Heythrop College is a specialist philosophy and theology college in Kensington Square, London. The college was founded in 1614 by the Society of Jesus (the Jesuits) in Louvain, Belgium, as an institution for training English Jesuits in philosophy and theology. It has moved numerous times since its founding: originally to Liège. Following the suppression of the Jesuits in the 1770s, the college crossed the channel on a barge in 1794. Upon arriving in Hull, the college was setup in Stonyhurst in Lancashire. Later philosophy was split off and taught at St. Mary's Hall in Stonyhurst, while theology students were taught at St. Beuno's, near the Clwyd Valley in Wales. In 1923, the college purchased the Heythrop estate in Oxfordshire, and moved in a few years later. Students at Heythrop studied philosophy and theology. In the 1960s, it was proposed that the college ought to become a Pontifical Athenaeum. In 1965, the college started admitting non-Jesuits - today, it admits students of all faiths and denominations as well as atheists and agnostics. It was decided that the college ought to move to London and in January 1969, an application was made to the University of London to become a college of the University. The college was opened in Cavendish Square, W1, London, with Frederick Copleston SJ as Principal. Copleston is best known for his comprehensive multi-volume history of philosophy, as well as his BBC radio debate with Bertrand Russell over the existence of God. In 1993, the college was moved from Cavendish Square to Kensington Square, W9, sharing facilities with the Sisters of the Assumption.
The college now teaches degrees in philosophy, theology, religious studies, Biblical studies and psychology. Many trainee Catholic clergy and members of religious orders attend the college and, in recent years, more Anglicans and other Protestants train for ministry at the college; since joining the University of London, student admission has not been based on religion, and students have included both Christians and non-Christians including atheists and agnostics. Teaching in theology and religious studies is comparative and critical, and almost all theology and religious studies students will have to study at least one non-Christian faith such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism or Judaism. Philosophy courses are taught as part of the inter-collegiate programme with the other philosophy departments in the University of London - namely, Birkbeck College, King's College London and University College London. The university maintains a comprehensive library in the areas of study it offers (especially in theology), and has off-site storage of rare books in Egham, Surrey.
The current principal is the theologian Dr John McDade SJ. The college is home to three institutes: Action Research - Church and Society, the Centre for Christianity and Interreligious Dialogue and the Institute for Religion, Ethics and Public Life.