Religious Studies

MA / Postgraduate Diploma / Postgraduate Certificate

The MA in Religious Studies invites students to explore the diversity of global religious and spiritual life and to probe relationships between religion, spirituality, society, identity, ethics and popular culture. You will discover texts and traditions, explore concepts and teachings, and consider the phenomenon of religion from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives. You will become trained in advanced research skills and undertake field research. You will network with scholars, and join Chester’s flourishing postgraduate community dedicated to the study of religions.

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Campus Parkgate Road Campus, Chester
Course MA / Postgraduate Diploma / Postgraduate Certificate
Length Part time: students will normally expect to complete within 2 years Full time: 1 year
Start date September 2016

Why study Religious Studies at Chester?

This course would be ideal for anyone seeking to gain greater understanding of the impact of religion and spirituality in the contemporary world. The core modules and the dissertation make this course ideal as a means of training for further doctoral studies in religion. Professionals in both the private and public sectors engage in this Master's programme to increase their religious literacy and to demonstrate to their employers the many transferable skills fostered by the study of religions. Teachers take the course to bolster their expertise in a range of religious traditions and to enable them to become the curriculum leaders of the coming decades. Many students take this course simply because, just like us, they find studying the world’s religious beliefs, texts, histories and practices fascinating and relevant.


The University of Chester’s MA in Religious Studies course is tailored to students who need to study on flexible terms, and can be studied full or part-time, on campus or from home. Regular residential sessions are held at Gladstone’s Library. Opportunities for field research in religious communities are provided. All students are trained in research ethics and methods and are given a broad based interdisciplinary orientation in the study of religions before undertaking individual modules and a supervised research dissertation.

If you would like some more information about an MA at Chester, why not attend one of our post graduate taster days? These help to give you a sense of what is involved in doing one of our MAs, to hear from existing MA students, and to ask academic staff questions about the programmes.

Find out more information about the next taster day opportunities.

Postgraduate Learning Community at TRS Chester

The Department offers two MA courses in Theology and Religious Studies.

On either course, you will become part of a learning community of scholars, including more than 20 specialist academic staff and more than 100 postgraduate students. You will participate virtually by studying modules at a distance with online resources and tutorial support, or by a mixture of virtual and face-to-face study at Parkgate Road Campus, Chester.

The Department of Theology and Religious Studies also offers a range of ‘wrap around’ activities, such as Departmental Research Seminars, Postgraduate Training, and the opportunity to participate in MA symposia. We are committed to ensuring that our MA students graduate having received training in the core activities and expectations of academic life. Take a look at examples of our training sessions.

Free-Standing Modules

If you have spoken to our department and are unsure that a full postgraduate course is for you, we also offer a range of free-standing modules in Theology and Religious Studies.

Course Structure:




2 Compulsory Core Modules

(2x20 credits)

3 Optional Modules

(60 credits)


(80 credits)


Compulsory Core Modules

  • TH7045 Advanced Theories in the Study of Religions

    Understand the theoretical dimensions of a wide variety of approaches to the study of religions

  • TH7047 Advanced Research Methods in the Study of Religions

    Become empowered to undertake your own research in religions and religious communities.

Optional Modules (choose 3)



You must choose at least 2 from this list


You may choose 1 from this list

TH7017 Independent Biblical Study

TH7043 Urban Theology

TH7026 Jews, Christians and Pagans (168BCE-132CE)

TH7061 Media Ethics

TH7039 Spirituality and Contemporary Popular Culture

TH7068 Key Texts in Christian Theological Ethics

TH7040 Indigenous Religions


TH7054 TRS Conference Study


TH7059 Contemporary Islam


TH7067 Contemporary Religion: Shifting Paradigms and Patterns


TH7071 Academic Writing for Publication



Module Outlines:

TH7017 Independent Biblical Study

You study individually negotiated projects, supervised by a biblical studies tutor.  Your focus can be historical or contemporary, exegetical or applied/ministerial – but will have textual investigation at its core.

You might start with an interest in a particular biblical book, or a question about scriptural authority, or a ministerial problem with teaching or preaching some biblical passage. This might lead to designing quite different projects, e.g.

- an exegetical study of a socio-historical and/or theological question, focusing on particular passages of a biblical book

- a hermeneutical study focusing on interpretative theory: e.g. an approach in feminist interpretation and a case study

- a theo-ethical study examining theology and practice expressed in a biblical text and its outworking in some Christian practices.

Robert Evans is co-ordinator of the module and your first contact should be with him: If possible, arrange a meeting early in September.

TH7025 Research Dissertation (80 credits)

A topic is chosen relating to a student's course aims and learning outcomes, and to their personal and/or professional interests. The dissertation is based upon guided, but largely independent, research. Research methodology forms part of supervision and of the submitted dissertation. This module is compulsory for all students wishing to complete their MA course.

TH7026 Jews, Christians and Pagans (168BCE-132CE)

This module examines the beliefs and practices of Jews, Christians, and ‘Pagans’ between the Maccabean and Bar Kochba revolts. Beginning with the religion, culture, and politics of the Roman Empire, you will have opportunities to explore how communities of Jews and Christians organised themselves, examining issues where they demonstrate conformity and confrontation with wider cultural, political, social, and religion norms. The third section of the module looks specifically at the birth and development of Christianity, covering topics such as: the mission of Jesus; the ‘parting of the ways’ from Judaism; Paul’s Gentile mission; sexual ethics; Church and State; ecclesiology; suffering, persecution, and martyrdom.

TH7039 Spirituality and Contemporary Popular Culture

Interest in spirituality and popular culture has increased exponentially in recent times. Indeed, popular culture cannot be ignored in any attempt to comprehend the contemporary religious and spiritual landscape in which we find ourselves. What is the significance of the development of new media such as the internet for religious traditions? How does popular culture influence religion and spirituality, and how do we evaluate such relationships? This module will equip you with the necessary tools to undertake analysis of the interface between cultures of everyday life and religion/spirituality. After focusing upon methodological approaches to this discipline, examination of some of the following areas will be undertaken: religion and spirituality in film; religious motifs in music; cyber-spirituality; apocalyptic ideas in popular culture; spirituality; and celebrity culture.

TH7040 Indigenous Religions

The module examines problems of ‘indigenousness’ through a close analysis of several indigenous cultures, their philosophies and religions and the identity assertion movements behind them. It will deal with definitions, categories and methodological issues in the study of indigenous religions using approaches from anthropology and religious studies. Case studies of indigenous religions and worldviews in specific geo-political contexts in different continents will be an important part of the module. Critical issues in the study of indigenous religions will be discussed, which may include an examination of concepts of religion, God and Spirit, issues of inculturation and contextualisation, the politics of representation and controversies regarding non-indigenous participation and appropriation of indigenous religions.

TH7043 Urban Theology

The aim of this module is to examine and critically evaluate a range of theoretical and theological responses to the phenomenon of urbanization and urban living. This will be undertaken with particular reference to the changing context of the major cities of the North-West England region (Liverpool and Manchester). The module will examine the emergence of modern urban theory and some of the most significant theological traditions of engagement with urbanisation, before considering and evaluating various strategies of faith-based involvement in urban regeneration. Contemporary ideas such as mongrel and hybrid cities, the post-secular city, planetary urbanism and emerging concepts of post-Christian theology and missiology including ‘third space’ thinking and the ‘deconstructed’ church will be critiqued and explored.

TH7045 Advanced Theories in the Study of Religions

This core module is an exciting opportunity for you to develop your critical skills in the study of religion. The course is divided into four sections: (1) Hermeneutics (an exploration of the contribution of Heidegger, Ricoeur and Gadamer); (2) Postmodernism, post-structuralism and critical theory (an analysis of the post-modern condition with reference to Derrida, Foucault, Bourdieu, Baudrillard, Irigary, Cixous, Lyotard, Vattimo, Žižek); (3) Phenomenology of religion (a discussion on the theories of Husserl, Van der Leuw and Eliade); (4) Alterity and the Other (an exploration of emic and etic perspectives in the study of religion through the works of Said, Levinas, Chakravorty-Spivak, Gramsci and de Martino).

TH7047 Advanced Methods in the Study of Religions

The purpose of this module is to provide students with the tools needed to study religions at an advanced level and to enable them to become initiated into the scholarly standards in their respective fields. An exploration is undertaken of the professional and ethical standards for undertaking research in field settings including discussions about confidentiality and anonymity, informed consent, briefing and debriefing, the right to withdraw, vulnerable groups, sensitive issues etc. Practical and empirical research methods are explored, including quantitative and qualitative research methods, sampling, interviewing, grounded research method, participant observation, case studies, focus groups, documentary making and mixed method approaches. Issues for research such as emic/etic perspectives, the significance of insider information, gendered discourses, questions of power and indigenous categories are explored. Students are introduced to the professional bodies and peer-reviewed literature associated with their fields.

TH7054 TRS Conference Study

In order to be able to do this module, you must first negotiate with your Programme Leader which conference you will attend. Success in this module is highly dependent on your ability to work independently to construct a research question and respond to that question in an extended piece of work. It will involve you attending a conference event either in the department or externally and writing up a piece of work related to the theme of that conference. A supervisor will be appointed to work with you through the module.


TH7059 Contemporary Islam

This module traces the development of various trends in modern and contemporary Islam through movements and individuals, from pre-modernist reform movements such as Wahhabism, the recent Islamic ‘resurgence’ up to contemporary forms of globalised Islam. The evolution of modern and contemporary Muslim political thought and attempts to establish Islamic states, as in Iran, Pakistan or Afghanistan, will be discussed. Emphasis will be placed on social and intellectual challenges faced by Muslims, such as the question of Islam and gender, the situation of Muslims living in the West and the relationship between Islam and democracy.

TH7061 Media Ethics

This module will consider some of the moral and legal dimensions of media and communication, with special emphasis on the impact of media on society. It will offer students some theological and ethical frameworks through which to analyse a number of issues, such as: sex and violence, representation of minorities, ownership and control, privacy and freedom, and the use and abuse of new media.

TH7067 Contemporary Religion: Shifting paradigms and patterns

This module will provide an immersion in social theory exploring the interaction between modernity and religion, with particular reference but not confined to Western Europe and North America. Students will engage with some of the following: Influence of Modernity; Secularization theory; Post-secular theories (inc. SBNR); Rise of fundamentalisms; Public face of religion; Globalisation; Religion and identity politics; Virtual religions.

You will engage with empirical data, and have the opportunity, but no obligation, to engage first-hand with a small qualitative or quantitative research project. You will develop a critical awareness of the changing significance of religion in the context of modernity and beyond. You will also identify ways in which religion and spirituality have proven remarkably resilient.

TH7068 Key Texts in Christian Theological Ethics

This module consists of the study of a number of extracts of texts in Christian theological ethics, drawn from a variety of perspectives in Christian theology both contemporary and historical. The selection of texts is determined by the teaching staff and may change from year to year to reflect staff and student interests. mutating into new forms for emerging cultural contexts.

TH7071 Academic Writing for Publication

This module focuses on the elements and stages involved in the production of a publishable piece of academic work capable of demonstrating a contribution to knowledge in relation to a chosen topic area. The module introduces participants to some of the protocols and procedures of academic publishing from start to finish as well as supporting you in drafting, revising and presenting your work.

Please note: This list of modules is indicative and may change from year to year.

Module assessment is usually by 4,000-word essay assignment (or equivalent).

The Research Dissertation module (TH7025) is assessed by a 20,000-word individually researched dissertation.

Many public and private sector professions value people trained in skills of religious studies. These include:

  • awareness of diversity
  • critical thinking about interpretative categories
  • the ability to empathise with worldviews other than one’s own
  • the critical use of texts
  • awareness of the relationship between belief and behaviour
  • awareness of ways in which beliefs inform interface with public institutions
  • the ability to challenge truth claims
  • the ability to undertake and use field research ethically and sensitively
  • awareness of issues of stereotyping and media bias
  • awareness of the relationships between religion and politics
  • awareness of the presence of muted groups in society
  • the ability to think critically about religion, violence, extremism, peace and community cohesion
  • the ability to challenge misunderstanding, prejudice and discrimination

Students taking this course will be able to demonstrate knowledge and skills associated with ‘religious literacy’, an increasingly important focus for employers and for the voluntary sector.

The academic ability, motivation and potential of a candidate wishing to apply for the programme is determined from a number of forms of evidence, such as:

  • 2:1 or 1st class honours degree in Theology and/or Religious Studies
  • 2:1 or 1st class honours degree in another relevant subject, together with evidence of certificated learning in religious studies or substantial related experience;
  • Evidence of a lower qualification plus substantial appropriate professional or voluntary experience, evidenced in a summary of non-certificated and experiential learning.

Students without one of the above forms of evidence can, subject to the approval of the programme leader, demonstrate achievement and potential for MA study by registering for one trial module at a lower level. If the module is passed successfully at a level equivalent to an upper second class mark for a final year undergraduate, this can be used as evidence of ability to work at Master’s level.

Please contact the MA Religious Studies programme leader for further advice.