About - A Place of Study

The Validation of Maryvale's Courses

Validation History

From its beginnings more than thirty years ago as a Diocesan Catechetical Centre offering short courses for lay people in the Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham, Maryvale Institute has developed to become an international, distance-learning college offering adult courses from further education to PhD level in a range of Catholic Studies.

In 1990 Maryvale was recognised by the Congregation for Catholic Education as an Institute affiliated to the Pontifical University, Maynooth, and a distance-learning BA (Divinity) degree in Theology was launched in that year.

Over the succeeding years Maryvale obtained validation from the University of Hull for its MEd in Applied Educational Studies, then Institutional Approval and validation for its MA Programme in Personal, Moral and Spiritual Development in a Theological Perspective from the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA), before gaining Institutional Approval in 1994 from the Open University Validation Services (OUVS) and validation of its two MA courses with the authority to offer Research Degrees in Catholic Studies.

Several new courses and pathways were developed in the following years under OUVS validation: a PGCE in Secondary Religious Education (1996), a Cert HE in Applied Theology ‘Parish Catechesis’ and ‘Diaconal Ministry’ (1998), three further pathways of the MA programme, in School Leadership, Curriculum Leadership, and Chaplaincy (1999). In 2000 the Cert. HE in Applied Theology was revalidated by the OUVS as a BA (Hons) in Applied Theology with the same two pathways, Diaconal Ministry and Parish Catechesis. An MA in Theology was validated by the Pontifical University, Maynooth in 1996.

Since then further course developments have been a BA in Philosophy and the Catholic Tradition, validated first by the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome in 2006 and subsequently by the OU in 2008. A pathway in Spiritual Formation was added to the Masters in 2008 and a further two new pathways were added in 2009, in Apologetics and in Marriage and Family Life. The Masters programme overall was revalidated in September 2013 as a Masters in Catholic Applied Theology; a title which far better relates to the curriculum, aims and outcomes of the programme.(1)

After 17 years as a sponsoring establishment for Open University research programmes (MPhil and PhD) in Catholic Studies, Maryvale sought alternative affiliation; succeeding in 2010 in securing a validation relationship with Liverpool Hope University for the MPhil and PhD programmes and further revalidation in June 2013.(2)

In 2011 Maryvale was erected by the Congregation for Catholic Education as a Higher Institute of Religious Sciences, granting the Institute the right to offer two awards of the Holy See, the Baccalaureate in Divinity (B.Div) at undergraduate level and the Licence in Catechetics at postgraduate level. The B.Div is a 5-year, part-time course with two pathways, it has been recruiting well for 3 years. The Licence programme is still in development and will have specialisations in Marriage and Family and in Catechetics. Students will be able to matriculate on to the Licence awards from the completion of the MA programme.

These varying, and often longstanding, validation and affiliation relationships demonstrate a confidence of external bodies in the academic standards and organisation of Maryvale Institute. The Institute has gradually and carefully built a network of supportive partnerships, to help to ensure long-term stability and growth, and for the enrichment of its academic profile. The Institute has grown over the years, developing policies and practices to manage and monitor quality standards and to ensure a quality learning experience for its students. The Institute was commended in the 2012 review for the quality of the student experience, particularly at residential sessions.(3)

Since 2012

Following the OUVS review in March 2012 the Institute was revalidated for a period of 3 years. The revalidation period was shorter than the more usual 5 years because the Institute had been informed by OUVS that they were to withdraw from the relationship by 2015-16. It was stressed at the time that this was in no way a reflection on OUVS’s confidence in Maryvale, but due, it is understood, to changes in financial requirements. The OU’s partner institutes were required to bring to the relationship a minimum of £30k and OUVS were to withdraw from any relationships providing less than that.(4) Maryvale Institute was one of seven Institutes affected by this decision at the time.

As a result of this decision Maryvale Institute sought alternative validation arrangements for its MA and Philosophy courses, returning to Rome to seek an ecclesial validator for the Philosophy course and approaching Universities in the UK to discuss validation of the MA. The framework of the Philosophy course was reshaped to meet the requirements of a Pontifical University and the proposal passed through scrutiny by a series of committees in Rome, with the final decision due in the spring of 2013. At this point it became clear that for internal ecclesial reasons, not connected to the content and shape of the course, the project for ecclesiastical validation would not be a viable option.(5) Apart from the association with Maryvale Institute, Pontifical Universities are not formally acquainted with the distance learning model. Subsequent visits to the Congregation for Catholic Education in Rome by the Acting Institute Director and the President of the Institute have prompted an expression of further interest in this learning model by the Congregation.

The Open University (OU) was consulted in the spring of 2013 about the possibility of a continued OU validation of the MA and Philosophy courses. The OU agreed to explore continued validation and as a result the MA course was successfully revalidated in September 2013 and the Philosophy course in March 2014.(6)

In 2012 the OU commended “Maryvale’s continued commitment to the relationship with the OU whilst seeking an alternative validating partner”. During its long association with the OU Maryvale has valued highly the support and advice; the clarity of processes, on which many of Maryvale’s are based; the exemplar annual monitoring practices, which the Institute has adapted for all of its courses (OU validated or not); and the positive response to the Institute’s work and development. Maryvale remains committed to this important relationship.


(1) The Open University Revalidation Report of the MA in Catholic Applied Theology October 2013, appendix 2
(2) The Maryvale Institute/Liverpool Hope University Report June 2013, appendix 4
(3) The Open University Institutional Review Report March 2012, appendix 1
(4) This was the explanation given at the OUVS conference in 2011/12
(5) BA Philosophy and the Catholic Tradition background and critical appraisal document 2014, Pg 1, appendix 7
(6) The Open University Revalidation Report for BA (Hons) Philosophy and the Catholic Tradition March 2014, appendix 3

© Maryvale Institute 2017 - Maryvale Institute is registered in England as a Charitable Trust (no. 1068634).