BYU Europe

Let me tell you a dream.

It begins in the real world. I first visited Utah when I was 15, at an age when I was first considering my future, what I wanted for my life, who I was, who I would be. I felt very Mormon and was beginning to accept that part of my social identity.

I found BYU truly amazing. Partly because I had never been to a university before and partly at the sheer size of the place. Here was a shining city of learning full of people like me.

Well, not quite . . . and there is the rub. The vast majority of the students were American. I was not, and while a path to BYU was technically open for a boy from the Shire such as myself, it would not be a natural nor an easy choice. This great campus was largely built to the benefit of Mormons who already lived in Zion. I remember feeling sad.

Since then I have been lucky to have received a good education in the great institutions of my homeland and elsewhere. I also rode the uncertainty of young adult Mormon life and arrived at a grown up commitment to the church. All without BYU! As I think about my own kids’ education I think about Oxford or Cambridge, or one of the civic “redbricks” in the English towns, or perhaps the happy EU tuition reciprocity available in universities in Holland or Germany. However, there are many Mormon families more worried about the social stress a gentile education might place on their children’s faith than I am. I do not share their worry but I understand it and so, like them, I wish BYU was more readily available here. I am sure there are Mormons in developing countries who feel this even more acutely, given that BYU represents the chance not only for a Mormon education but also for a quality American education, one which might unlock remarkable doors otherwise barred.

This is a post about a dream so we will have to return for a discussion of the data — foreign students, funding for foreigners and so on. For now, let us accept that the BYU campuses’ geography mean that they will always favour the American whatever our wishes to the contrary. That is just a fact.

And so, the dream:

BYU London Centre

BYU currently has a London Centre, a rather splendid building near Hyde Park. Like other centres across the world, it serves the study abroad ambitions of BYU students. And there’s the rub: local students are very unlikely to ever darken its doors. BYU thus has a presence in London that is of no use to the locals. I believe plans are afoot to expand BYU’s influence in places such as the UK — a hope and not yet a reality.

There is of course a thriving Institute of Religion in London but that is a rather different beast, serving the wider YSA community and not just students.

How about this, then:

BYU builds a dorm in London for students enrolled at colleges in the capital. British Mormon kids take classes by day at their universities and come back at night for happy Mormon socialising. They could take their Institute classes there too, led by a small team of resident professors. Maybe some other electives. This would would act as a higher education hub for LDS students across the UK and Europe and could provide the model for other cities.

I confidently predict it would be a roaring success.


  1. Mephibosheth says:

    My parents met here in the 1970’s:

    But this article is almost 15 years old. Anyone know if it’s still there?

  2. I think a BYU-L dorm is a smashingly good idea and agree that its success would roar.

  3. Why not have BYU-ANYWHERE? Turn stake centers (all equipped with satelite dishes) into education centers while they’re not being used? (This is really Neal Kramer’s idea.) I would be happy to teach literature or writing personal/family history in Spanish and have my image/words sent to stake centers throughout Spanish speaking countries. Let my husband teach about Shakespeare or C.S. Lewis in French, a language he loves, and broadcast him in the DR-Congo, Cot d’ivoir, Paris, etc. Have J. Kirk Richards teach art in Itallian. Get M.M. Miles or Tom Rogers teaching in Russian. In the temple, we have audio channels. I could do a temple session in Quiche if I wanted to–it’s available for me.
    Can we build more boarding schools like Benemerito? We at BYU are a spoiled lot, and students typically are ungrateful for what they have and are preoccupied with how to get an A. Give me a class whose members hunger and thirst for knowledge and I will be happy to offer all I can.

  4. I love Margaret/Neal’s idea and believe it deserves action. While MBY gives credit to Neal Kramer, I believe this idea has been passed around all of the BYUs ever since the internet capacity developed to begin to make it a reality. I have heard it at BYU-Provo, BYU-Hawaii, and BYU-Idaho. I have only seen real action, however, in the last few years with BYU-Idaho leading the charge with their Pathway program. Of the Church institutions, they are probably uniquely situated to do so given the flexibility of their culture and their overall size. The other institutions, however, will likely play a role in refining this nascent program

  5. No thank you. I grew up with BYU Jerusalem.

  6. You would have to build two dorms to meet BYU standards.

  7. Margaret,
    Your idea is a good one but probably only makes sense for the developing world. For many international LDS, the problem is not access to good education but access to an LDS residential environment. That is what they crave. And even in developing countries there is often education available if there are the means to fund it. Ad hoc classes without accreditation and that don’t lead to degrees only go so far. There is also the potential cultural problem of what it means to “beam in” the “great, white American professor” to educate the natives. What I really want to see is international Mormon kids getting their degrees at home while being offered a taste of BYU socially. That doesn’t encourage the brain drain to Provo and might stem YSA losses somewhat.

  8. RJH, excellent idea and workable. It is a real shame in my view that this is not already a hub of social interaction. In fact, a case could be made that those who are in fact studying abroad might benefit from some interaction with the YSAs already living in London. I am sure that they already meet with them at points, but a systematic effort to get them together would be a great thing.

  9. I don’t really get this. Obviously there is no need to bring BYU to places where there are plenty of good universities already. But to build a dorm? How would this be different from YSA/Institute centers, other than that people would live in the building? You said that the Institute is serving wider YSA cummonity than just students, but isn’t that a good thing? Why should Church arrange housing for students?

  10. Even though this whole idea confuses me, I could consider to live in a dorm like this. Provided that the rent would be affordable. If it was, then one really wonders, if it is good use of church’s money to have dorms like this.

  11. Niklas, I suspect that it is not in the church’s interests to own and maintain a very expensive piece of property in the centre of London for travel abroad BYU students and yet they do. Part of the BYU experience, it seems to me, is living with other Mormons in an environment that fosters faith and intellect. Most British universities are much like those in the US except that the number of Mormons in any given university probably far lower on average. This building would provide a way for students who are studying in London to be part of an environment that fosters faith while allowing British universities to provide the intellectual development. Institute buildings, and even centres for young adults, are not a substitute for this dorm-like experience of associating with other Mormons.

  12. What Aaron said. This is about social association that goes beyond playing volleyball once a week and taking the same Book of Mormon class over and over again. Offering a “BYU experience” alongside study at university would be very attractive and London would be enough of a magnet to make it viable.

  13. I guess I just don’t grasp this concept of “dorm-like experience.” For me student housing is just about housing. This might be a cultural difference, student houses here might not be comparable to “real dormitories”.

  14. Niklas, I find it surprising that you cannot see how living with a group of Mormons while you are at university – having devotionals with them etc. – would be drastically different from living with non-Mormons while you are at university. In this BYU dorm, the amount of sex, drugs, and alcohol would be radically diminished while the amount of spiritual conversation and religiously focused action would be increased.

  15. Yes, fantastic idea.
    I’ve known a number of people who’ve gone to University, only to go less active very quickly. A lot of YSA wards are so transient, with people always moving in and out, it makes it easier for some to get lost. Institute and the occasional YSA activity are also not enough to create a supportive community.
    Mormon dorms (mormdorms?) would hopefully go a long way in addressing those problems.

  16. Aaron, I do see your point. Is it utopistic to believe that all this could take place even if people weren’t living in a same building?
    Maybe I just want to keep some distance to my fellow YSAs. It would be horrible, if somebody would come to knock my door if I just missed an institute class or something. In a BYU-dorm that could totally happen.
    Then again, some people might really need (and even want) that knock on a door.

  17. I think it’s a great idea, but cost prohibitive. The argument that the church currently has X square meters of costly space in London does not make it feasible the church should have XYZ square meters of costly space. Just because I already spend ten bucks on my buddys lunch doesn’t mean I should spend 10 bucks on everyone in the restaurant.

    The other issue is the type of education. Surely the church is not just spending money on BYU to give them a high quality education, but one with the infussion of religion. There are more than a few schools in Utah that are not church run, but are primarily LDS student bodies that are plagued with morality issues.

    If the church is going to subsidize housing of a student body in pursuit of education, it should have a say in that education.

    I’d still like to say the motivation behind this idea is great. I’d love to see a true BYU Europe, but its just too expensive with the high taxes, rent control, other stiffling government regulations, etc. that inevitablely crowd out the private sector at the margins.

  18. >the high taxes, rent control, other stiffling government regulations,

    I see your ignorant, ideological disdain of foreign climes is having no affect on your judgement here, kaphor. There is no “rent control” in London, for example, and educational facilities are typically exempt from certain of these “high taxes”. What on earth are you talking about? Do you know anything at all about London?

    I do not doubt that it would be expensive, but given the huge amount of money the church spends on Americans’ education, to rent and remodel some housing in London would not be prohibitive, if there was the will.

    As for the religious dimension of the centre — that is precisely my point. It would be properly “BYU” — students would abide by an honour code and be required to take certain evening classes alongside their regular studies. They would be able to do study abroad in Provo and Jerusalem too — in other words, be fully linked to the BYU system while getting their degrees locally.

  19. Margaret (and everyone), I guess the Pathway Program is less popular than BYU-Idaho lets on… It’s basically what you suggested They turn Institute buildings into educational centers and people take online classes and come in once a week for additional instruction and group work.

    I quite like the idea for dorms for Mormons. If I wasn’t married and going to BYU-Idaho I’d totally live in one.

  20. it's a series of tubes says:

    Ah, the London Centre. What an unbelievably choice piece of property! As my second go-round living in the UK, I loved every moment I spent there.

  21. “BYU represents the chance not only for a Mormon education but also for a quality American education”

    I’m all for a Mormon education but an American one? Coming from the country that houses Oxford and Cambridge I think that statement is utterly ridiculous.

  22. tubes,

    >I loved every moment I spent there.

    George Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston used to say the same thing about India.

  23. TJ,

    You missed the first clause: “I am sure there are Mormons in *developing countries* who feel this even more acutely…”

  24. Peter LLC says:

    By the by: Rent controls counteract high taxes by making rent, well, less expensive. See Vienna, for example, a city that routinely ranks at the top of the heap for livability among the blood-sucking capitalist crowd (Cf. Mercer Quality of Living Worldwide City Rankings). Speaking of which, with London ranked at just 38 of the world’s most livable cities, BYU might want to consider for its European campus the calmer and hence more spiritual pace of life available in cities with a stronger commitment to socialism.

  25. Peter,
    I’ll back that idea. UK students enrolled at Vienna University paying the same tuition as Austrians courtesy of the EU and living in a BYU dorm somewhere near the Ringstrasse? Win. Now, does Wien offer any English-speaking courses as is now in vogue across socialist Europe? Because if they do, I know where my kids are going.

  26. I don’t see why cost is a factor here. Surely the church could buy a conveniently-located building in London, have it remodeled for student apartments, create a contract with no-smoking and no alcohol rules (and perhaps a handful of other rules), and then rent the apartment out, marketing it to LDS students? It’s not like these students would be renting it for free. They’d pay a reasonable rent, and the church would make back its initial investment, plus some.

    The problem for implementing this past London is this: are there any singles wards in Europe outside of London? I served in some big university towns in Germany, but I never saw more than four or five young single active LDS adults in a single city. So, except for London and perhaps one or two other places, a model like this would need to be significantly downsized.

  27. RJH – forgive my ignorance. The topic may be located to your provential back yard, but the comment I made was “I’d love to see a true BYU Europe…”. I’m not so ethnocentric to presume that all discussion about BYU Europe must begin and end with London. I wasn’t aware the London was still the center of Europe, and although London would be ideal from an English speaking perspective, I don’t think it would be the best location for a BYU Europe (not to mention the associated costs that come with ‘London Weighting’).

    Still it’s interesting that you insist there is no rent control, yet there is a “Maximum Fair Rent” policy, a Rent Officer Service, and a Institute of Rent Officers. Regardless of the terms we use (Patriot Act that undermines liberties that Patriots fought for and Affordable Health Care Act that requires everyone to afford themselves of Health Insurance to cover costly options they may not want to buy) there should be little doubt that government action within in market often drives up prices (or reduces supply from the private sector).

    People of good-will can acknowledge this and then debate the merrits of it. People that don’t will always insist on carefully looking after the goose to maintain a steady supply of golden eggs and then celebrate with a roasted goose for supper.

    This is all besides the point. There is a financial side to this discussion which you are not approaching. It would be more interesting to see how much you think this will cost (and why), and how it will be paid for. It would also be interesting to know what the Brethren think about if the the YSA centers are being used to capacity and generating a good return on the investment put into them.

  28. Tim – if the rents paid covered the costs, it would be ideal. But I didn’t think the discussion was to have non-subsidized housing.

    If the idea is a good one, and I think it is, and can find customers at market prices, RJH should get some investors on board. Providing an Southern Virginia University like approach to housing in London would not only attract a lot of LDS families but Muslim ones as well.

  29. Why the need for it to be a BYU building? The residents wouldn’t be enrolled at BYU. Couldn’t the same thing be accomplished if a lot of LDS YSAs decided to live in the same place? That happens organically in many places. Crystal City, Virginia, for example, is known among LDS YSAs as “Little Provo” for its high Mormon concentration. If part of the goal is to provide the chance for students to study abroad at BYU facilities, that would have to be worked out between BYU and the British institution anyway, and such an arrangement could be brokered regardless of whether the students live in an LDS dorm.

    Granted, there’s an advantage to actually having a single building or two, whether apartment or dorm-style. So why wait for BYU to find this in their budget? All we need is an LDS investor who’s willing to provide a facility. Residents wouldn’t need to be LDS; they’d just need to agree to abide by an LDS-inspired set of house rules.

    Location would be key. Public transportation in London is first-rate, but it’s a big city, and I assume the number of students interested would be much higher if it were 10 minutes to their institution rather than 45.

    Speaking of location, if I were an LDS investor, I might be more attracted to trying this idea out in Latin America before the UK. The initial investment required would be lower, and the potential number of LDS students is higher.

    Even if there were to be an entirely new LDS college or university, it wouldn’t need to be called BYU. It could be called Joseph Smith University, or Nephi University, or something totally unrelated to Mormonism, following the SVU approach.

  30. Rent control: the instruments you describe are pretty limp and exist mostly to prevent social housing costs spiralling out of control (in the UK, “social housing” often means tenants in private housing receiving housing benefit from the state to pay their rent). I would have thought that this small attempt to limit the welfare bill would meet conservative approval, but I’m not sure of your wider point: what does a BYU London have to do with rent control?

    London: London is the only viable place in Europe for this. There is already a sizeable LDS student population there, far larger than in any other European city. It has the advantage also of, well, being a place where English is spoken.

    Costs: I’m not going to provide a financial plan for you as this is a throwaway blog post, nothing else. I am sure it would cost a lot of money. The church recently spent a lot of money refurbishing the Hyde Park chapel in London to make it a kind of centre for public outreach. It would require a capital outlay, probably. Maintenance costs would be recovered from the students. If they thought this would be a major benefit to European students, the church would do it, I am sure. Where to find private Mormon money in Europe is beyond my ken, I’m afraid.

  31. Travis,
    Because people here trust the BYU brand. The imprimatur is everything.

  32. who is this kaphor guy?? he’s missed the ENTIRE point. please, for the love of pete, re-read and ponder… come back, ponder some more… and don’t say anything else.

  33. Love it! It seems that would very easily a–give parents more peace of mind, b–give students more assurance that they wouldn’t have to deal with lots of roommate issues that come up in regular dorms, c–provide an easy gathering place for institute, ward prayer, devotionals, etc etc, and d–lead to more marriages between young faithful LDS that turn into another generation of strong LDS families in Europe. Definitely worth the investment!

    I wonder how a private investor would enforce honor codes? It seems my landlord could never evict me if I took up drinking and fornicating, but my LDS roommates would certainly not be getting the experience they are paying for. BYU has some sort of cartel-like agreements with off-campus housing providers in Provo that are supposed to keep BYU student housing users in check and mostly does, I guess. I don’t see how a landlord in London could do the same, let’s say, quality control. Wouldn’t it be illegal to discriminate against tenants, or would be tenants for their religious beleifs and practices (or lack of)? It seems you would need an educational entity to cover that aspect of it.

  34. it's a series of tubes says:

    George Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston used to say the same thing about India.

    Ronan, why the hostility? I served in the UK nearly twenty years ago, maintain regular contacts there, and jumped at the opportunity when, a few years after serving, I first had the chance to go back. On the spectrum of sensitivity or awareness of UK concerns and issues (particularly LDS ones), I’d probably fall almost off the end of the scale on the “devoted anglophile” end. The reasons for why I love England and its people go far beyond the scope of a blog comment, but it’s more Walthamstow than Kensington.

    Curzon? Ouch.

  35. tubes,
    Colonial guilt has been hammered into me so much that I sometimes wield it as a weapon against others now that the tables have turned. I apologise.

  36. Mephibosheth, the East Lansing living center is still there. It was built with funds from a private donor. It has capacity for about 100 residents. For 30 years it ran under the control of a CES manager, separate from the institute director. Six years ago the director gained control over the apartments and rewrote the rental contracts to include a BYU-style honor code, including grooming standards and multiple passages from “For the Strength of Youth”. As a result, half (no exaggeration) the residents moved out. Most of the people that did so complained that they did not want to be treated like teenagers. The local YSA ward has still not recovered from the loss of members.

    In contrast, the YSA ward in Ann Arbor (similar size university town in neighboring stake) uses the elder’s quorum and relief society organizations to find housing and roommates for people who want to live with other members. Many freshmen are required to live on campus, but as soon as their first year is up, they look for other members to share an apartment. Their ward continues to grow.

  37. This is indeed a really great idea. Although–again–this is an American perspective, to give some local perspective that touches on a couple contrary points above, Arizona State University tried creating a “Clean Living Dorm” a few years back that was really pushed by the local CES, that had higher moral standards (separate buildings and visiting hours for opposite sexes, stricter drug and alcohol regulations, etc.) for students who wanted it. It was totally ASU-provided, but I had a strong impression that it was targeted mostly to Mormon students (of whom many are in the area) and that ASU expected them to be the bulk of takers on the offer and hoped to draw some that may not have come otherwise.

    As far as I know, it fizzled. I’ve never heard of anyone I know or know of taking advantage of the opportunity. A combination of fairly strong local YSA church units and the commuter nature of the school prevented a success.

    I think some people interpret the OP’s idea as something like this Clean Living Dorm or see that as a more viable alternative. Actually, I think the full BYU brand would be the key to making something that would actually draw Mormon students even from more comfortable suburban YSA enclaves like in Arizona, to say nothing of students “abroad” who probably don’t even have those opportunities. The dorm alone might be enough to attract people and would form the foundation of the program, but what would give it vitality and long life, I think, is the whole “BYU experience” of the good religion classes and extra stuff that could be provided in such an environment. This seems totally doable and even if expensive a worthwhile investment in the youth of the Church that may conceivably get a higher per-unit return than the expensive full Church schools.

  38. Ronan is correct that I tend to look at developing countries when I talk about long distance learning. He also has inside information on why I do that. I think his idea is brilliant, and I want it to happen. I want to learn more about the pathway program, which I’ve heard described in glowing terms but not really in detail. Maybe I’ll jut have to make an appointment with someone at BYU-I the next time I take my son to Island Park. Very willing to do this. Who should I talk to?

  39. Btw, the dorms for Mormons should also be considered for inner cities where violence is a threat. Benemerito is a great example. Cost prohibitive? I think we can pull it off. Imagination gets so much started, and persistence finishes it.

  40. “Substance free” dorms like Trev mentioned are quite popular in east coast colleges–typically, the students who opt in are serious students and/or serious about their religion. If my kids chose a university that had one, I would certainly encourage them to sign up!

  41. I think it’s a great idea. It’s hard for me to believe that cost would be prohibitive. The students have to live somewhere, why would a church-run dorm be more expensive than alternatives? In my experience, it is enriching to learn in a classroom setting with people of many different backgrounds and perspectives, but it can feel oppressive and trying to live in a social environment that is seriously out of harmony with gospel standards.

  42. As far as BYU classes in UK. Would they be up to UK standard, or recognised? As far as housing while attending UK universities, I think it would work better to have LDS married students running a large house with single students living in. Informal and reasonable rules.

    I left UK in 1971 and, because I did not qualify for UK university, went to BYU Idaho. Was not impressed by the petty rules, but stayed and got my junior college degree. WhenI went to Australa (visa was up) I was told a BYU Junior college degree was equivalent to High school leaving in Australia and I could start University again.

    When my children were at University in Brisbane we bought a house near the Uni and a Married daughter, with her husband, a single daughter and a number of other single LDS girls lived there. I got phone calls for years after looking for LDS accomodation.

    So some reservations about the idea.

  43. Wouldn’t such a dorm just fill up with Americans looking for a comfortable base for a year abroad?

  44. Meldrum the Less says:

    First of all, the reason for college is to get education. If the field you are interested in is better (or cheaper) up at the University of Utah or elsewhere, then why not go there? I suspect the universities in the UK do a better job of providing a proper education for a British student intent on living in Britain than BYU could hope to do. The quality of the education would likely be compromised to some extent.

    Not everything is all roses at BYU. You know about the underground? People at BYU drink beer and smoke pot and fornicate. They just lie about it and bear their testimonies tearfully for cover. You can experience the distinct privilege at BYU of having your virtue compromised by a GA’s grandson! The comfort of parents sending their innocent children into a safe environment is unfounded. Plenty of trouble waiting for you even in Provo Utah. You can create the BYU experience in many places and yes many students at BYU do a good job of it.

    Part of this is the Mormon superiority complex. If you think LDS students are somehow on a higher plane then dreams about a BYU-X abound. But you can find good moral decent people anywhere. My daughter is at Emory with less than 5 active LDS students. But her circle of non-LDS friends are as good and decent as you could hope for even at BYU. Her roommate, a minister’s daughter is not sleeping with her marginally Jewish boyfriend who might convert to a decent but marginally believing Christian. One girl’s family was so strict that she has never celebrated Halloween or put up a Christmas tree. The Ishmali Muslim room mate is by far the most restricted in her religious observations. If she dates (she doesn’t), her father’s henchmen might slit the lad’s throat, in theory anyway. Most drink coffee and some of the stricter Protestants don’t dance, but this is all pretty superficial. They have so much more in common than not.

    I might be out there, but I think a bigger question is justifying the expense of BYU when it benefits only a small cohart of American Mormon blue-blooded students. Rather building more BYU-Xs I would suggest consider X-ing BYU-Provo and BYU-Idaho.

  45. anonforthis says:

    Part of what irks me is this statement “I am sure there are Mormons in developing countries who feel this even more acutely, given that BYU represents the chance not only for a Mormon education but also for a quality American education”…. people in developing countries need education, but they need an education that’s uniquely their own. Wanting non-US LDS (even in other 1st world countries) to get an ‘American education’ and touting it as superior over their own local culture and education is a superiority attitude I see in so many American LDS and it annoys me very much. .
    BYU (or other LDS run unis) do not guarantee that you will be a moral person. Likewise, going to a non-LDS uni does not mean that you will become ‘immoral’. And to think that having a BYU-Europe would be a huge success among most LDS Europeans, is too naive. Let’s be realistic. Why would LDS students in Europe go to an LDS owned school, when their own countries generally have decent education facilities? Surely, they might want to interact with other LDS students, but that need is not too strong to the point where they would prefer their BYU over their own country’s unis.
    There’s no proof that LDS students in Europe have morality problems just because they don’t go to BYU. I would predict most LDS youth in Europe do not have a burning desire to go to BYU and they probably don’t want to have tons of petty rules in the name of an ‘honour code’. Looking at threads about BYU-I and jeans, the thread about the BYU student and the ‘clothing police Valentines note’, I don’t want that kind of nonsense coming to Europe. LDS people in Europe generally dress modestly, without that kind of BYU-honour code type pettiness that American LDS seem to have.

  46. Meldrum, you’re sending your daughter to Emory (tuition: $43,000) and calling BYU students (tuition: $4700 or $3500) a bunch of Mormon blue-bloods? Project much?

  47. anon.
    You haven’t understood a word of my post.

  48. anonforthis says:

    Maybe BYU worked for you, but if a potential BYU experience in Europe includes petty ‘honour codes’ then no thank you. Not all American LDS like BYU…why would you expect the majority of LDS youth in Europe to want to go to a potential ‘BYU-Europe’ if not even all LDS American youth like BYU or go there? I’ve heard there are even LDS American youth that think the honour code is a bit too petty these days with their obsessions about facial hair, jeans etc….do you think European students would want that? I don’t think so.

  49. My law firm seconded me to London and put me up in a beautiful townhouse. All was well until the first Sunday when I heard Come Come Ye Saints coming from a piano next door. Turns out I shared a wall with the BYU London Centre. Jonah and the whale.

  50. In response to 33. ESO

    BYU was sued (actually some of the off-campus housing providers were sued and BYU intervened in the case on their behalf) for violating the Federal Fair Housing Act (1968). On appeal the court tried to balance the interests of the non-discriminatory intent of the law and the religious freedom interests involved in creating a safe and supportive community for BYU students. Interestingly enough, the stricter parts of the honor code as they apply to housing were not at issue. It was the fact that BYU requires off-campus housing to have all-male or all-female buildings. Under the Fair Housing Act you cannot discriminate on the basis of sex, which these off-campus providers were clearly doing.

    The court decided to re-characterize the situation as one in which the off-campus providers were actually discriminating on the basis of student status—not a violation of the Fair Housing Act—and that it was the students themselves who were creating the sex-discriminatory environment through their binding themselves under BYU’s honor code. To this day (unless something has changed in the last 5 years when I studied this case in law school), you have to be a student to live in BYU-approved off-campus housing, but the definition is often stretched to include anyone enrolled in Institute and enforcement is sporadic.

    This was a hard win and there is no guarantee BYU would prevail a second time if challenged again. The fact is the policy is discriminatory, though not in the way most people think. As a male who needed housing in Provo more than once, I remember being turned away from complexes who had lots of openings for women, but never men, or only for men at an increased price or in poorer facilities. It’s a reality that as a class, men are riskier tenants, and landlords who can discriminate generally prefer female tenants. I don’t begrudge the fact, and there generally is enough housing for both sexes, but at the margins of the market, the policy definitely creates distortions.

    As the story goes, the court would never have come to this decision if BYU hadn’t been represented by Rex E. Lee, the former U.S. Solicitor General, who was well respected by the court and garnered even more sympathy because he agreed to represent BYU while undergoing cancer treatments. I’m told this was the last case he ever argued. I am not familiar with the housing laws in England, or in Europe in general, but if a group of LDS investors were to build a dorm in Europe, this is something that definitely needs to be considered. Dorms directly affiliated with universities are usually treated separately. If unaffiliated with a university, the dorms might have a stronger legal foundation if affiliated with the Church directly, because of religious freedom issues, but independent LDS investors would have a harder case to make if it was ever challenged. This is a challenge Southern Virginia hasn’t had to face yet, but they have a similar off-campus housing policy to BYU, so it’s possible they may be the next test case.

  51. Ronan, this is a great post and excellent idea! I am sorry I missed it last week. I am on board with this dream 100%.

  52. This is a topic that I really care about. I know it was probably meant more as a thought-provoking post than a planning session, but if anyone is serious about doing something in this regard, I’d be very interested in discussing more concrete options.

    I’ve commented on other blogs about this issue. I feel bad advertising a “rival” blog, but I’ll refer anyone interested to see for an earlier discussion on a similar topic, rather than repeat all of the arguments.

    Just as a status update of where we are though, the Church has stated that they will not be building more universities, and they have cut back on secondary education as well, including the closing of the Church College in New Zealand (the equivalent of an American high school for anyone not familiar with the Commonwealth systems). They did open schools in Kiribati fairly recently, but the current approach appears to be focused almost exclusively on creating educational opportunities where they don’t already exist.

    There have been several attempts to do something in higher education without direct support by the Church, each with varying success. Southern Virginia University is the most successful example, now in their 16th year or so. Nauvoo University came and went, as did the Acorn to Oak Foundation / Residencia Faiek (a student dorm similar to the one being discussed here for London, but in Cordoba, Argentina), but both may have been more successful if they had a larger initial investment. Desert Valley Academy is ambitious in its plans and won’t start without the investment that the two previously mentioned ventures failed without, but DVA has pushed back its opening from Fall 2012 to Fall 2016, presumably due to less-than-hoped-for funding. The Academy for Creating Enterprise is experiencing great success in both the Philippines and Mexico, but its Brazil campus does not appear to have achieved the same level of stability. And finally the International Education Research Society is a non-profit set up in Japan to teach Japanese LDS students English so they can pass the TOEFL and study in the Church schools in the U.S. This last organization has successfully run English classes in Japan for about 6 years in conjunction with BYU, and it is one I have worked with closely, with the hope of someday establishing a permanent facility that can be built up into a Japanese university, and not just an English school. Alma Taylor University anyone? Aru-dai for short! You probably need to speak Japanese to get the joke.

    The Church was approached with the option to buy an existing university in Japan which it turned down. It commissioned a woman on BYU’s faculty to look into the feasibility of constructing a university somewhere in Latin America, but canceled the study after the preliminary figures came in. The Church also commissioned a study on education in Asia in the 1970s. The recommendations of that study were to build an LDS dorm in Tokyo and Hong Kong as has been suggested here for London, if not also building educational centers where students could study as many Institute Outreach Centers have become (especially in Germany). The Church decided not to adopt the more ambitious recommendations. I’ve been told that Senador Jeffrey Jones approached President Hinckley about the possibility of building a university in Mexico (possibly close to the border, so U.S. professors could teach there but live in the United States, commuting) and that Deputado Moroni Torgan approached the brethren with a similar request for Brazil. Neither petition was met with success.

    Administrative costs seem to be the overriding factor. BYU-Idaho now requires all of its students to take at least one online course, and in addition to the track system which allowed enrollment to increase by 50%, the future of any expansion of higher education for the Church appears to be the Pathways program. BYU-Hawaii was also looking at the possibility of eliminating its freshman year by having students complete all of their first year (mostly GE/prerequisite) courses at institute outreach centers with couple missionaries serving as tutors in their home countries.

    Part of the debate that always comes up in a discussion on this topic is whether BYU or a Church school is worth anything more than education. Unfortunately, it appears that that Church is starting to buy into the arguments that the only value of a BYU is access to an “academic education”, as all of its cost-saving measures are being done by sacrificing the most valuable thing about LDS higher education: the chance to gather with other intelligent LDS students.

    I was about to launch into a list of all the benefits I see as coming from an LDS university (especially outside of the United States), but for the sake of brevity, let me just say, a dorm in a city like London is a good idea (and in Europe it is probably the only place where it is really feasible at the moment), but it doesn’t bring all of the benefits, and I want all of the benefits. If cost is prohibitive in London, could we build an LDS university farther afield? Perhaps in Manchester of Liverpool? Or in the countryside somewhere? After all, BYU is in Provo, not New York or DC. Oxford and Cambridge aren’t in London either. In the case of a dorm, location is important, but if we build an actual university, we have a lot more flexibility.

  53. MLewis,
    I appreciate your engagement with the idea but I just don’t think you’d get the students necessary to start a university here. So it’s a no-go. There is also virtually no tradition of private universities in the UK so they would struggle to get accredited. We don’t need a BYU *education* — this is the land of Oxford, Cambridge, and London after all. What people want is BYU sociality.

    Having said all that, there is another thing that makes the inaccessibility to BYU grate: tuition fees over here are going up to £9000 ($14000). The fees paid to BYU by their lower taxed American cousins are a bargain and yet we pay tithing too.

  54. Well, I am a Norwegian student (currently taking my Ph.D in Texas) who took his MA at BYU. My wife and I have a similar dream. BYU proper is not going to expand (except through the Pathways program which opens up for online classes from anywhere), but I have looked at the liberal arts college model at Southern Virginia University, and I think that may be the model which would allow good education with church-based standards to spread across the world. The church would not have liability, and it would have to be financed by tuition and donations by wealthier members, but as SVU shows, it is not impossible. Personally, I am thinking it should be somewhere near Chorley to make use of the Preston Temple community. I lived there a year, and I love the area.

  55. I agree that the project would be difficult, and very improbable given likely resource allocation. But let’s take a look at our prospects. By my estimate there are 9,400 or so university-age members of the Church in the United Kingdom. There are more YSA’s, but I’m narrowing it to just a four-year age span. Probably only about 2,350 of this group are active. Of that group we’d probably be lucky to attract 200 students in the beginning. That’s a pretty small university, but Southern Virginia University started out with just 70 students. Today it still only has about 800 students. I agree with David Isaksen that the best way to make a private school work in the UK would be the Southern Virginia model, though that school is still a ways off from self-sustaining financing. If we can attract 200 students initially we can get started. Assuming the Church population in the United Kingdom stays relatively stable in the near future, I think we could expect to grow that student body to over 900. It’s no BYU, but it doesn’t need to be. The numbers are there if we can provide a quality education. And this isn’t including other European saints who may want to study at the school in the UK.

    However, I’m willing to concede that the tradition of heavily subsidized public education in the UK, and even more so the lack of a private school tradition will be the biggest barrier for an LDS university working out. This is something I’ve spent a lot of time looking into. Accreditation is possible, and in England there may even be the possibility of some public funding, but finding a model that works in the British system is definitely going to be a challenge. Because of the barriers to entry in England another location in Europe, like Germany, might be better, but I’d prefer England because it has the largest member base, and an English-medium university elsewhere in Europe will not have the same pull as one in England. Though a French- or German-medium university may have the pull, we don’t have the member base in those language communities.

    As for the educational need, I accept that England doesn’t need just another university. But BYU is not just another university. When we’re talking about a “BYU education” we’re not talking about an American education. We can follow the Cambridge and Oxford models as far as the academics go. There is more to BYU than just the sociality outside of the classroom.

    Most parents just look at the already stated benefits of pulling our kids out of risky environments (and not just environments where drinking and promiscuity are prevalent—some professors, both familiar and unfamiliar with our faith, have as a stated goal the undermining of the religious faith of their students). This can best be accomplished at an LDS university, with an LDS dorm/apartment situation providing a good though incomplete substitute. Some benefits come from the youth being around others their age, including the strengthening of one’s testimony and resolve to serve in the Church over a lifetime, and the increased probability of temple marriage. These benefits can partially be met by Institute, YSA wards, or even just a strong YSA program in a stake, like I had in West Virginia. But some benefits of being with other Latter-day Saints are only had if they are attending the same classes with you.

    On and you can listen to lectures from some of the best universities in the world for free. I’ve listened to many of them and it turns out the lecturers at the Ivy Leagues aren’t much better than BYU professors, though most are better published. With some exceptions, the real difference in value added from faculty at most Ivy Leagues doesn’t kick in until you get to the graduate (post-graduate) level. At the undergraduate level, the most value from an Ivy League education actually comes from the networking opportunities and peer discussions. The same is true at BYU. You can learn almost everything “academic” that your professors might teach you as an undergrad on Wikipedia. What you don’t get from Wikipedia is faculty mentoring (a rarity at both secular and LDS universities except for the smaller liberal arts colleges, like SVU) and the real time discussion with peers after the lecture. Online programs are trying to replicate this with discussion boards, and the Pathways program is supplementing lectures with local meetings at the Institutes, but it’s not the same. Especially if your Institute group only has four or five people.

    Other benefits? In establishing the Brigham Young Academy, Brigham Young said, “Brother Maeser, I want you to remember that you ought not to teach even the alphabet or the multiplication tables without the Spirit of God.” Divinely inspired men and women of learning certainly exist at other institutions, and most of them are not members of the Church, but at BYU’s Annual University Conference in 1968, President Kimball gave an address in which he basically said if you could gather teachers and professors possessing the highest academic credentials, and the Spirit of God, the power of their teaching would surpass anything the Ivy Leagues, or even Oxford or Cambridge, have to offer. Likewise, if the students gathered with a commitment to both academic rigor and learning by the Spirit, the students trained at such an institution could potentially revolutionize our understanding in all fields. (To listen to the talk you can go to BYU’s Speeches website, but no transcript is available: Now is BYU accomplishing this? Probably not yet. Is it ever likely to do so? That’s a question we could debate for some time, but as the Church’s flagship institution, I’m still hopeful that BYU will one day rise to its full potential.

    Now if the LDS universities lived up to this potential would I want all LDS kids to go to an LDS university like BYU? No. There is value in diversity. But not just diversity in one’s classmates, as the daughter at Emory mentioned above enjoys. There is also value to institutional diversity. The Church will be stronger by having members with a diversity of experience in their education, but in order for real diversity to exist, religious schools, especially LDS schools, should be included in the mix. I attended a seminar with the President of Boston College (a Catholic Jesuit university) about this topic that was excellent. Unfortunately I can’t find the transcript (I don’t know if one was made), but a decent discussion of the same issue is in The Importance of Religiously Affiliated Law Schools, 37 Cath. Law. 183 (1996) by James D. Gordon, III (available here

    Now I think any one of those reasons is a great reason to have an LDS university, but I think it is potentially more needed when we look at the needs of the Church outside the United States. An LDS university will not only increase the dialogue among the members in a nation or community, but it will also provide LDS academics greater opportunity to research and publish in their respective fields, complimented by a more open LDS perspective. Outside of the English-speaking world the effect will be even more pronounced. Instead of relying wholly on translated material from Church HQs, or those few unofficial publications that get translated (usually general authority titles), local saints will have more opportunity to develop a robust debate on the Church locally and to publish not just material of a strictly academic nature, but maybe even popular fiction or music. The Church will probably be better off if it can develop a culture that better adapts locally, which is a role LDS universities could help fill, especially if they are not just an overseas campus of a U.S. university (despite the value of the BYU brand), but one that works with the local system.

    For me, the question of an LDS university is also about the gathering. The Church has always recognized the need for members to “gather to Zion.” In the early days this accompanied a command to gather to one of the approved Zion locations, one of the most notable being Utah for its long term demographic effect on that state. But even as the call to gather to Utah was still in effect other gathering sites in Hawaii and French Polynesia were established to provide the benefit of local gathering (see “Unto Every Nation: Gospel Light Reaches Every Land” by Cannon, Cowan, & others). The call for the gathering for modified around 1890, when the message became one of building Zion in your home nation.

    However, even as the Church is built up “at home” we still find the need for gathering. In a place like Brazil where most members stay in their home country for school, there is a coordination issue. If we could convince a large number (say 500 or 600) to attend the same university, or universities in the same city, then not only would the institute be able to offer a wider variety of classes, such as Pearl of Great Price or Church History, but we could establish a respectable student ward or two. London probably fits this criterion. However in some places, like Japan and Western Europe, a large percentage of the LDS youth go to the United States for school. They don’t all get into the BYU system, so many of them filter into alternative “LDS” universities like UVU, Utah State, and Weber State. Unlike some of their counterparts in the lesser developed world, these members have adequate educational opportunities available to them at home. By and large they are not coming just to get an American education. In fact many LDS Japanese BYU-Hawaii graduates find that an American education isn’t as much as one would hope when they go back to Japan. To compensate BYU-Hawaii has pulled together donors to provide students with a living stipend so they can travel to Japan to do free internships, hoping these internships turn into job offers and increase the prestige of the BYU brand in Japan.

    Needless to say, these members are coming to U.S. universities to “gather” with other LDS youth, whether or not it is at an official “LDS” university. The problem isn’t that they come (though if we want to develop a non-U.S. centric culture, this alone could be problematic), but that too many of them fail to go back. This process of “spirit drain” is akin to the “brain drain” suffered by many developing nations. The kids who leave are overwhelmingly the active youth, the children of the bishops and the stake presidents, the return missionaries, in short the future leaders of the Church in many of these countries. With low levels of converts in many of these nations, we can’t afford to lose many of the strongest members from the second generation to emigration, but in many cases that is exactly what happens. An LDS university in their home country (or perhaps closer to home, such as in England for other European saints or Australia for New Zealand saints) might help alleviate this problem. Again, not everyone would want to stay, and not everyone who stays would want to attend an LDS university, but in the spirit of educational diversity, let’s give them the option.

    Finally, in response to the tithing disparity with regards to BYU. I agree that BYU is an amazing deal, but if tuition is only £9000 ($14000) in the UK, you still have things pretty good. In the US, tuition rates have been rising at higher than the inflation rate for over a decade, and college graduate earnings are down (19% for men over the last decade). Private university annual tuition runs from $18,000 on the low end to $35,000 on the high end. Harvard is $54,000. Public school tuition isn’t much better, averaging between $12,000 and $25,000 a year. While it’s true that the American cousins may be taxed less (though not by much, the highest marginal tax rate at the federal level is only 35% compared to 40% for the UK, but according to one study by the OECD, the average tax burden in the US when everything is added in—including state income tax, property tax, sales tax, etc.—is 30.0%, compared to 50.7% in Germany, 48.3% in France, and only 29.7% for the UK), I’m not sure who is worse off when it comes to higher education.

    For a good analysis of the state of higher education in America see

    All that said though, you can’t beat BYU’s tuition at $4,560 a year, (double for non-members). The tithing subsidy is probably the biggest criticism of BYU. Arguably we’re taking the proverbial widow’s mite and using it to subsidize the education of the rich young man from America. My best estimate of the tithing subsidy is 36.7% according to the latest available data. I’m basing this on the IPEDS category for “contributions from affiliated entities” which I assume refers to the Church. The raw numbers are $402,270,044 out of $1,096,163,788 in total revenue. Clearly running a large university is an expensive business, but without the Church subsidy BYU’s tuition would only rise to around $6,900 a year, which is still one of the best deals in the country. The lower cost of living in Utah, large private donations from alumni, government grants, and the “service” discount to faculty salaries (it is claimed that many BYU professors receive less than they could at other institutions because they feel like teaching at BYU is like a Church calling, but I haven’t done an analysis of actual salaries) keeps BYU cheap. Affiliation with the Church helps the school in more ways than just the direct institutional support.

    In short, I want to build LDS universities wherever the membership can support it. This doesn’t have to be to the exclusion of LDS dorms like they have in Michigan. We could do an LDS university in Northern England, and a dorm in London (of course neither of these options helps our kids going to Oxford or Cambridge). It won’t be cheap, and it won’t happen overnight, but I don’t think it’s impossible.

  56. You seem to have a plan. Go for it!

  57. the highest marginal tax rate at the federal level is only 35% compared to 40% for the UK

    I can’t help but point out that the UK rate applies to taxable income above a mere £35,000 and climbs to 50% above £150,000, while the 35% US rate doesn’t apply until taxable income exceeds $388,350.

  58. To RJH: Thanks for the encouragement. I’ll move the project forward as much as I can, but I know I can’t do it alone.

    To Peter LLC: My apologies on the tax numbers, and thank you for the correction. Clearly my source was mistaken. This is a good reminder to always double check my information. I’ve always assumed that the UK tax regime was more aggressively progressive than the US system, and now I know that it is even more so than I originally thought. Though Wikipedia (which apparently is a better source than my original one) informs me that the top rate on most income will be dropping from 50% to 45% in April 2013, so that may ease things up a bit.

    Though not something you focused on, I’m also willing to concede to the assertion that Americans are taxed less. I only put up the OECD findings to illustrate that taxes are not always as straight forward as one would hope when everything is considered. In the spirit of full disclosure, those numbers are probably also out of date, with all of the austerity measures passing in Europe. I couldn’t find the same category on the latest report. Either way, I have no intention of defending the OECD numbers, as I don’t know their methodology. They claim their numbers represent the total tax burden on the “average tax payer”, but they don’t define “average” or “taxpayer”. Even children pay sales tax on most purchases, so are children included among taxpayers, even though most of them pay zero in income and property tax? How does one even define an “average” person? If the numbers are merely the sum of tax revenues in each category divided by the number of people or even the number of tax returns filed, one can imagine two very different situations arriving at the same result. On the one hand we could have a flat tax, where everyone really does pay the same percentage. On the other, the tax could be so progressive that the richest 10% pay 90% of their income while everyone else pays nothing, making it look like the “average” person pays a lot, but in reality, most people pay nothing at all.

    I’m sorry to have opened up the tax issue though. It’s really only germane to the general discussion insomuch as it gives insight into the willingness and ability of members in the UK to support an LDS dorm or university without a Church subsidy. I don’t know the tax bracket for our likely donors, nor for the families of our prospective students, so a tax discussion at this stage in the game probably doesn’t help much. Sorry again.

  59. love # 57 Peter!