Autumn Message from the OCMS Director

Taking time to reflect and give thanks:

I am strongly future-focused, assessing the present in order to understand how we might grow and improve. One weakness with this is that when God answers prayer, it is easy for me to give the most cursory of thanks and to move straight to praying into the future. I have recently been challenged to pause, reflect and take time to thank God, and here’s how.

A few weeks ago, I was talking with the principal of a university that focuses on mission studies. He confided that their PhD success rate was around 35%. Like ours, their students are mainly part-time, mature students. It’s difficult to get accurate data on PhD success rates from different parts of the world, where drop-out rates vary greatly. One recent study of British universities suggested that the success rate for part-time PhDs is 72.7%. For some years now, OCMS has had a success rate over just over 80%. Given the challenges many of our scholars face, this is truly a reason to pause, reflect and give thanks to God.

Why might we enjoy such levels of success? Clearly our scholars are generally highly motivated. They are not primarily studying for the sake of career advancement (not that this would be wrong), but from a belief that their studies will better equip them for the ministry to which God has called them.

I suggest two other factors. First, the OCMS PhD programme is the result of more than 20 years continuous refinement. The components – three stages, transfer events, wide supervisory team, house tutors, residency, student seminars, pre-submission viva etc – these components form a system designed to provide the maximum support to scholars.

However, a system is only as good as its people and this, I believe, is the second critical component: the commitment, skill and shear hard work of the faculty and staff team. It is humbling to see the lengths faculty will go to in order to enable a scholar to achieve success. Unlike most academic institutions, where PhD students serve the ambitions of the faculty, in OCMS it is the exact reverse. Faculty continuously prioritise student advancement over their own. No wonder Middlesex University could write in response to our latest annual review, ‘The OCMS report for 2022-2023 confirms the strength of the institution as a provider of the highest standard of the joint MPhil/PhD programmes.’

Here is reason to pause, reflect and give thanks to God.

Paul Bendor-Samuel


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