University of Chester

Programme Specification
Religious Studies MA
2017 - 2018

Master of Arts

Religious Studies

Religious Studies

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

Classroom / Laboratory, Distance, Residential and Open,

1 year full time and 2 years part time

6 Years

Annual - September


17a. Faculty

17b. Department

Arts and Humanities Theology & Religious Studies

Theology and Religious Studies

TRS Subject Assessment Board

Wednesday 23rd February 2011

The Aims of this programme are 

  • To offer a flexible, full-time or part-time postgraduate degree programme in the inter-disciplinary study of religions, in both thematic and systematic modes;
  • To foster critical skills necessary to explore religious traditions from the perspective of a variety of emic and etic approaches and to enable students to become independent researchers;
  • To develop advanced knowledge and understanding of history, practices, and texts of the world's spiritual and religious traditions;
  • To develop engagement with discourses such as postmodernism, feminism, queer theory, post-structuralism, critical theory, post-colonial perspectives, as they relate to the study of religions;
  • To explore categories of religion, spirituality, the secular, culture, politics, identity, society;
  • To develop the application of a number of complementary methods of study, such as, philosophical, historical, phenomenological, linguistic, hermeneutical, empirical, speculative, social scientific, and to evaluate these methods;
  • To provide the opportunity for guided ethnographic study in the field, in line with professional ethical standards;
  • To prepare students for further research.

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

  1. a self-reflexive, systematic and critical understanding of a range of advanced theories and methods in the study of religion (TH7039; TH7040; TH7041; TH7045; TH7046; TH7059; TH7063; TH7067).
  2. an advanced knowledge of current problems and new insights at the forefront of the discipline (all modules).
  3. a sophisticated understanding of spiritual and religious traditions, their histories, traditions of reflection, texts, practices (TH7026; TH7039; TH7040; TH7046; TH7050; TH7057; TH7058; TH7059).
  4. an advanced understanding of the historical contexts of particular religious and spiritual movements and traditions and of the relationships between religious and spiritual practices and texts and other cultural phenomena and artefacts (TH7026; TH7039; TH7040; TH7046; TH7050; TH7058; TH7059; TH7062; TH7067).

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

  1. Critical engagement with different methodological approaches to the study of religion, including emic and etic approaches, and with prominent discourses in religious studies such as postmodernist, postcolonial, feminist, queer and post-structuralist discourses (TH7039; TH7040; TH7045; TH7046;TH7047; TH7058; TH7063; TH7067).
  2. Critical interaction with scholarly debates in the study of religion (all modules);
  3. The ability to interpret, analyse and evaluate primary sources and evidence drawing on theoretical frameworks as appropriate, and to deploy secondary literature with independence of mind (all modules);
  4. The ability to deal with complex issues both systematically and creatively and make sound judgements based on the evidence available (all modules);
  5. Appropriate research skills, including the capacity to propose a realistic empirical project using appropriate methods, showing awareness of the norms and methods of such research (TH7047; TH7025);
  6. Self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems, and the ability to act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks at a professional or equivalent level (all modules).

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

  • Application of Number: may be required, for example, in some forms of research methodology and social scientific analysis (TH7047; 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.
  • Working with others: some learning methods (including seminars etc.), some assessment methods and some ministerial contexts develop and demonstrate these skills.
  • 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 (all modules).

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 thus 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).

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 MA in Religious Studies is a flexible full or part-time programme with distance and blended-learning styles of delivery. As well as reaching traditional students, the delivery styles will enable it to reach students who would not otherwise have access to Masters Level provision in our subject areas. Such groups include those with family commitments, mobility problems and particularly those professional groups to whom this programme will appeal, for instance school teachers, public sector and other workers requiring advanced multicultural awareness. Students on Tier 4 Visas will follow a fully residential face to face pathway. Whilst the Department has long had a commitment to teaching about religious traditions and developing critical thinking about religion at undergraduate level, it has now reached a critical mass of research active academics who can provide Masters Level education in this increasingly important area of study. This MA sits alongside the MA Theology.

Both programmes have their own distinctive core, but some modules are appropriate for students from a range of programmes.


Most modules are available in Distance Learning format, through the VLE (Moodle). These consist of substantial tutor-written text to guide students through reading, formative tasks, and opportunities for virtual interaction with tutor and other students. Residentials are offered twice a year to support the virtual learning with face to face lectures/seminars/tutorials/group work/presentations etc. A small number of modules are only available face to face.

The MA Religious Studies requires students to be trained in a wide variety of disciplines, methods and approaches to the study of religions through the core modules, and then provides opportunities through optional modules to pursue further the study of a variety of instances of religious and spiritual belief and practice through specific approaches. Through their optional choices students deepen their appreciation of particular religions, and of particular methods and theories, without detriment to the broad approach built into to the structure of the degree.

The first and core (compulsory) modules, TH7045 Advanced Theories in the Study of Religion and TH7047 Advanced Research Methods in the Study of Religions, provide students with the advanced level of disciplinary and theoretical orientation required as a basis for the advanced study of religions, and skill the students to undertake their own research. Students take three further modules. Two modules must come from List One and the third may come from either List One or List Two. The purpose of restricting choice in this way is to ensure that students do not use the wide choice available to them to narrow down the range of traditions to which they are exposed.  A Masters Degree in Religious Studies from The University of Chester will be characterised by its broadness of scope both in terms of disciplines and theories, and in terms of religious traditions.  Optional modules:  

 List One: At least two must be taken from this list List Two: One MAY be taken from this list 
 TH7017 Independent Biblical Study  TH7061 Media Ethics
 TH7026 Jews, Christians and Pagans (168BCE-132CE)  TH7068 Key Texts in Christian Theological Ethics
 TH7039 Spirituality and Contemporary Popular Culture  
 TH7046 Buddhist Concepts of Awakening  
 TH7050 Qumran and the Dead Sea Scrolls  
 TH7051 Evil in Comparative Theological Perspective  
 TH7054 TRS Conference Study  
 TH7056 Field Study of Religion  
 TH7059 Contemporary Islam  
 TH7063 Gender, Religion and Literature  
 TH7072 The Book of Revelation  

After successful completion of the modular phase of the degree students take TH7025 Research Dissertation (80 credits), and are assigned an appropriate specialist supervisor.


Mod-Code Level Title Credit Single
TH7033 6 Religion in Contemporary India 20 N/A
TH7017 7 Independent Biblical Study 20 Optional
TH7018 7 Independent Religious Study 20 N/A
TH7025 7 Research Dissertation 80 Comp
TH7026 7 Jews, Christians, and Pagans (168BCE-132CE) 20 Optional
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
TH7044 7 Shakta: the divine feminine in Hindu culture and religion 20 N/A
TH7045 7 Advanced Theories in the Study of Religion. 20 Comp
TH7046 7 Buddhist Concepts of Awakening 20 Optional
TH7047 7 Advanced Research Methods in the Study of Religions 20 Comp
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
TH7053 7 The Theological Interpretation of Christian Scripture 20 N/A
TH7054 7 TRS Conference Study 20 Optional
TH7056 7 Field Study of Religion 20 Optional
TH7057 7 Ritual in the Hebrew Bible 20 N/A
TH7058 7 Yoga and Tantra in the Indian tradition 20 N/A
TH7059 7 Contemporary Islam 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 (this will require students to take a 6th 20 credit module, which in most cases would be TH7018 Independent Religious Study when available)
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 subject, together with evidence of certificated learning in religious studies or substantial related experience;
  • evidence of a lower qualification plus substantial appropriate professional experience (such as teaching), 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 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 developed study skills can be assumed. Students have a large measure of responsibility for their own learning: autonomy and interdependence are key to the learning experiences. Students experience a variety of teaching methods and are encouraged in a range of learning methods appropriate for this programme. The student learning experience is supported by face to face teaching at residentials, e-mail, telephone and skype support, and fieldwork activities. Research methodology is an early part of the learning experience on the Dissertation module and in TH7047 Advanced Research Methods in the Study of Religion. Students on Tier 4 Visas follow a fully residential face to face pathway. 

Typically, holistic summative assessment is by 4,000 word assignment or equivalent project.  Types of assessment reflect the content and skills of the modules: for example exegetical and hermeneutical analysis, socio-cultural awareness, fieldwork mapping project, journal. There are no examinations. Modules may use formative assessment tasks. Masters Level students in the Humanities should be able to write at length, in the style of peer-reviewed journal articles. In order to provide opportunities for training in these skills, most modules require a 4,000 word assignment. However there are some exceptions where modules require a portfolio of smaller tasks.

After successful completion of the modular phase of the degree students take an 80 credit dissertation (TH7025), and are assigned an appropriate specialist supervisor.


This programme of study will be used for some simply for personal and academic development. It may also be used by professionals, especially perhaps by RE teachers and those working with the public requiring training in a range of world-views. Non-specialist teachers of RE may find this programme particularly appealing as it provides a route to substantial CPD.

The study will equip them, and the award will signal significant professional commitment and achievement, and may support progression. The programme and some appropriate single modules are listed on the RE Council's register of CPD courses available. We continue to seek feedback from teachers regarding how we might use the MA and its modules to support their professional development, and we are mindful of the potential role for the MA in supporting their needs in the light of the Subject Review of A level (first teaching 2016) and the increased demands upon their subject knowledge. 

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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