Research degrees

We admit students for supervised research towards the PhD, the MPhil, and the MTh/MSc.

Centre for Theology and Public Issues

The work of the Centre for Theology and Public Issues falls within the scope of the Theology and Ethics subject area, and as such, students can pursue their postgraduate studies in conjunction with it.

The Centre was established in 1984 to promote reflection and research on important public issues to which Christian theology can make a constructive contribution.

It is a unique meeting place for theologians, social scientists, church leaders, policy makers and the public. It sponsors inter-disciplinary research and runs seminars and conferences, and there is an impressive and growing list of Centre publications.

The Media and Theology project is part of CTPI, providing resources and support for teaching, research, special events and conferences, especially in areas related to theology and communication.

Research active staff

Among the core staff listed below, there is a considerable spectrum of research experience, with publications on:

  • Christian moral concepts
  • political theology
  • contextual theologies, particularly Latin American Liberation Theology, feminist and sexual theologies
  • ecology
  • sectarianism and reconciliation
  • media studies
  • film
  • homiletics
  • pastoral theology
  • philosophical theology
  • science and religion

Core Staff


Applications are welcome from individuals with a strong academic record and suitable preparation for research in the field.

An applicant for research is required to present a statement of research-plans that will indicate with reasonable clarity the subject in which his or her interest lies and the body of literature that it is likely to engage with.

However, a fully developed research-proposal is not required at this point.

Advice on preparation and research topics is available from members of the core supervisory staff, and it is wise to make some informal contact before submitting an application.

Applications must also be supported by a sample of research writing (in English) of about 5,000 words in a related area. This may be a piece of published work or work produced for an institution elsewhere.

Language requirements

All applicants are required to have a good command of English in reading, writing, speaking and listening.

Those whose first language is not English must score a minimum of 600 on the TOEFL or an overall score of 7 on the IELTS. This competence must be in place before beginning the programme.

Most research in divinity requires competence in reading in other languages than English.

Instruction in Latin, French, German and other languages is available elsewhere in the University.

In order to avoid lengthening the time spent in their degree studies, it is advisable for prospective postgraduate students to have at least a basic reading competence in Greek, Hebrew and either German, French or Spanish at the outset of their programme.

Since the Doctor of Philosophy degree is widely recognised as a basic qualification for higher education teaching and research positions, we normally expect a candidate for the doctorate to acquire reading skills in at least one relevant language other than English.

The faculty may make this requirement more specific and more extensive in relation to any given research proposal.

A thesis devoted to a body of primary literature composed in another language than English must be based on study in the original language.

For areas of research that involve a historical grasp of the treatment of a question in the western Christian tradition, the ability to read Latin is often indispensable.

Language competence will be reviewed at the end of the first year of study.

PhD study

An appropriate masters programme is usually advised prior to commencing PhD studies.

Applicants for PhD work in Christian Ethics are expected to have a strong preparation in the subject or those that are closely related, such as moral philosophy, systematic, contextual or historical theology.

Applicants for PhD work in Practical Theology are expected to have a strong preparation in ecclesiology or closely related subjects such as pastoral theology, liturgy, or theology of ministry.

Formal study in other areas related to the proposed research (eg political science, economics, communication) is a welcome additional qualification, but it cannot replace a basic grounding in the theological and philosophical disciplines.

The Edinburgh MTh provides an appropriate research-portal for those needing to extend their knowledge of the field.

The selection process

In making recommendations for admission to research degree programmes, we apply four main considerations:

  • Does the applicant appear to have the preparation and aptitude to pursue advanced studies in the field with the strong likelihood of successful completion?
  • Does the proposed research seem likely to lead to a publishable contribution to the field?
  • Are the research facilities in Edinburgh suitable and adequate for the proposed research topic?
  • Is there qualified supervision for the applicants proposed research topic among the staff of the faculty and other units of the University?

Classes and seminars

Research Students admitted without sufficient preparation in their specialist area may be required during their first, or probationer, year to audit appropriate courses at Masters level.

There is a Research Seminar in Theology and Ethics which meets frequently during term, featuring presentations by academic staff, visiting scholars, and PhD students. All research students are expected to attend.

In addition, postgraduate students are entitled to attend the research seminars of other subject areas in the School, with whom we occasionally also jointly sponsor seminars.


Inquiries are welcome prior to submitting an application. Preliminary interviews are encouraged if a visit is practicable.

Dr Cecelia Clegg Honorary Fellow

Accessibility menu