MA Study of Religions

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This MA programme is based on the recognition that religion plays a crucial role in human affairs, and seeks to foster an understanding of this rich subject area.

Key Facts

Institution Code: T80
Course Length:
Full-time: not available, Part-time: 4 years. Location: Online only

Scholarships and Bursaries

Theology, Religious Studies and Islamic Studies
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Language Choice:

The aim of the programme is not to focus on any one tradition, but to enable engagement with different traditions in a manner that is free, fair, accurate and open to correction. 

This programme has a distinctive focus on contemporary religions. Its range of modules, exploring different aspects of religion today, has been designed by staff members with a background in sociology, anthropology, and religious studies. The modules enable students to explore not just the theoretical, but also the practical lived aspects of religious faith and practice in different contexts.

The programme is delivered as a full-time and part-time programme of study as distance learning.  All module content is available through the University’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) and students will be supported throughout their studies through regular access to their module tutors, either one to one (by email, skype, phone), in groups (using media such as Skype), or via VLE module discussion forums or wikis.

Campus-based students will be supported through research seminars and public lectures. An annual residential graduate summer school is held for postgraduate students in July where students are able to experience lectures and seminars covering both issues related to generic learning and subject-specific information and to engage with a number of our research students. 

The Study Skills module is intended to refresh students’ basic study skills and to introduce the skills required for study at postgraduate level.

Theory and Methodology in the Study of Religions  enables students to engage with debates on themes relating to competing definitions of ‘religion’, and competing views on how best to study it. This module also introduces students to different disciplinary approaches to the study of religion, ranging from anthropology and sociology to psychology and history.

Religion, Spirituality and Secularisation engages with one of the most important debates in the field of religion today – is modern society getting increasingly secularised? Is religion increasingly a thing of the past? Is there evidence to prove this? This module enables students to explore both sides of the ‘secularisation’ debate and offers a critical examination of such phenomena in modern western societies as the growth of New Religious Movements, and the popularity of religiously unaffiliated ‘Alternative Spiritualities’.

The MA then offers further modules, of which students are required to make a selection of any three.

Religious Experience Today examines different theoretical approaches to religious experience as a distinct dimension of religion and develops students’ skills in engaging analytically and critically with accounts of religious experience. This module enables students to work closely with the Alister Hardy Religious Experience Research Centre archives held in the University library.

Ritual and Religion explores what we mean when we refer to ‘ritual’; analyses different ways of thinking about ritual; and examines a range of rituals in different religious contexts

Fieldwork in the Study of Religions aims to develop students’ skills in interview-based research, as well as research based on participant-observation at a particular event, and/or within a chosen religious group or community. Those planning to use fieldwork methods while researching for their dissertation are particularly encouraged to complete this module.

Islam Today introduces students to key contemporary themes relating to Islam and Muslims, particularly in western contexts.

Cosmology, Magic and Divination aims to 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.

Buddhist Philosophy provides students with a systematic and critically aware understanding of current philosophical difficulties and recent insights into Buddhist Philosophy. [currently suspended] 

in 2018/19 there will be further options available, for instance, a module on Religion and the Environment; Muslim Networks; and Astral Religion. 

  • An opportunity to engage with different religious traditions
  • An opportunity to consider some of the key debates in the field of religion today
  • Designed by staff members with a background in sociology, anthropology, and religious studies
  • Highly experienced academic staff who have taught in different institutions and countries and who bring with them valuable expertise in guiding international students through their programmes of study.

Assessment is usually based on written work in the form of long and short essays, reports, book reviews and reflective pieces.

Normally the entry requirement for this programme is a first class or upper second class undergraduate degree. In addition, the Faculty encourages students with an equivalent and appropriate professional qualification or significant and relevant professional experience to apply.

A non-graduate may also be admitted to candidature provided that she/he has gained a minimum of three years professional experience relevant and appropriate to the programme and they can demonstrate a satisfactory level of writing /analytical skills.

The programme has been designed to attract students interested in developing both their generic as well as their subject-specific skills. It offers opportunities for students who have recently graduated to move on to work at level 7 in their specialist field of study and help prepare them for careers in education, ministry and research.

The programme also offers excellent continuing professional development for teachers at various stages of their career, ministers currently in pastoral charge seeking further professional development and other interested parties. In addition, the programme will be attractive to students who wish to study out of personal interest or faith commitment.