Awards: PhD, MPhil, MScR
Study modes: Full-time, Part-time
Programme website: Religious Studies
Religious Studies or the Study of Religion/s is a vibrant research cluster, based in theoretically informed and comparative studies of religion.
You can specialise in a variety of areas which include contemporary and historical topics and fields such as Asian Studies, History of Religions/New Religions, and Jewish Studies.
You will be encouraged to frame your research using a range of theoretical and methodological approaches, from the classic to the cutting-edge. You will be able to draw on methodological expertise which includes biographical analysis, discourse analysis, ethnography, historical and textual studies, memory studies and narrative studies. The thematic interests of academic staff include ethnicity, gender, indigeneity, nationalism, textuality and the transnational.
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 Religious Studies, to which visiting speakers are invited and to which postgraduates present work-in-progress.
- 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.
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.
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.
Masters by Research and MPhil: A UK 2:1 honours degree with a mark of at least 65%, or its international equivalent, in a relevant subject. You should also have academic training in the area of your research project.
PhD: A UK 2:1 honours degree with a mark of at least 65% in a relevant subject, and typically a specialist masters degree with a high level of attainment (at least 67% in both coursework and dissertation), or their international equivalents. You should also have academic training in the area of your research project.
We may also consider your application if you have other qualifications or experience; please contact us to check before you apply.
Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:
English language requirements
You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.
English language tests
We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:
IELTS: total 7.0 (at least 6.0 in each module)
TOEFL-iBT: total 100 (at least 20 in each module)
PTE Academic: total 67 (at least 56 in each of the "Communicative Skills" sections)
CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 169 in each module)
Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components
Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, PTE Academic or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.
Degrees taught and assessed in English
We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:
We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.
If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.*
(*Revised 8/11/2018 to provide more accurate information on English language qualifications expiry dates. Revised 22/03/2019 to provide more accurate/comprehensive information.)
Find out more about our language requirements:
- Fees for PhD Religious Studies - 3 Years (Full-time)
- Fees for PhD Religious Studies - 6 Years (Part-time)
- Fees for MPhil Religious Studies - 2 Years (Full-time)
- Fees for MTh by Research Religious Studies - 1 Year (Full-time)
- Fees for MTh by Research Religious Studies - 2 Years (Part-time)
- Fees for MSc by Research Religious Studies - 1 Year (Full-time)
- Fees for MSc by Research Religious Studies - 2 Years (Part-time)
Find out more about tuition fees and studying costs:
On average around 50% of Divinity postgraduate students are awarded some level of scholarship funding.
- 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.
(Revised 25 January 2019 to update the scholarship application instructions. Applicants will not be automatically considered for scholarships, and should instead make a separate application for any scholarships or funding opportunities.)
UK government postgraduate loans
If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments. The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on your programme, the duration of your studies, and your tuition fee status. (Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.)
Other funding opportunities
Find out more about scholarships and funding opportunities:
- School of Divinity
- New College
- Mound Place
- Central Campus
- EH1 2LX
Select your programme and preferred start date to begin your application.
PhD Religious Studies - 3 Years (Full-time)
PhD Religious Studies - 6 Years (Part-time)
MPhil Religious Studies - 2 Years (Full-time)
MSc by Research Religious Studies - 1 Year (Full-time)
MSc by Research Religious Studies - 2 Years (Part-time)
|Programme start date||Application deadline|
|9 September 2019||31 August 2019|
We strongly recommend you submit your completed application as early as possible, particularly if you are also applying for funding or will require a visa. We may consider late applications if we have places available.
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:
- School of Divinity
- New College
- Mound Place
- Central Campus
- EH1 2LX