Cultural Astronomy and Astrology (MA)

astronomy a colourful sky

“Overall, I am happy with the course as a whole so it's difficult to choose just one thing that is best. I think this course is unique and innovative and gives me an opportunity to study ideas that may seem to rest outside the Academy" - Caroline Denby, MA Cultural Astronomy and Astrology, Ontario, Canada

Cultural Astronomy and Astrology (MA) is a unique course which deals with the ways in which human beings attribute meaning to the planets, stars and sky, and construct cosmologies which provide the basis for culture and society.

The course is taught within the Sophia Centre for the Study of Cosmology in Culture, in the Faculty of Humanities and Performing Arts.

Why Cultural Astronomy and Astrology?

We are all creatures of the universe: every atom in our bodies has passed through three stars – we are literally star dust. For thousands of years human beings have speculated about their physical, emotional and psychic connections with the sky, stars and planets, and the results manifest across beliefs and behaviour, from spirituality and the sacred to creativity and the arts, and from politics to architecture. The MA in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology is the only academic degree in the world to examine our relationship with the cosmos.

The programme draws on different disciplines from the Humanities in order to gain as full a view as possible of the entire subject. Through history, we look to the past, and through anthropology, we study the present. We also draw on archaeology, sociology, philosophy and the study of religions.

The words astronomy and astrology have distinct meanings in the modern world. Astronomy is the scientific study of the physical universe. Astrology, meanwhile, is the practice of relating the heavenly bodies to lives and events on earth. The split between astronomy and astrology is a feature of modern western thought.

Cultural Astronomy is the study of the application of beliefs about the stars to all aspects of human culture. It includes the new discipline of archaeoastronomy: the study of astronomical alignments, orientation and symbolism in ancient and modern architecture. Astrology also exists in some form in most cultures. In the MA we examine the relationship between astrological, astronomical and cosmological beliefs and practices, and society, politics, religion and the arts, past and present. 

The topics we study range across time and culture. If you study with us you will examine the cultural consequences and expressions of astronomy, astrology and cosmology; collect data on what people believe about the stars right now; explore the history of astrology; examine the use of the sky, stars and planets in religion; investigate ideas about the relationship between soul, psyche and psychology and the cosmos; research ancient practices of magic and divination; keep a journal of your own sky observations; look at how the sky and stars are represented in the arts, literature and film; and learn how to measure and interpret celestial alignments at archaeological sites. You will be awarded the MA on successful completion of a 15,000 word dissertation based on a supervised research project.

We offer flexible levels of study and students who don’t wish to take the whole MA programme may take one or two modules as Occasional Students, three modules for a postgraduate Certificate, or six for a postgraduate Diploma.

See below for full module descriptions and examples of reading essay titles. For an Information Handbook with further information and suggested advance reading, email Dr Nicholas Campion,

Key Facts

Course Length:
Full-time: 2 years
Part-time: 4 years
Location: Online only

Scholarships and Bursaries

Faculty of Humanities and Performing Arts
Contact Name:
Dr Nicholas Campion
Contact Email:
Language Choice:

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Sophia Centre for the Study
of Cosmology in Culture 

Awards: Flexible Learning

The MA is awarded for completion of six taught modules and a dissertation. Many students wish to study the whole MA. But we have a range of options for those who don’t. For example:

The Occasional Student option is ideal for students who either have a very specialized interest or wish to test their commitments. Recently Occasional Students have studied just our Introduction module, or the History of Astrology, or Skyscapes, Cosmology and Archaeology. Some students begin with the Certificate and then progress to the Diploma or MA. If you apply for the Certificate or Diploma it is a simple matter to upgrade to the MA on the successful completion of the required modules. 

Should I study full-time or part-time?

This is a personal judgment call. We have found that part-time students have more time to enjoy their studies and may have a richer experience, while full-time students feel that their period on the MA was rushed. In addition, if you have extensive family commitments, or are working to support yourself, or do not have recent academic experience, you would, in any case, always be recommended to study part-time. If you wish to study full-time you should make sure that your personal and professional commitments for the period of study are at a minimum.

  • The one-year full-time MA option is designed to conform to the student loan requirements in the UK (only for UK students). If you are a UK student with a student loan then you may take this option but understand that some of the course may be by independent study, following online material and videos.
  • In all other cases, we recommend the part-time MA as long as you have recent academic experience and have minimal family or professional commitments.
  • However, if you have extensive family commitments, or are working to support yourself, or do not have recent academic experience, we recommend that you apply for the Diploma and then progress to the full MA once you have completed your modules. This may involve a fresh application but if so the process will be simple because you will already be a graduate of the University.
  • If you are unsure which is the best option then we can advise you.

 We are also scheduled to launch the following two stand-alone Postgraduate Certificates in January 2018

  • Postgraduate Certificate in the History of Astrology
    Take three modules: The History of Astrology, Astral Religion, and Sky and Psyche
  • Postgraduate Certificate in Skyscape Archaeology
    Take three modules: Skyscapes, Cosmology and Archaeology, Heavenly Discourses and Sacred Geography

Students from other MAs

Students from some other MAs can take some Cultural Astronomy and Astrology modules towards their own qualifications. These include Ancient Religion, the Study of Religions, Engaged Anthropology, and Ecology and Spirituality. If you are interested you should consult your Programme Director.

Students take six modules, and then write a 15,000-word dissertation based on independent research. There are three compulsory modules and students then take one ‘pathway’ of two optional modules, and any third optional module. You will find brief descriptions below and if you scroll down you will find PDFs with more detailed descriptions of both the Compulsory and Optional modules.

Compulsory modules

HPCA7001 Foundations in Cultural Astronomy and Astrology
This module introduces the notion of ‘culture’ and its relationship with astrology, astronomy and culture. We explore the classical origins of the western tradition and consider issues such as fate, myth, divination, magic, ritual and enchantment, and raise questions concerning the place of traditional practices in the modern world, including critiques of astrology.

HPCA7002 Researching Contemporary Cosmologies
Students design and conduct a simple research project investigating contemporary attitudes to astrology, astronomy or cosmology, and explore such issues as reflexivity, the insider-outsider debate and the role of the researcher in the research.

HPCA7003 History of Astrology
This module focuses on western astrology from its earliest origins to the present day, but the lessons we draw can apply to other cultures. We look at such issues as reform in the theory and practice of astrology, and students analyse primary source documents as part of their assessment.

AHAN7042 Dissertation
Students complete a supervised research project on a subject of their choice within the MA's remit, and then write a 15,000 word dissertation. 

Click here for more detailed information on compulsory modules

Optional Modules

Our optional modules are arranged in pathways, which allow students to follow common themes across two modules.

For the MA and Postgraduate Diploma, you take three compulsory modules and three optional modules. For the Postgraduate Certificate you take one compulsory module and any two optional modules 

HPCA7006 sky and Psyche
This module examines notions of the ‘inner cosmos’, including its background in western esotericism, moving to the modern world and looking at the use of astrology by C G Jung.

HPCA7005 Cosmology, Magic and Divination
Students explore the divinatory and magical practices of the classical world, paying attention to modern theories of magic and with an emphasis on the reading of classical philosophers and practitioners.

HPCA7004 Sacred Geography
This module explores our home planet through concepts of sacred space, and students are able to conduct a research project. To find out more about the course content please click on the video link.

HPCA7009 Skyscapes. Cosmology and Archaeology
Using simple techniques students learn how to look at the sky and explore its use in monuments from the ancient work to the modern, and conduct a research project. To find out more about the course content please click on the video link.

HPCA7007 Astral Religion (PLEASE NOTE This module will not be offered in the accademic year 2019-20)
Most religions believe that the soul is connected to the stars and that significant rituals are connected to the sun and moon. This module explores such ideas and considers the question of what, exactly, is a religion?

HPCA7008 Heavenly Discourses
This module looks at the way the sky has been represented through maps, literature, music and the visual arts, and students keep a sky journal as part of their assessment. 

Click here for more detailed information on optional modules and pathways.

The course, quite simply, is unique. It is the only accredited university degree in the world to explore the human relationship with the sky through history and culture. We cover a wide range of material, from the ancient world to the present, and across cultures, and give students the chance to undertake individual research projects.

Teaching Staff
All our teaching staff are experts in their fields and either have PhDs or are undertaking doctoral research.

Teaching Online
Most of our course material is on the web and we teach using webinars – live video-conferencing sessions, and all seminars are recorded. 

The best student work is published in Spica, our postgraduate journal.

Flexible Qualifications and Learning
You can sign up for the whole MA, or just commit to a Postgraduate Certificate (three modules) or Postgraduate Diploma (six modules) and then upgrade to the MA. You can also take one or two modules as an Occasional Student. Please see under Course Overview for periods of study and advice concerning full-time and part-time study.

Pursue Independent Research
We encourage students to explore their own interests within the scope of the MA. Some of our modules offer the chance to pursue a research project, and the 15,000 word dissertation is based on personal research, worked out and conducted under the direction of our expert staff.

An International Community: the Cloud Campus
Our students live in every continent and, by joining us, you join a world-wide community of scholars. Teaching online means that we form an international community connected online. The University has four campuses and a number of affiliated Colleges. We call our campus, the ‘Cloud Campus’.

Get Together in the UK
We also hold an annual summer school, usually in Bath, England, the legendary home of the mythical first Druid university. We combine staff lectures with classes and a chance for students to present their work, and an excursion. It’s a chance to work, study and socialise.  You will see photos of our 2013 summer school on our flickr page.

As a student on the MA Cultural Astronomy and Astrology programme you will: 

  • Study for an accredited and internationally recognised Master’s degree.
  • Be part of one of the UK’s most prestigious universities.
  • Have the chance to work from home with no requirement to visit the UK.
  • Have access to thousands of on-line academic papers and books.
  • Be part of an international community of like-minded students.
  • Study with expert tutors who all have, or are working for, PhDs in the subject area.
  • Engage with debates concerning the nature and cultural role of astrology, cosmology and astronomy
  • Engage with concepts such as magic, divination, myth and enchantment, as well as sacred space and the role of the soul in the stars, and our relationship with the sky.
  • Acquire contemporary data which will contribute to scholarly understanding of our place in the cosmos.
  • Have a chance to pursue your own independent research under expert ---supervision.

And as a successful graduate you will have:

  • Gained an understanding of the role of astronomy, astrology and cosmology in society, through history and in a range of cultures.
  • Acquired skills in qualitative research.
  • Developed skills in critical thinking and the ability to develop evidence-based arguments in the subject area.
  • Obtained a qualification which stands as a world-wide mark of quality.
  • Learned how to communicate with academics in different disciplines.

Please visit our Frequently Asked Questions page for further information.

Each module is assessed by 5,000 words of written work. For example, some modules require one short essay of 1,000 words and a longer one of 4,000 words, normally due in week 10 to 12. In other modules the first essay may be 1500 words and ther second 3500 words, or 2000 words and 3000 words.

Assessment requirements, lengths and due dates can vary from module to module. The shorter essays may be a critical review of a piece of writing, or be picked from a choice of two titles. For the longer essays there is a wider choice of titles. In some modules, the title and subject is negotiated with the course tutor.

Each is then returned with comments from either one or two tutors, and students are offered the chance to have a tutorial via Skype in order to discuss the comments.

Students who take the entire MA then go on to write a 15,000-word dissertation based on a piece of independent research on a topic chosen by the student in discussion with the module tutor, and other appropriate members of staff. Each student is allocated a supervisor who can guide them through the research and writing process.

For current essay titles and a list of recent dissertation topics, email Dr Nick Campion, and ask for an Information Handbook.

Initial inquiries should be directed to the Programme Director, Dr Nicholas Campion ( Please let us know your background, including any academic qualifications.

The normal entry qualification is a good first degree (2:1 or equivalent in UK grading) in an appropriate arts/humanities/social sciences area including History, Cultural Studies, Sociology, Psychology, Theology and/or Religious Studies.

If you have good first degree - a BA or BSc - in another discipline and/or substantial relevant background experience and evidence of relevant study then discuss this with the Programme Director. 

If you have a 2:2 degree (in UK grading), then we may advise you to apply for the Postgraduate Diploma, and you can then progress to the MA after successful completion of the six taught modules. 

If you have a degree from outside the UK, which did not use the UK’s grading system, you should contact the Programme Director, Dr Nicholas Campion.

If you have no degree then, in line with the University’s widening access policy, we will consider your application based on your previous personal, professional and educational experience. If you fall into this category we will consider your for entry to the Postgraduate Certificate (the first three modules) and on successful completion of these, you will be eligible to progress to the MA. Please contact the Programme Director, Dr Nicholas Campion (

Lastly, if you wish to study as an Occasional student then you may fall into any of the above categories.

We have two intakes a year, in October and February. 

Most of our students take the MA as an end in itself because they love the subject. Some go on to study for PhDs, either with us, or at other universities. 

The relationship between all academic work and non-academic employment is always based on potential employers’ appreciation of the generic skills acquired in MA study. Typically, these include critical thinking, communication skills, time-management and the ability to take on and complete independent projects.

The latter quality is particular prized by many employers. Some of our graduates stay in education either as research students or as teachers: one graduate is teaching at undergraduate level while another, a school teacher, was awarded a promotion and pay rise on her graduation.

You will find details of tuition fees on the postgraduate fees page. The fees quoted are for the whole MA, whether taken over two, three or four years, although fees may be updated annually.

Sophia Centre Scholarships
UK/EU students: for Februaruy 2018 onwards we have a limited number of 20% scholarships, available for financial need.
International students: we have a limited number of 25% scholarships, available for financial need.
You can apply for a Sophia Centre scholarship once you have been accepted on to the course. You should e mail Dr Nicholas Campion -

If you apply for a scholarship we expect you to make a commitment to completing the modules for which you have received a scholarship, barring unforeseen circumstances. All Sophia Centre scholarships are awarded either per module or for one academic year. Any application for a renewal will be based on satisfactory academic performance. All scholarships are available for all students engaged on the course, whether for the MA, Diploma or Certificate, dependent on successful admission to the course.

The Nicky Smuts Scholarship for International Students.
This is a privately awarded scholarship of £1000 given annually to a MA CAA student who is paying International fees and has successfully completed two modules. Information is available to current students.

University Scholarships
The University welcomes all suitable students and does not wish to reject anyone  who is experiencing financial hardship. The University offers a limited number of Scholarships for financial need. Please visit the student services web pages for more information.  

Finances and Fees: Frequently asked questions 

Can I pay by instalments? 
Yes, you can. However, there are restricytions and International stusdnts are expected to pay a year's tuition in two installments.

How can I pay? 
The University will accept payment by credit card or bank transfer.

Is there a difference between the MA and the Postgraduate Certificate and Diploma?
The cost is per module, so while you will pay more for the MA, the cost per module is the same.

Is government finance available for UK students? 
You may be able to obtain a loan, but there are no grants available. For English domiciled applicants Postgraduate loans are available from the Student Loans Company, subject to eligibility. An annoucement is expected in January for Postgraduate Loans for Welsh domiciled students.  You can find out more about the postgraduate loans on the SLC website

Is there funding from the AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council) funding in the UKs
No. The AHRC does not fund individual students.

Are Federal loans available for US and Canadian students?
PLEASE NOTE: No loans are available for distance learning programmes for students from the USA
 This is contrary to the advice given on the FAFSA website and by FAFSA advisers. However, neither the FAFSA website, nor FAFSA advisers, have the up-to-date information.

Why are students outside the European Union charged more?s
This is standard. Most countries charge students who are not domestic tax-payers more for university courses.

Are there any other costs?
There are no formal costs. However, to participate in on-line classes will require a web-cam – about ten pounds sterling or ten US dollars. Some students will wish to purchase extra books (some are required), even though most course materials will be on-line.

Does the University offer student loans?
No – unlike the USA, universities in the UK do not offer student loans.

Can I work as a Teaching Assistant or Graduate Assistant?
No, unfortunately we do not have such posts to offer.  

If you have any questions about our courses please email the Programme Director, Nick Campion, You may also find the answer on our Frequently Asked Questions page, including advice on advance reading. And, remember, you may sign up for the MA, Diploma (six modules) Certificate (three modules) or study as an Occasional Student (one or two modules) if you have limited time or wish to pursue a particular interest.

You can also visit our outreach page, the Sophia Project at which you will find details of our conferences, public lectures (including the online Key Concept lectures) and publishing activities, including the Sophia Centre Press, the historical journal, Culture and Cosmos, and Spica, our student journal.

The Sophia Centre is also engaged in a number of research projects, and you will find details here. We also maintain an active Alumni Association which you will be invited to join when you graduate.

Also, check out our Newsletter and Facebook pages. And for our picture galleries see our Flikr pages and our Photo Gallery.

And for an interesting recently recommended web page on information about astronomy see Home Science: Backyard Astronomy Basics.

We welcome all inquiries!