University of Chester

Programme Specification
Practical and Contextual Theology MA
2017 - 2018

Master of Arts

Practical and Contextual Theology

Practical and Contextual Theology

University of Chester

University of Chester

University of Chester

Blended learning including online and residential delivery to enable students to study at their own pace from a distance - including overseas

Postgraduate (Taught)

Full-time and Part-time

Distance, Residential and Open,

1 year full time or 3 years part time

6 Years

Annual - September


17a. Faculty

17b. Department

Arts and Humanities Theology & Religious Studies

Theology and Religious Studies

Not Applicable

TRS Module Assessment Board

Friday 1st April 2011

  • To offer a flexible, full-time or part-time postgraduate degree programme in the study of practical and contextual theologies
  • To offer graduates from a range of disciplines opportunities for advanced study in the area of practical and contextual theologies 
  • To foster critical skills necessary to explore and investigate theological texts and practices, and to enable students to become independent researchers
  • To engage critically with a range of different theological perspectives on contemporary social, economic and pastoral issues and concerns
  • To provide interdisciplinary research training for students intending to proceed to doctoral study
  • To offer knowledge, understanding and skills appropriate for continuing professional development in a variety of contexts


By the end of the programme, successful candidates will have:

  1. Acquired a critical understanding of the interaction between theological traditions and their social, political and cultural impact. (TH7021, TH7034, TH7041, TH7064, TH7066);
  2. Identified and critically evaluated some major methods, sources and traditions in the relationship between theology, practice and context (TH7017, TH7021, TH7022, TH7048);
  3. Analysed the relevance of a variety of perspectives in the human and social sciences and cultural theory for theological engagement with social, political, economic and ethical issues and contexts (TH7021, TH7042, TH7067, TH7066, TH7043);
  4. Critically examined the ways in which social and cultural theory can illuminate aspects of the nature of religious belief, practice and institutions, in contemporary and historical perspective (TH7041, TH7021, TH7034, TH7039, TH7067); 
  5. Demonstrated critical awareness of the implications of the academic study of theology for at least one aspect of their own professional or voluntary practice (TH7021, TH7023, TH7032, TH7034, TH7036, TH7042, TH7043, TH7051).


By the end of the programme, students will be able to demonstrate:

  1. multidisciplinary/interdisciplinary skills appropriate for the academic analysis of key issues and concepts associated with the advanced study of theology. (TH7017, TH7021, TH7024, TH7025, TH7032, TH7034);
  2. the ability to interpret and express balanced and informed independent opinion on significant issues, drawing on appropriate intellectual concepts and tools (TH7017, TH7021, TH7043, TH7051, TH7063, TH7064, TH7065, TH7066, TH7068);
  3. research skills, appropriate for Master’s level, which could provide a basis for further postgraduate studies and/or professional development (TH7021, TH7024, TH7025);
  4. an ability critically to evaluate one's own perspectives and world-views and to stand back from one's own perspective and appreciate beliefs, practices and cultures other than one's own (TH7017, TH7021, TH7022, TH7036, TH7037, TH7039, TH7067, TH7065);
  5. deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively, make sound judgements in the absence of complete data, and communicate their conclusions clearly to specialist and non-specialist audiences (TH7017, TH7021, TH7048);
  6. self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems, and the capacity to act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks at a professional or equivalent level (All Modules).

By the end of the programme participants will be able to:

  1. Identify and analyse complex issues in the relationship between theology, context and practice in a critical and systematic fashion (TH7021, TH7068, TH7067, TH7066, TH7034, TH7041)
  2. Plan and conduct a piece of independent research in some aspect of the study of practical and contextual theology (TH7021, TH7024, TH7025, TH7048)
  3. Differentiate between different research methods and their relevance for the advanced study of theology, religion and society (TH7021, TH7024, TH7025)
  4. Articulate in written and oral forms extended, reasoned arguments on the basis of a range of evidence (All Modules)
  5. Evaluate different approaches, disciplinary perspectives and intellectual traditions within the study of theology, religion and society (TH7051, TH7040, TH7034)
  6. Demonstrate appropriate research skills (e.g. research design, use of Library and IT facilities, databases, assembling bibliographies, referencing and presentational conventions) for the advanced study in theology and religious studies (All Modules).
  7. Students will be assessed on their ability to act autonomously in planning and implementing a negotiated study, demonstrating critical reading of a wide range of scholarly resources including refereed research articles and primary sources, with evidence of originality in the application of knowledge and critical awareness. They will demonstrate the exercise of initiative and personal responsibility, decision-making in complex and unpredictable situations and the independent learning ability required for continuing professional development (All Modules).

Students will also be assessed on their ability to demonstrate:

  • Application of Number: may be required, for example, in some forms of quantitative research and social scientific analysis (TH7048, TH7024, TH7025).
  • Information Literacy and Technology: this is audited at induction. Students must be able to use information technology and computer skills for data capture, to identify and retrieve material and support research and presentations (All Modules).
  • Improving own learning and performance: the threshold assessment criteria (where relevant to modular learning outcomes) assess the independent learning ability and self-evaluation required to continue to advance the student’s knowledge and understanding, and to develop new skills appropriate to a professional context (TH7021).
  • Working with others: some learning methods, some assessment methods and some ministerial contexts develop and demonstrate these skills (TH7048, TH7041, TH7068).
  • Problem solving: the threshold assessment criteria include assessment of the ability to deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively, and make sound judgements; and (where relevant to modular learning outcomes) collaborative or individual problem-solving, and planning and implementing of tasks appropriate to a professional context (TH7021, TH7048, TH7068).

By the end of the programme, students will be able to:

  • express themselves clearly in oral and written media, with accurate spelling and grammar and observing academic form in written work (all modules);
  • communicate conclusions clearly for specialist and non-specialist audiences as appropriate (all modules).


The Core Module, TH7021 Themes and Methods in Practical and Contextual Theology, will introduce students to the relationship between 'text' and 'context' in theological traditions, and foster critical awareness of questions of theological method in relation to practical and contextual approaches. Optional modules will then provide students with the chance to further their appreciation of particular themes and controversies in practical and contextual theology, including international perspectives, issues of gender, ‘race’ and dis/ability and contemporary contentions and debates in research and practice. An independent practice-based module – utilizing enquiry-based and action-research approaches – provides candidates with opportunities to reflect in detail on specific areas of their professional practice. Some modules offer opportunities to consider the implications of the academic study of theology, culture and society for at least one aspect of their own professional or voluntary practice. The dissertation will provide the opportunity to specialise in a particular approach and field of study at an advanced level. The dissertation module, while shared with other programmes, should be discipline specific to the MA Practical and Contextual Theology.


Dual delivery of certain modules means that they will be available as weekly seminars at the Chester campus as well as available as online modules. It is expected that all modules will in time be available in Distance Learning format, through the VLE. These will consist of substantial tutor-written text to guide students through reading, formative tasks, and opportunities for virtual interaction with tutor and other students. Residentials which would be offered twice a year would support the Distance learning packages with face to face lectures/seminars/tutorials/group work/presentations etc.


Students will begin by studying the core module TH7021 Themes and Methods in Practical and Contextual Theology and this is a pre-requisite for getting the MA or any interim awards.

Master students will then choose modules equivalent to a further 60 credits in addition to the core module. They will then complete TH7025 Research Dissertation.

To exit with a Postgraduate Certificate, students must complete TH7021 plus a further 20 credits

To exit with the Postgraduate Diploma, students must complete TH7021 plus a further 80 credits (not TH7025).

Where students enter the programme with 120 credits of APEL/APCL, a 60 credit dissertation option is available but restricted to these students.

Mod-Code Level Title Credit Single
TH7017 7 Independent Biblical Study 20 Optional
TH7021 7 Themes and Methods in Practical and Contextual Theology 40 Comp
TH7022 7 Contextualized Approaches to Biblical Interpretation 20 N/A
TH7023 7 Contemporary Issues in Contextual Theology 20 N/A
TH7024 7 Research Dissertation (60) 60 Optional
TH7025 7 Research Dissertation 80 Optional
TH7026 7 Jews, Christians, and Pagans (168BCE-132CE) 20 Optional
TH7032 7 International Perspectives on Faith and Public Policy 20 N/A
TH7034 7 Bodies, Gender and God 20 N/A
TH7036 7 Environment and Animals: Theology and Ethics 20 N/A
TH7037 7 Theology After Darwin 20 N/A
TH7039 7 Spirituality and Contemporary Popular Culture 20 Optional
TH7040 7 Indigenous Religions 20 N/A
TH7041 7 Religion and Disability 20 N/A
TH7042 7 Secularization and the Futures of Religion 20 N/A
TH7043 7 Urban Theology 20 N/A
TH7048 7 Independent Practice-Based Research Project 40 Optional
TH7049 7 Contemporary Issues in Public Theology 20 N/A
TH7050 7 Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls 20 Optional
TH7051 7 Evil in Comparative Theological Perspective 20 Optional
TH7054 7 TRS Conference Study 20 Optional
TH7056 7 Field Study of Religion 20 Optional
TH7061 7 Media Ethics 20 Optional
TH7062 7 Mediating the Sacred: Religious Communication in Text and Context 20 N/A
TH7063 7 Gender, Religion and Literature 20 Optional
TH7064 7 Martyrdom and Suicide in the Ancient and Modern World 20 N/A
TH7065 7 Judaism and the Formation of Early Christianity 20 N/A
TH7066 7 Issues in the Study of Faiths and Public Policy 20 N/A
TH7067 7 Contemporary Religion: Shifting Paradigms and Patterns 20 N/A
TH7068 7 Key Texts in Christian Theological Ethics 20 Optional
TH7071 7 Academic Writing for Publication 20 N/A
TH7072 7 The Book of Revelation 20 Optional

Postgraduate Certificate 60 credits
Postgraduate Diploma 120 credits
Master of Arts 180 credits



The academic ability, motivation and potential of a student required for entry to the programme can be established from a number of forms of evidence:

  • an upper second or first class Honours degree in Theology and/or Religious Studies
  • an upper second or first 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.

Where applicants present qualifications or experience that are not included in the University’s stated entry criteria, an Admissions Equivalence Form is completed and signed by two members of the programme team, outlining the basis upon which an offer can been made.

The structure and content of this programme conforms to the QAA Theology and Religious Studies Benchmark Statement for Master’s degrees in the discipline [, Appendix A]. The statement specifies the qualities, understanding and skills to be demonstrated by those awarded Masters in Theology and Religious studies. It emphasises capacities for independent learning and thinking, methodological competence, research skills and critical reflection. This programme is designed to enable students to develop and demonstrate these attributes in a number of ways indicated in the programme outcomes (section 23).

Several elements of this programme encourage and require the development of a ‘high degree of independence and self-direction in learning’ on the part of students. The programme’s structure is key to this formation. The core module learning and assessments on research methods help develop this quality in research skills. Students take responsibility for choosing a combination of optional modules and a dissertation topic, which together comprise the majority of the programme. Most modules allow or require students to negotiate assignment topics or exercise responsibility for selecting and designing research projects. The nature of the modes of teaching and learning deployed across the programme, which privilege student participation, also foster this capacity. These learning experiences prepare students for the dissertation module, where the opportunity and enabling of independent, self-directed learning is greatest.

All modules encourage a ‘high degree of engagement, interaction and independent thinking’, in keeping with the benchmarking statement, through the use of face to face and online interactive media and fora as primary opportunities for learning. All module assessments encourage independent thinking, including critical distance from source materials and an awareness of the complexity of the subject matter, as per the statement. All modes of assessment help students develop the ability to frame original arguments based on critical evaluation of source materials, in keeping with the statement. All these assessments, and especially the dissertation, require and aid the development of the ability to source primary materials and scholarly literature, including electronic resources, and to deploy them with a sophisticated critical awareness, in accordance with the statement. The programme’s core module (TH7021) and several of the optional modules (e.g. TH7067, TH7048) foster students’ capacity to reflect critically on practice and practical experience, drawing critically on theoretical perspectives.

The research methods tasks on the core module enable students to learn about appropriate research methods, to acquire adequate research skills, also in keeping with the statement. These components, like all modules and their assessments, help students to reflect critically on their own perspectives and situatedness, and on the methodological and hermeneutical issues raised. The core module also helps students grasp the ethical issues raised by their research and compliance with relevant codes of practice, including the Faculty’s Research Ethics approval process.

At level 7, a wide range of learning and teaching methods will be adopted, with the emphasis on developing autonomous learning. The core module will be delivered either through face to face teaching, primarily in small group sessions and one-to-one tutorials or by distance learning supported by a range of materials available through the University's elearning facilities. These will consist of substantial tutor-written text to guide students through reading, formative tasks, and opportunities for virtual interaction with tutor and other students.  Delivery of optional modules will take place either through residential seminars or by distance learning, again supported by a range of learning materials available through the University's elearning facilities as described above. In addition, all modules will be supported by a combination of e-mail, telephone and skype support. There will also be an opportunity for fieldwork activities. Research methodology will be an early part of the learning experience on the Dissertation module and this will be supported through one-to-one supervision.

Types of assessment reflect the aims and learning outcomes of various course modules. 

Typically, students will be expected to produce an extended research paper for summative assessment with options for formative feedback, either in the context of individual supervision, peer review or seminar presentation. 

Some modules will require the student to undertake independent qualitative research by fieldwork, or autoethnographic methods such as journaling. Others will draw on more conventional text-based modes of study. There are no examinations. 

Research dissertations are required for the full MA.  

This programme of study will appeal to those seeking a postgraduate qualification as part of their continuing professional development, although some candidates may enrol simply for personal and academic development.

It may also be used by professionals as a form of continuing professional development. It would suit those working in the voluntary or public sectors, or those engaged in religious ministry with congregations, children and young people, the elderly, those with disabilities, as well as those involved in political or campaigning work, especially with a theological or faith-based dimension.

The Department of Theology and Religious Studies acknowledges the standard University policies regarding admissions, widening access and participation, equal opportunities and APL, as supplied centrally by the University.  Consistent with the University's commitment to widening access and participation, the programme conforms to the University's flexible approach and welcomes applications from mature students and from groups normally under-represented in higher education. The University of Chester values the diversity of its student body and aims to promote quality of opportunity in all its activities.  All suitably-qualified students are welcome on this programme irrespective of race, gender, dis/ability or age.  Every effort will be made to accommodate students with specific learning or physical needs and to ensure that all students benefit equally.  Each case will be examined individually and the University's Inclusion Plans will provide guidance and support, as appropriate. 

International students who meet the admissions requirements are welcome to take this programme by Distance Learning and will enrich both the programme and the postgraduate community at the University.

Modules in the programme offer opportunities for addressing questions of gender, sexuality, race and religious identity.

There are no confessional requirements or tests of faith for entry to or success in the programme. 


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