Postgraduate study

World Christianity

Awards: PhD, MPhil, MTh by Research, MScR

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding available

Programme website: World Christianity

If you join this research area, you will work with the academic specialists who form the Centre for the Study of World Christianity, which focuses on Christianity in and from all parts of the majority world, and also on the growing presence of African and Asian churches in the northern hemisphere.

The research interests of academic staff include Asian and African Christian theologies and history; the history of Christian missions; new missionary movements from the global south; Pentecostalism; current missiological issues such as inculturation, ethnicity, gender, and inter-faith relations.

You can find out more and identify a potential supervisor by looking at the School’s staff profiles, which give details of research interests and publications, and email addresses.

You are encouraged to contact a potential supervisor to discuss your research project before making a formal application.

At the School of Divinity you will join a community of around 150 research students, drawn from around the world, and from a variety of religious and non-religious backgrounds.

You will study in a stimulating environment. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 ranked the School’s research environment at 100% world-leading / internationally excellent, second in the UK on this front in theology and religion. This outstanding result reflects the vibrancy of the School’s research culture.

The ethos of the Graduate School is to promote excellence in postgraduate study, within a stimulating and supportive environment. We value equality and diversity in the School community, and an academic culture that is both critical and constructive.

  • At the start of the academic year, you will be invited to Welcome Week, an intensive introduction to study and life in Edinburgh. Some events are especially for international students new to Scotland and the UK, but everything is open to all.
  • In the first weeks, the School provides a general orientation to research skills and to wider opportunities for training and support.
  • From your first days as a PhD or MPhil student, you will work one-to-one with your primary research supervisor.
  • Your progress will be tracked, through regular supervisions and milestone reviews, to ensure that you get the support you need to bring your project to fruition.
  • You will be part of the research seminar in World Christianity, to which visiting speakers are invited and to which postgraduates present work-in-progress.
  • You will also be part of the Centre for World Christianity.
  • You will be able to follow taught courses that contribute to your interests and research needs, and can also take advantage of opportunities to learn ancient and modern languages.
  • If you are a PhD student, after successful completion of your first year, you will be eligible to apply for tutoring opportunities, to gain teaching experience.

A University review (2015) commended the Graduate School for providing excellent support: responsive to student feedback; proactive in helping new postgraduates to adjust to their studies and to life in Scotland; enthusiastic and practical in promoting career development. The postgraduate student committee works closely with the School to make the research student experience the best it can be.

The School of Divinity, one of the largest centres for the study of religion in the United Kingdom, is located in the historic setting of New College, close to Edinburgh Castle and overlooking Princes Street.

Resources for research are excellent. You can draw on the outstanding holdings of New College Library, the University of Edinburgh’s main library, and the nearby National Library of Scotland. New College Library has one of the largest theology collections in the UK, with more than a quarter of a million items and a large and rich manuscript collection. The University library exceeds 2.25 million volumes. The National Library of Scotland – a ‘legal deposit’ library like the British Library in London and the university libraries of Oxford and Cambridge – is just around the corner.

The School provides an extensive programme of weekly research seminars and special guest lectures. In addition, three research centres provide a special focus for activity: the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins; the Centre for Theology and Public Issues; the Centre for the Study of World Christianity.

You will have access to excellent study facilities, dedicated to postgraduates. PhD and MPhil students have access 24/7, and can request an allocated desk. Masters by Research students have shared study space. All areas have printing/scanning and computer facilities. The main postgraduate study wing has a kitchen. New College has an on-site cafe that is open during term time.

You can choose from three research programmes: two masters programmes and the PhD. Each takes a different amount of time: the Masters by Research, full-time, takes a year; the MPhil takes two years; a PhD takes at least three.

Masters by Research

If you have academic training in theology or religious studies (or another relevant subject), and would like to develop your interest with a focus on a particular area, the Masters by Research may interest you.

This programme can be taken either as a Master of Theology by Research (MTh by Research) or as a Master of Science by Research (MScR); the difference is only in the name.

You can study full-time (one year) or part-time (two years). Your pattern of study can either be three supervised research essays followed by a 15,000 word dissertation, or a 30,000 word dissertation. Most students take the ‘research essays + shorter dissertation’ path. All students receive research training.

Master of Philosophy (MPhil)

Studying for an MPhil commits you to at least two years’ full-time study and to writing a thesis of up to 50,000 words. You will have regular one-to-one supervision and work with advice from two supervisors.

During the first year you explore your chosen area of research and refine your research proposal. At around the nine-month mark, you will submit a draft chapter for discussion at a Review Board, together with a developed proposal for the whole thesis. On the basis of your progress and the prospects for your research, the Review Board will make recommendations on the continuation of your studies into the second year.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Research for a PhD will require you to undertake at least three years’ full-time study, and to write a thesis of up to 100,000 words. You will have regular one-to-one supervision and work with advice from two supervisors.

For admission to the PhD programme, you will need to show a proven ability to sustain independent research under supervision, normally in the form of a masters programme that includes a dissertation. From the beginning, the British pattern of PhD studies focusses on working towards the thesis: there is little or no coursework. This means that from the start you need to be well-prepared in any special skills you need for your research project, including languages. You will also need to be competent in academic writing in English.

During the first year you explore your chosen area of research and refine your research proposal. At around the nine-month mark, you will submit a draft chapter for discussion at a Review Board, together with a developed proposal for the whole thesis. On the basis of your progress and the prospects for your research, the Review Board will make recommendations on the continuation of your studies into the second year. After that, you will have an annual review to discuss your progress.

To study at postgraduate level you should have a first degree in an appropriate subject or relevant qualifications and experience.

School of Divinity PhD applicants typically require a specialist postgraduate degree beyond their first degree.

Confirm with the School to find out whether there are specific entry requirements for this programme.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of your spoken and written English:

  • IELTS: total 7.0 (at least 6.0 in each module)
  • TOEFL-iBT: total 100 (at least 20 in each module)
  • PTE(A): total 67 (at least 56 in each of the "Communicative Skills" sections)
  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 169 in each module)

If you completed a CAE or CPE before January 2015 please contact the Admissions Office for the accepted grades.

Find out more about our language requirements:

In the School's 2015 intake, about 50% of new postgraduates held some type of scholarship.

  • Scholarships are awarded on academic merit. Most are open to all, but some are ring-fenced for applicants from certain parts of the world.
  • Awards are made for both masters and PhD programmes.
  • Typically, awards are for full or partial fee costs. Fully funded awards are exceptional and highly competitive.
  • Offer-holders will be considered automatically for School of Divinity scholarships, but for other awards you should check specific application requirements and deadlines.

See Scholarships and Student Funding Services for other funding opportunities:

  • School of Divinity
  • New College
  • Mound Place
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH1 2LX

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible. We may consider late applications if we have places available, but you should contact the relevant Admissions Office for advice first.

You must submit two references with your application.

You must submit a formal research proposal as part of your application.

You must also submit a sample of your written academic work (3,000-5,000 words).

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • School of Divinity
  • New College
  • Mound Place
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH1 2LX