Through conducting oral history interviews with Royal Holloway and Bedford College alumni I hope to uncover the religious life of the colleges when the institutions became co-educational in 1965. During a time fondly remembered as, ‘The Swinging Sixties,’ I want to investigate the uses of the chapel and the chaplain service. I am aware when Royal Holloway College was founded, ‘attending chapel’ was mandatory, written into the students’ schedules. However, I am unsure as to the degree to which the students were engaged in religious activities in the period where higher education was becoming more secularised.
Furthermore, I would like to investigate how the Christian Union operated, having its origins in 1899 according to the archives. I want to explore how active and evangelical the group were on campus and in the surrounding areas. The politics of the Christian Union may be a troublesome theme to pick up in interviews. There may be sensitivity over the running of the union on campus and conflict over teaching and theological stances.
Quite reasonably, those who have volunteered their services for the project may not have been involved in faith groups on campus. If this occurs, my theme will maybe have to be broadened to explore spirituality at the colleges and why religion may not have formed such a part of student life. I am interested to explore relationships between parents and students in regards to religious practice and the extent to which these may have changed upon attending university.
Faith matters can always be contentious and informed by present context. I will have to consider how individuals’ belief systems may have changed since their time at college and frame my questions with these issues in mind.