The Church of England and Durham University have entered into a partnership to provide validation for the education of ministers.
The new awards will start in 2014 after the partnership was approved by the University Senate and the Archbishops' Council.
The Church of England currently has around 1,200 men and women at 23 colleges, as well as more preparing for lay ministries.
Under the current scheme, the Church of England has a range of individual validation partners for the ministerial education it provides to clergy and ministers.
As a result of changes in government policy for funding Higher Education, the Church is now seeking secure provision for the future through a dedicated common provider for all the courses and colleges.
The new arrangements are intended to make validation simpler and more affordable for the sector.
The University will be responsible for granting the awards and for overseeing their assessment and regulation.
An additional scheme called ValidationPlus will support the colleges and courses through web-based provision and the services of expert staff based in the Theology and Religious Studies Department.
Durham University has a similar partnership arrangement with KPMG, a leading accountancy and consultancy firm.
The Rt Rev Graham James, Bishop of Norwich and Chair of the Ministry Council of the Church of England, said, “We were impressed with all the bids we received and are delighted to be working with Durham on this exciting project. As a University with a high quality department of theology and a track record in validation, Durham is an ideal partner for both the Ministry Division and the colleges and courses.”
Professor Chris Higgins, Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, said: “Durham is exceptionally well placed to work with the Church in this way because of our world position in theology and religion, and our considerable experience over 100 years of close partnership in ministerial training through St John’s College and indeed at an earlier stage, St Chad’s College. Our history, our current expertise and our long-term sustainability provides a fruitful soil to cultivate such a partnership. We look forward to working with the Church of England on this proposed partnership as we continue to develop the world-leading teaching, research and training available in theology and religion at Durham.”
Current students are being reassured that their studies will not be affected by the introduction of the new awards.
The Church said that work would continue on the awards into 2013 under the oversight of the Bishop of Sheffield.