UK university drops Christian terms: Woke or global?
The LSE’s removal of Christian terms from its academic calendar has sparked debate. Critics call it woke, while supporters see inclusivity.
The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), one of the UK’s most prestigious universities, recently caused controversy by removing Christian terms like Michaelmas Term and Easter break from its academic calendar. This move has sparked a debate about the decline of Christianity in the UK and what it means to be British. Is the decision an example of ‘woke’ virtue-signalling or a genuine reflection of the institution’s international outlook?
The LSE’s decision
The LSE decided to replace traditional terms like Michaelmas and Lent with more secular terms like ‘autumn term’ and ‘winter term’. The traditional terms have historical roots in the medieval university system and the agricultural calendar, which allowed students to return home for harvest. The LSE claims that this change aims to better reflect its international nature and align with its broader global engagement. However, critics argue that this move is an example of “virtue-signalling nonsense” and accuse the institution of erasing Christian language and heritage.
Toby Young, general secretary of the Free Speech Union, told MailOnline that the move was “another example” of a British university being “ashamed of its links to the culture and history of Great Britain.” Historian Dr. Zareer Masani said, “Since academia is increasingly dominated by the woke brigade, it’s not surprising that the LSE has climbed on the bandwagon.” Simon Calvert, deputy director of the Christian Institute, also criticised the decision, stating that it excluded Christians and those who think Britain’s Christian heritage is important.
On the other hand, supporters of the LSE’s decision argue that the university is genuinely striving to create an inclusive environment for its diverse student body. Academic and writer Lorna Doyle called the decision a progressive step towards inclusivity and cultural neutrality, reflecting the changing social landscape in Britain, while the philosopher Kwame Antony Appiah suggested that the idea of ‘western civilisation’ is problematic and that national identity should not be solely based on religious affiliations. An LSE spokesperson said, “these new names use more accessible and widely-recognised terminology and better reflect the international nature of our community and our broader global engagement.”
More than just a debate?
The debate surrounding the LSE’s decision coincides with the recent release of census data revealing that, for the first time, less than half (46.2%) of people in England and Wales identify as Christian. Professor Andrew Davies, of the University of Birmingham, argues that the census only reflects the increasing comfortability of Britons with imagining their Britishness without Christianity. This suggests that the LSE’s decision to drop Christian language from its academic calendar may be a reflection of the nation’s grappling with deeper issues that go beyond ‘wokeness’ or inclusivity. It is arguably about the changing place of Christianity in British identity which will likely continue to change as the nation’s demographics and cultural landscape shift in the coming years.