Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship

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Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship (UCCF) is a UK-based charity that was founded in 1928 as the Inter-Varsity Fellowship of Evangelical Unions. UCCF's dual aims are:

  1. To advance the evangelical Christian faith amongst students, graduates and former members of universities; and
  2. To promote biblical scholarship and research.[1]
UCCF: The Christian Unions
The logo of UCCF, with blue text on a white background saying "UCCF: The Christian Unions"
TypeChristian Interdenominational student association
United Kingdom
Richard Cunningham, since 2004
SecessionsStudent Christian Movement
AffiliationsInternational Fellowship of Evangelical Students
Formerly called
Inter-Varsity Fellowship of Evangelical Unions

To achieve its aims, UCCF undertakes three main areas of activity:

  1. Encouraging and supporting leaders of affiliated Christian Unions (CUs) throughout the UK to engage in evangelism and help Christian students grow in their faith.
  2. Publishing and distributing a wide range of Christian resources through its Inter-Varsity Press (IVP) subsidiary, based in Nottingham (not to be confused with the US-based InterVarsity Press).
  3. Supporting biblical research, mostly at postgraduate level.

There are around 200 Christian Unions in the UK at present,[citation needed] with a total membership of approximately 20,000.[2] The Christian Unions provide opportunities for fellowship, bible study and evangelism, with nearly 40,000 students attending outreach events each year.[2]

UCCF employs about 80 staff, and has a further 80 or so volunteer "Relay Workers" on a one-year training programme. Many of these staff and volunteers are graduates who were involved in the CU as undergraduates. They support the student Christian Unions with training, advice and materials.


In the summer term of 1919 Norman Grubb (an evangelical student at Trinity College, Cambridge) and a friend met with ten representatives of the Student Christian Movement (SCM) to discuss their concerns that SCM was promoting an overly liberal view of Christianity in the British universities. Grubb posed the direct question, "Does the Student Christian Movement put the atoning blood of Christ central in its teaching?" After a little deliberation the answer came, "Well, we acknowledge it, but not necessarily [as] central."[3]

Grubb and his friends at Cambridge decided that they could no longer work in partnership with SCM, saying that it had divorced a biblically-based, cross-centred emphasis. Cambridge Inter-Collegiate Christian Union (CICCU) had been disaffiliated from national SCM since 1910, but only after talks in 1919 floundered did a permanent split look probable.[4] Splits followed throughout the British and Irish university system, and two separate organisations emerged which went on to form the modern UCCF (initially known as the IVF) and SCM.

CICCU parted from SCM over two issues. For Grubb and his friends, the Bible had to be the central source of truth, but SCM could not affirm that its entire membership matched their view of Biblical infallibility. The second area of difference was the priority of evangelism; although the SCM had initially aimed at "the evangelisation of the world in this generation", CICCU members felt that this aim was not being sufficiently emphasised by 1922. SCM's official history also refers to differences over governance.[5]

Grubb developed a vision of seeing an "evangelical witnessing community on every university campus". (At the time just 28 universities operated in the UK and Ireland.)

Meanwhile, in 1919, students from Oxford, Cambridge and London CUs started to meet in London for non-residential conferences. After being persuaded to take on the secretaryship of these Inter-Varsity Conferences in 1924, King's College alumnus Dr Douglas Johnson was chosen by delegates from the 14 university Christian unions who assembled at High Leigh Conference Centre, Hoddesdon in 1928[6] to found the Inter-Varsity Fellowship of Evangelical Unions (IVF)[7] as its first General Secretary, a role in which he continued until 1964.[8] The Inter-Varsity Fellowship was the first unifying conservative evangelical body.[9]

In 1947 UCCF became a founding member of the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES), through which it continues to play an active role in international mission.

During the 1940s, CU work began in the Technical Colleges under a subsidiary body, the Inter-Colleges Christian Fellowship (ICCF), and this saw substantial growth with the formation of polytechnics, as a consequence of the increase in full-time students in that sector. Alongside this, the Colleges of Education Christian Unions (CECU) provided a similar function, supporting Christian Unions based in teacher-training colleges. Work in these areas expanded rapidly in the late 1960s and early 1970s, such that by the mid-1970s it represented half the ministry, and resulted in ICCF and CECU merging with IVF to form the Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship. A specialist group, the Religious and Theological Students Fellowship (RTSF), who published the journal Themelios, retained a separate identity.

Since then many colleges have themselves gained university status. Until 2007 UCCF continued to serve both the HE and FE sectors of tertiary education, but in that year a new organisation called FESTIVE – FE & Sixth Form Initiative came into being,[10] leaving UCCF free to concentrate on HE.

Key staffEdit


UCCF supports biblical research through Tyndale House, Cambridge, which was founded in 1944.

From the late 1980s and into this century, support for those involved in Christian Ethics was provided through the Whitefield Institute, Oxford, founded by E. David Cook. In summer 2006 this was reconstituted to become the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics.


The charity's main annual objectives in 2008 (a typical year, showing advances in some areas and consolidation of existing activity in others) were reported as being:[1]

Annual Objectives
Objective Achievements
Mission outreach, supported by increased field coverage and leadership training.
  1. 76 missions were held in UK Universities during Spring 2008;
  2. 6 new field-based staff were employed;
  3. Over 700 delegates attended Forum (the September 2007 annual training conference for student CU leaders); this represented an increase of 40% over the previous year.
Wider and more informed engagement with Christian Apologetics and Theology through web-based resources.
  1. UCCF'S www.bethinking.org website received over 1 million hits during the year;
  2. A new theology website www.theologynetwork.org was launched.
Research growth. Consolidation of the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics (KLICE), following its launch the previous year.
Trustee succession planning. Two new trustees appointed during the year.

Doctrinal basisEdit

The UCCF is rooted in conservative evangelical Christianity.[14][15][16] For UCCF, Doctrinal Basis sets out the "fundamental truths of Christianity, as revealed in Holy Scripture,"[17] as follows:

  1. There is one God in three persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
  2. God is sovereign in creation, revelation, redemption and final judgement.
  3. The Bible, as originally given, is the inspired and infallible Word of God. It is the supreme authority in all matters of belief and behaviour.
  4. Since the fall, the whole of humankind is sinful and guilty, so that everyone is subject to God's wrath and condemnation.
  5. The Lord Jesus Christ, God's incarnate Son, is fully God; he was born of a virgin; his humanity is real and sinless; he died on the cross, was raised bodily from death and is now reigning over heaven and earth.
  6. Sinful human beings are redeemed from the guilt, penalty and power of sin only through the sacrificial death once and for all time of their representative and substitute, Jesus Christ, the only mediator between them and God.
  7. Those who believe in Christ are pardoned all their sins and accepted in God's sight only because of the righteousness of Christ credited to them; this justification is God's act of undeserved mercy, received solely by trust in him and not by their own efforts.
  8. The Holy Spirit alone makes the work of Christ effective to individual sinners, enabling them to turn to God from their sin and to trust in Jesus Christ.
  9. The Holy Spirit lives in all those he has regenerated. He makes them increasingly Christlike in character and behaviour and gives them power for their witness in the world.
  10. The one holy universal church is the Body of Christ, to which all true believers belong.
  11. The Lord Jesus Christ will return in person, to judge everyone, to execute God's just condemnation on those who have not repented and to receive the redeemed to eternal glory.

Some Christians (including, but not limited to, many members of non-Protestant groups such as the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches) do not hold to certain points of the Doctrinal Basis. In particular the doctrines of sola scriptura (point 3 above)[clarification needed] and penal substitution (point 6) are contested by some Christian theologians, and nontrinitarians contest part 1. In some cases, UCCF's evangelical theology has led to Christian Unions having difficult relationships with Chaplaincies and/or Student Unions.[18][19] It is also a substantial and persistent difference between UCCF and SCM (which is committed to ecumenism, including co-operation with CUs).[5]

See alsoEdit

International sister organisations
Other UK student Christian movements


  1. ^ a b Stephen Mansfield (30 January 2009). "Summary Information Return 2008 of Aims, Activities and Achievements" (PDF). Charity Commission for England and Wales. Retrieved 5 April 2012. Entered through Annual Return 2008[permanent dead link]
  2. ^ a b "About – Our Story". uccf.org.uk. UCCF. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  3. ^ Grubb, Norman P., Once Caught, No Escape: My Life Story (Lutterworth: 1969), p. 56 (cited in Stott, John, The Cross of Christ (Leicester: 1986), p. 8).
  4. ^ Boyd, Robin (2007). The Witness of the Student Christian Movement, 'Church ahead of the Church'. SPCK. p. 26. ISBN 0-281-05877-6.
  5. ^ a b "SCM – History". Archived from the original on 19 December 2010. Retrieved 8 February 2011.
  6. ^ a b Balch, Emma (October 2003). "Leadership, truth & witness: Emma interviews Oliver Barclay, former Gen Sec of UCCF". Evangelicals Now. Thornton Heath, United Kingdom. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  7. ^ "Constituent Charity 306137-1 Inter-Varsity Fellowship of Evangelical Unions". London, United Kingdom: Charity Commission. Retrieved 7 April 2012. Governing document: Constitution adopted 2 April 1928, as amended on 5 April 1941, 28 March 1942, 31 March 1954 and 2 April 1960.
    Charitable objects: To co-ordinate the work and to unite the members of the Evangelical Unions in the furtherance of the Christian Faith in accordance with the Doctrinal Basis of the Fellowship.
  8. ^ a b Barclay, Oliver (January 2005). "Douglas Johnson: the invisible man". Evangelicals Now. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  9. ^ Goodhew, David (January 2003). "The rise of the Cambridge inter-collegiate Christian union, 1910-1971". The Journal of Ecclesiastical History. 54 (1): 62–88. Other conservative Evangelical bodies emerged after 1918, but there was no central organisation until the advent of the Inter Varsity Fellowship in 1928
  10. ^ Povey, Claire; Richards, John (December 2009). "Up against giants: mission to FE and sixth form colleges". The Evangelical Magazine. The Evangelical Movement of Wales. Archived from the original on 30 July 2012. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  11. ^ Bhogal, Pod (March 2011). "Obituary: Robin Wells, 1935-2011". Evangelicals Now. Thornton Heath, United Kingdom. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  12. ^ Gaydon, Ray (February 2006). "Obituary: Robert Millen Horn, 1933-2005". Evangelicals Now. Thornton Heath, United Kingdom. Retrieved 7 April 2012.
  13. ^ "Our Team – Richard Cunningham". Oxford, United Kingdom: UCCF. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  14. ^ Perfect, Simon; Ryan, Ben; Aune, Kristin (2009). Faith and Belief on Campus: Division and Cohesion: Exploring student faith and belief societies (PDF). Theos. p. 115. UCCF, the broadly conservative, evangelical organisation to which 128 university Christian Unions are affiliated
  15. ^ Cawdell, Dominic (28 April 2015). "Yes I'm a Christian, but not one of those". Varsity Online. Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  16. ^ Bush, Jemima (11 March 2016). "The Christian Union should change its name". Palatinate. Retrieved 30 May 2021.
  17. ^ UCCF. "Doctrinal Basis". Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  18. ^ United We Stand? A report on current conflicts between Christian Unions and Students’ Unions. Ekklesia, 2006. Pages 4 & 12.
  19. ^ Yorkshire Post – Campus Christians accused of breaking Students' Union rules


External linksEdit