Over the last twelve months the work of our Continuing Education Department has again focused on offering the Certificate in Hindu Studies at new locations across the country. Classes have continued in Harrow, Ilford and Leicester, and in January 2005 the course started in a new venue in Birmingham. At present we have over eighty students registered on the Certificate Course, engaged in university level study of Hindu traditions and culture.
For many students the rewards are both intellectual and personal. To date, students have explored issues of Hindu identity;the Vedas and Upanishads, Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagavad Gita, and Puranas; Bhakti, Advaita, Samkhya and Yoga; and the ethics and lifestyles encompassed by the Hindu tradition.
Since its inception in September 2003,the programme has met with remarkable success. The number of students maintaining their studies is much higher than the national average for Adult Education, and our courses have met with an overwhelmingly favourable response from the student body.
British Hinduism is in a state of rapid change and it is vital that the community finds ways of understanding its own ideals so that they can be effectively passed on to a new generation. The Continuing Education Department is a non-profit project that is seen by the Centre as fulfilling a vital role in its mission of promoting a broader understanding of Hindu scholarship. Hinduism in Britain is now facing new challenges in terms of preserving its views, values and its unique identity. For it to successfully meet these challenges a wider understanding of belief, practice and tradition is essential within the community.
According to Dr Nicholas Sutton, the department 's Director, "British Hinduism is in a state of rapid change and it is vital that the community finds ways of understanding its own ideals so that they can be effectively passed on to a new generation. Young British Hindus ask searching questions and it is important that as many people as possible are able to provide effective answers to the questions they ask. I have been delighted and inspired by the response to this course from within the community and I really believe that we are providing a very important service."
The study modules offered are all based on the highest standard of academic research but at the same time participants are constantly invited to reflect on the real significance of the topics considered, both in a general sense and in their own lives. Dr Sutton concludes, "Writing and researching this course has probably been the most demanding academic work that I have ever undertaken, but at the same time it is immensely rewarding. I never cease to be impressed by the dedication that our students bring to their studies."
It is anticipated that in the next year the Continuing Education Department will offer further study modules leading to a university diploma or possibly even a BA Honours Degree in Hindu Studies. This would be a major step forward, and we continue to be the only academic institution in the country offering even a Certificate level course exclusively in the study of Hinduism.