Our Unique Intellectual Heritage
Preachers and Teachers
The Dominican Friars’ way of life forms men who are contemplative and studious, but also charitable and outward-looking, and highly skilled at public speaking: the very model of the Christian teacher.
Students formed within this tradition are better prepared to serve as the next generation of teachers, ministers and lay leaders.
Offering excellent teaching
Oxford University monitors the standard of teaching provision in Blackfriars Hall, and ensures it remains at a high level.
- Blackfriars Hall averages 92% satisfaction with the overall learning experience we offer, 3% above the Oxford average.
[Student satisfaction surveys, 2010–2016]
- Dominican Studium: most students achieve a Summa Cum Laude.
This excellence is founded on Blackfriars’ commitment to the one-to-one ‘Oxford tutorial system’ of teaching, ensuring that students get personal attention from teachers with expertise in their field.
Heirs to Thomas Aquinas
As heirs to Aquinas – and therefore to many other great thinkers – we are well equipped to address contemporary issues.
Our Unique Specialism
Blackfriars is unique in Britain as an educational institution: it specialises in classical theology and philosophy, and in particular the intellectual tradition of ‘Thomism’.
Thomas Aquinas’ influence has been immense; a wide range of scholars find him an essential dialogue partner.
- As a philosopher, he drew on many strands of thought: Platonic, Aristotelian and Stoic, Jewish, Christian and Muslim.
- As a theologian, he insisted on the importance of the careful study of Scripture, and drew on the thought of both Eastern and Western Fathers of the Church.
He inspires Dominican Friars – and many others – to draw on the same sources and to value truth wherever it is found. He urges us to consider any question carefully, weighing up evidence for and against any answer, and so promotes clear and reasoned dialogue in a world where many voices compete and sometimes conflict.
A Fresh Perspective on modern Concerns
Aquinas’ thought developed in the 13th-Century world in which Oxford University was established. Because his thought is pre-modern, it can be refreshing in the post-modern and multi-faith world of which Oxford University is a hub.
His accounts of matter and causation, of animal and human psychology, of virtue and law, of freedom and grace, help us wrestle with contemporary discoveries and issues, such as quantum mechanics, animal psychology, neurophysiology, evolution, where human uniqueness lies, the role of the state vis-à-vis the individual conscience, and whether moral goodness and beauty are a matter of virtue or duty.
Aquinas’ teaching is an important voice in contemporary theological debates and developments concerning God’s transcendence and presence, Christ’s humanity, the Atonement, and our need for the personal guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Aquinas at Blackfriars
Blackfriars promotes the study of Scripture and of the philosophical and theological traditions which Aquinas drew on, and the application of this approach and its insights to contemporary challenges in society, such as the moral dimension to economics, or the meaning of human dignity. In this way, the scholars of Blackfriars are the modern heirs to a legacy that stretches back to the great medieval thinkers of Oxford, and behind them to the sources they valued.
This expertise informs the teaching and research undertaken here – and supports the common enterprise of theology and philosophy throughout Oxford University, and across a network of other institutions in the UK and overseas.