Sikhs aim for first religious university

Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, failed to turn up yesterday for the inauguration of the International School of Sikh Studies, the first Sikh "university".

He sent his regrets for his no-show at Ealing town hall in west London, but the founders were on hand to claim plenty of interest from the Punjabi community in the project. They hope it will be the first official religious university in Britain.

The ISSS will be ready for its first course, a post-graduate one in comparative religious studies, by January, and will confer masters degrees in April l999 to coincide with the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Sikh religion.

The organisers claim there is a "tremendous upsurge" in interest in the Sikh religion and culture among young second- and third-generation Britons of Sikh descent. The aim is to establish the school's scholarly credentials and negotiate university status with the department of education.

The ISSS has taken 12 years to get off the ground. It has associate status with the SFUG University at Antwerp and will be offering joint degrees. It will be part of a World Sikh University, with branches in India, Europe, and North America.

The school will be based in Harrow, London. The Vice-Chancellor, Dr Sukhbir Singh Kapoor, said about 100 students are expected to join the course, and the first batch enrolled last month.

Comments