The University of Divinity is a collegiate University. This model is familiar in Europe and North America but not found elsewhere in Australia. The system is explained in depth by Professor Peter Sherlock in the paper The Collegiate University.
The University of Divinity is constituted by the University of Divinity Act 1910 of the Parliament of Victoria. The Act, most recently amended in 2016, establishes the University Council and empowers it to confer degrees and award diplomas and certificates in Divinity and its associated disciplines.
The University of Divinity appears on the National Register of Higher Education Providers as an Australian University of Specialisation. It is a private University and receives Commonwealth Government funding through its inclusion on Table B of the Higher Education Support Act 2003.
The Act provides for a Council as the governing authority of the University and an Academic Board to oversee academic programs and courses of study. Eleven of the sixteen members of Council are appointed by six churches, while a majority of Council members must be external to the University. The Academic Board includes a representative of each College, the Vice-Chancellor, Directors with academic responsibilities, and elected academic staff and student representatives.
The Act empowers the Council to make Regulations to govern the University. The Council, Academic Board and their Committees approve Policies and Procedures to ensure the University is well governed and meets its obligations to its staff and students.
Using powers under section 21 of the Act and rules set out in Regulation 3: Colleges, the Council may authorise a Collegiate Agreement with an approved institution which thereby becomes a College of the University. The Collegiate Agreement establishes a contractual relationship between that College and University, which entails mutual undertakings. Through this relationship, academic staff and students of the College become members of the University. Once the Collegiate Agreement is signed, the College may apply to the Academic Board for accreditation to offer awards of the University.
Each College is supported by one or more churches or religious orders. The University signs a Compact with each College and its respective partners to express the common mission of the parties. The Compact fosters engagement between all the supporters of a College, including the University. The Compact therefore creates opportunities for greater cooperation and partnership, such as resourcing mutual needs, and establishing and pursuing shared strategic objectives.
The strength of the collegiate system is in the intimate scale of the learning communities and in the freedoms and responsibilities it creates. At the University of Divinity, staff expect to get to know each of their students, and to be part of their formation as scholars and graduates. The collegiate structure protects and fosters both academic freedom and theological diversity, giving the University’s students, staff, and partners access to a far wider range of disciplines and perspectives than any one College could manage alone. The system allows Colleges to grow new disciplines and to broaden their teaching and research activities by drawing on support from other Colleges with existing strengths in such areas.