In June and July 2010, sixteen students will graduate with Vaishnava Theology degrees from two state accredited Bhaktivedanta Colleges in Europe: Budapest, Hungary and Radhadesh, Belgium.
The Bhaktivedanta College of Budapest, Hungary
The Bhaktivedanta College of Budapest is the first and unique independent state accredited institution of higher education in Vaishnava Theology in Europe.
It was established by the Hungarian Society for Krishna Consciousness (HSKCON) in 1998 and approved by the Hungarian Parliament in 2003 after a successful process of accreditation. It is co-financed by the Hungarian State and by HSKCON. It has a new branch in Helsinki, Finland.
It offers a Vaishnava Theology BA (since 2001), a Yoga Master BA (from 2009) and the accreditation of a Vaishnava Theology MA is in progress. At the moment, there are 230 registered students in Budapest and 19 in Helsinki. Nine Theology students will graduate in July 2010. Most of the students are not ISKCON members, especially in the Yoga BA, but during their studies most of them become devotees or genuinely sympathetic to ISKCON.
The Quality Assurance System of the Bhaktivedanta College of Budapest allows the staff to better their teaching techniques semester to semester and to render Gaudiya Vaishnavism even more appealing to the students.
All teachers are required to have or to study for a PhD degree. At the moment, five full time teachers have already PhD or higher degree and another five pursue their PhD studies. These teachers have published a considerable number of study guides and college textbooks for the College courses.
The Bhaktivedanta College is also a centre for research on Vaishnavism and Yoga. There are five research groups (Vaishnava Exegetics, ISKCON History, Cultural Heritage of India, Yoga, Vedic Science) in which the College staff and related research fellows carry out their studies. Students are integrated to these research groups through the annual Students‘ Science Competition and through their degree papers.
The Bhaktivedanta College of Budapest is deeply integrated into Hungarian scientific networks. Most of the staff are active members of the Hungarian and European Society of Religious Science as well as of the scientific societies related to their fields of study. There is also a living exchange with Colleges of various denominations, which are present in Hungary.
The College team has been organizing an annual Plenary Conference, which has attracted the most distinguished Hungarian scholars, theologians and decision-makers since 1998. The monthly held BHAKTI Clubs, evening open lectures and discussions also host many dozens of students every year.
The College also offers pay courses in Yoga, Vaishnava Philosophy, Personality Development, Indian Music, Indian Vegetarian Cooking, Ayurveda, Vedic Astrology and Vastu. There have been approximately 500 students in the pay courses since 2005.
The Bhaktivedanta Library of Budapest specialising in Indian and religious studies has about 12,000 documents and its stock is steadily growing, thanks to private donations and the regular help of the Indian Embassy of Hungary.
The Bhaktivedanta College of Radhadesh, Belgium
The Bhaktivedanta College in Radhadesh is in partnership with the University of Wales Lampeter, an acknowledged centre for Religious Studies in the U.K.
It is part of the educational vision for ISKCON developed by its Ministry of Educational Development. The Ministry’s ideas are to create institutes of higher education in Vaishnava Theology that facilitate exchanges of thought and experience and help ensure the efficiency and competence on all levels of education needed in ISKCON communities.
The students in the College are cared for and nurtured in a personal way so that they can later dedicate their skills and knowledge to society and thus become instruments for spiritual change. By attending a range of accredited courses, students develop their spiritual potential with confidence and maturity, which enables them to serve in ISKCON and build bridges of understanding and cooperation with the other religious traditions.
The program provides students with the necessary education to become independently thoughtful and competent representatives of their tradition; also it broadens their understanding of the Vaishnava theology, philosophy, and culture, through the study of Vaishnava Canonical Texts, Sanskrit Language, Indian and Western Philosophy, World Religions and Sociology.
Students completing three years of studies at Bhaktivedanta College earn a Bachelor's degree in Theology, accredited by the University of Wales through its Open Learning Theology and Religious Studies program. All credits and degrees received at Bhaktivedanta College correspond to the new standard of education in Europe (according to the Bologna process) and are internationally accepted.