School of Divinity

MA Religious Studies

At the School of Divinity, the study of Religious Studies proceeds from a non-confessional perspective, based on the principle that religions influence most human endeavours for good or ill. Students develop an understanding of the main phenomena of religion, such as belief systems, rituals, mythology, iconography and ethics through a variety of methodologies.

Why study this programme?

The School of Divinity provides one of the most comprehensive and flexible undergraduate programmes in Religious Studies in the UK.

You will not only acquire a profound knowledge of your subject, but you will also gain a good understanding of research methodologies and develop a range of skills to prepare you for a wide variety of employment opportunities and for continued life-long learning.

More reasons to choose our programme

  • You will have the opportunity to study a wide range of religious traditions: Asian traditions, Christianity, indigenous religions, Islam, Judaism, New Age
  • You can enhance your knowledge of specific religious traditions by taking language courses
  • Our programme focuses on religion in the contemporary world
  • You will study with internationally renowned academics who produce world-leading research on their subjects
  • Small seminar groups allow for student-centred learning

Degree structure and courses

Religious Studies involves the application of various academic disciplines to the study of religions, such as Sociology, Anthropology, Languages, History, Literary Studies, and Philosophy. In your first two years, you will study a variety of local and global religious traditions and explore theoretical aspects of the study of religions, with the option of taking a third of your courses as "outside" subjects. From first year, you may choose to take the 'Combined Studies' option, which allows a combination of Religious Studies with another subject in the arts, humanities or social sciences. These include Ancient History, History of Art, Classics, Music, Scottish History, Politics, Social Anthropology, Social Policy and Sociology. After that, in your third and fourth years, you may choose from the following options:

  • Focus on one religious tradition with the option of taking programmes in the appropriate language (Hebrew, Greek, Arabic or Sanskrit, as available)¬†
  • Focus on two religious traditions¬†
  • Continue with your 'Combined Studies' option, combining Religious Studies courses with your chosen subject in the arts, humanities or social sciences.

Aims and outcomes

The MA in Religious Studies has five main goals:

  • To develop knowledge and understanding of the histories, practices, social conditions and cultural expressions of major and indigenous religious traditions
  • To enable the student to identify and analyse a variety of different forms of evidence derived from field studies, texts, artefacts, oral traditions, archaeology and testimonies of adherents
  • To provide the intellectual tools with which to apply such evidence to the investigation, understanding and critical evaluation of the phenomena of religion using both diachronic and synchronic approaches
  • To provide a solid methodological and cognitive foundation for further research in aspects of specific traditions or in approaches to the study of religions in general
  • To develop the general critical, analytical and communicative skills which prepare students for a wide variety of employment opportunities, for vocational training and for continued life-long learning

Teaching and assessment

Years 1 and 2 (Pre-honours): Your courses will mostly be organised as a series of larger group lectures and small tutorial groups.

Years 3 and 4 (Honours): In addition to lectures and tutorials, you will learn through seminars led by specialist staff, and through a variety of other student-led activities such as presentations, field work and guided research projects.

Courses can be assessed by a diverse range of methods such as exams, essays, presentations, short tutorial exercises or in-class participation, providing on-going feedback as well as summative assessment which is submitted for credit.


Graduates in Religious Studies will develop skills suitable for a wide range of careers including the voluntary sector, Civil Service, finance, management, counselling, banking, ministry and human resources. This programme can also serve as the basis for further study at the postgraduate level.