarian times, is doing just what an ideal university was meant to do – bringing critical, cooperative and imaginative thought to bear on the challenges of our time.  John Henry Newman, soon to be 'Saint John Henry' would be delighted at this fulfilment of his ideal for a university".

The VHI Director, Dr Philip McCosker comments: "I am delighted with this review of our work at the VHI over the last three years. The VHI’s growing team of interdisciplinary researchers, our programming, and our international initiatives are rightly praised in this review. I am very grateful to Prof Soskice for the hard work and insight she put into the review, as well as to the VHI staff and researchers for making the VHI what it is. Much remains to be to achieve our long term goal of becoming the leading Institute of Advanced Catholic Studies in Europe, but in the meantime it is very encouraging to know that we are moving well along a fruitful path".


An interdisciplinary research hub inspired by Catholic thought and culture, focussed on contemporary global realities, and dedicated to encounter, dialogue, and transformation

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