The rank and role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as First See Church of Orthodoxy in inter-Christian events lent not only an inter-Orthodox but also a universal character to the operation and theological presence of the Theological School in the world. So, the School attracted students from all the countries under the spiritual jurisdiction of Orthodox Patriarchates and Autocephalous Churches, as well as from friend heterodox churches. Especially during the fourth period of the operation of the School, the sense of its universal character was particularly pronounced on account of the presence of Serb, Bulgarian, Albanian, Syrian Ethiopian students, et al. School admitted only male students, because a key identifier of its identity was its idiorhythmic monastic brotherhood.
According to the latest Regulation of the fourth period, the School operated two divisions: a) the Lyceum (three grades) and b) the Theological Department (four-year study). The Lyceum admitted pupils and high-school graduates after these had competed in specialized entrance exams. A general condition for entry to both divisions was for prospects to submit a recommendation letter of their respective spiritual shepherd along with other supporting documents.
In the Theological department of the School enrolled graduates of the Lyceum without examinations, for the Lyceum was operating as a preparatory school thereof. Also accepted were high school graduates from Greece or other countries, if they met certain criteria. Lyceum graduates of Constantinople enjoyed priority status for, as it was expected, they would staff the Ecumenical Patriarchate as clergy. Besides, this was the main purpose of the establishment and operation of the Halki Theological School, namely “the proper education for the ministers of God Almighty.”
The curriculum was re-structured and enriched with new subjects of the Theological discipline, in the context of the reorganization of the School, which started mainly under Patriarch Maximos 5th and was completed under Athinagoras 1st, so that it could face up to modern theological concerns of the Church and pastoral needs thereof.
School students during their studies “shared everything in common” as a monastic brotherhood: common prayer, common food and common preparation for the acquisition of knowledge on God. Attendance in class was mandatory, as it was in study rooms, where students studied at regular hours prescribed by the daily program.
Students had to hand in tutorial written research works on various subjects of Theology to their respective Teacher, throughout the four-year cycle of study. Senior students, depending on their interests and before they took their degree examinations, had to choose a topic for their dissertation, the grade of which counted towards the final grade of the degree. To support his thesis, the student should appear before an appointed Committee comprised of Professors of the School and argue in its favor.
The subjects of these dissertations of the fourth period covered the entire range of courses taught. Many of the graduates of the School, submitted their on-degree dissertations to foreign universities after further processing, development and adaptation, and received a doctorate.
At the end of the academic year and after the degree examinations, a ceremony for the consecration of graduates took place, at which the Patriarch gave students the parchment of the Patriarchal Letter (pittakion) with which he bestowed upon them the title of “Teacher of Orthodox Theology” on behalf of the Church.
Teacher-student relations that form in the environment of a monastic community bear the characteristics of a fraternized society between senior and younger fraternity children of the Nurse School. In such an environment, teachers offer students their spiritual emancipation within the prairies of patristic tradition and wisdom, a fact that is not only conducive to the advancement of “the education in Christ”, but also forges a relationship of intellectual and spiritual fatherhood.
The element of intellectual kinship permeates historically the graduates of the School. The common intellectual reference is characterized by a spatiotemporal transcendence, to the extent that graduates of remote time periods experience the intimacy of shared intellectual ties in their meetings.