University of Chester

Programme Specification
Theology MA
2017 - 2018

Master of Arts


Theology [IBC]

University of Chester

Irish Baptist College

Administered from Irish Baptist College (and with residentials)

Postgraduate (Taught)

Full-time and Part-time

Residential and Open,

2 years

6 Years

Annual - September



17a. Faculty

17b. Department

Arts and Humanities Theology & Religious Studies

Framework for Higher Education Qualifications and FHEQ (England, Wales & Northern Ireland)

Framework for Qualifications for the European Higher Education third cycle awards

MA Practical Theology Programme Assessment Board/Research Degrees Progression Awards Board

Thursday 25th February 2016

Why is the programme offered?

We aim to:

  • recognize the value of applying scholarship and research to the development on ministry in a range of contexts
  • develop good practice in ministry through producing graduates who can engage in high level, independent reflection and leadership in their chosen field

What are the key outcomes of the programme?

We aim to:

  • facilitate personal growth in ministry through in-depth, independent reflection
  • develop new, innovative and ethically defensible theological and disciplinary perspectives on ministry
  • develop the ability to independently research key aspects of ministry to produce new knowledge
  • develop a range of research methods which will enhance investigation into ministry issues
  • apply new knowledge to a range of ministry contexts

The student will be able to:

  • demonstrate systematic conceptual understanding that enables the student to evaluate critically current research and advanced scholarship in practical theology. TH7519, TH7520, TH7521
  • undertake, in a self-directed manner, work-based projects that deal with complex issues concerning professional practice and/or organisational objectives. TH7505, TH7514, TH7523
  • make use of a variety of sources of knowledge/evidence and exercise critical judgement in its application. All modules
  • gain knowledge of research methods applicable to their professional context. TH7505, TH7515, TH7523

The student will be able to:

  • demonstrate a comprehensive facility with discipline-related skills of text-based research, enquiry-based learning and theological reflection to review, consolidate and extend their knowledge and understanding TH7501, TH7514
  • analyse and synthesise information in such a way that it can be of use to them and others within the context of their professional practice. All modules
  • critically evaluate concepts, theories, research findings and other sources of knowledge and make informed judgements about their application in the context of professional practice. All modules
  • think critically, to undertake critical self-reflection and to act critically within the context of their professional practice and in such a way that it has advanced their self-understanding as a professional and as a person. TH7516, TH7517, TH7518

Practical Skills 

The student will be able to:

  • systematically analyse complex issues and to apply their knowledge and understanding to work place contexts. TH7519, TH7521
  • demonstrate sound judgements based on evidence and be able to communicate ideas effectively to others. All modules

Problem solving: the threshold assessment criteria include assessment of the ability to deal with complex issues both systematically & creatively, & make sound judgements; and (where relevant to modular learning outcomes) collaborative or individual problem-solving, & planning & implementing of tasks appropriate to a professional context. All modules

Transferable Professional Skills

A key aspect of the rationale for this programme is about continuing professional development and learning achieved in this context will inevitably have potential for transferability. All modules
Successful candidates will be expected to demonstrate the qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring the exercise of personal responsibility and largely autonomous initiative in complex and unpredictable situations, in professional/institutional or equivalent environments. All modules

The student will be able to:

  • communicate using clear expression, (in written work) with clear conclusions for specialist & non-specialist audiences as appropriate TH7501
  • demonstrate numeracy, for example, in specified forms of research methodology and social scientific analysis
  • use information technology and computer skills (ICT) for data capture, to identify and retrieve material and support research and presentations. TH7501, TH7514

The programme can be represented as having two stages:

On entrance into the programme an introduction to/refresher course in study and research skills, with particular emphasis on presentation, is completed in the first semester of study.

a.                  Stage 1: Modules (5 at 20 credits each) at level 7 (100 credits)

b.                  Stage 2: Dissertation at level 7 (80 credits) 

Each stage is completed before the next is begun: research preparation (or a credit claim) is a prerequisite for Stage 1; and the level 7 designated modules are prerequisites for the dissertation, and trigger the Advisory Review Board.

The structure of the course at Stage 1 reflects the structure of the BD & BTh courses also offered by the Irish Baptist College and marks progression from them. Students are required to complete one module from each of the three streams- Biblical Studies (TH7516, TH7517,TH7518) Christian Thought (TH7519, TH7520, TH7521) and Ministry Studies(TH7515,TH7522,TH7523) - and then one module from any of the three streams.

A common model of recruitment is a student with relevant bachelor's degree and updated professional experience and where there is a previous qualification at master's level which enables a successful APL claim for the research preparation: this may lead to a shorter pathway. Without such accredited learning, a full-time student can achieve the MA in theology in two years, or a part-time student in three years, with modules (total 100 credits at level 7) and dissertation (80 credits).

a. Stage 1: level 7 modules (100 credits) 

Where students do not have a relevant bachelor's or master's degree or postgraduate diploma and updated professional experience for an APL claim (of up to 100 credits at level 7) they undertake 100 credits chosen from these modules: 

TH7501 Study Skills (Compulsory - 20 credits)

Study Skills is a short course in the Irish Baptist College and is compulsory for all students in this programme, unless exemption has been awarded by the University of Chester, through a credit claim presented at the time of application. The student is required to reach a requisite standard.

TH7515 Women in Ministry (20 credits)

This module seeks to make students aware of various approaches to gender related theological issues, identify and investigate primary biblical texts relating to Christian women, examine the role of women in the Church and society - Western, global and Northern Irish - and prepare students to engage in research in specific and relevant areas of interest.

TH7516 Leadership in the Pastoral Epistles (20 credits)

This module provides a theological and historical examination of the major issues relating to Christian leadership within the Pastoral Epistles, and explores their relevance to the contemporary context.

TH7517 The Theology of Worship (20 credits)

This module is an examination of worship biblically and historically together with reflection on worship in pastoral practice.

TH7518 Biblical Ethics in Contemporary Context (20 credits)

This module provides the student with a biblical framework for engaging in ethical discussion before going on to examine in a critical way a range of contemporary ethical issues.

TH7519 Reformation Studies (20 credits)

This module provides the student with the opportunity to engage more fully with the theology of the Reformation period and to examine its implications for ministry today.

TH7520 Apologetics (20 credits)

This module provides the student with opportunity to examine approaches to Christian apologetics and to relate this to contemporary issues.

TH7521 Christology Yesterday and Today (20 credits)

This module is an examination of the Christology of selected key theologians and historical/contemporary debates.

TH7522 Preaching in the Contemporary World (20 credits)

An examination and study of the practice of preaching as a relevant vehicle of communicating Christian truth in contemporary society.

TH7523 Mission Studies (20 credits)

This module includes an examination of the historical, biblical and theological backgrounds to missions and their implications for contemporary practice.

b. Stage 2:

TH7513- Dissertation of 12,000-15,000 words (60 credits) 

Students who are accepted to complete the MA with 120 credits (e.g. having completed the PGDip) will complete a dissertation of between 12,000-15,000 words (60 credits) on a theme related to one or more of the modules undertaken. This module is only available to students enrolled in this way.

TH7514 - Dissertation of 16,500-22,000 words (80 credits)

After completion of the taught modules (100 credits), students enrolled on the MA programme will complete a dissertation of between 16,500-22,000 words (80 credits) on a theme related to one or more of the modules undertaken.

Mod-Code Level Title Credit Single
TH7501 7 Study Skills 20 Comp
TH7505 7 Preaching 20 N/A
TH7513 7 Dissertation 60 Credits 60 Optional
TH7514 7 Dissertation 80 credits 80 Optional
TH7515 7 Women in Ministry 20 Optional
TH7516 7 Leadership in the Pastoral Epistles 20 Optional
TH7517 7 The Theology of Worship 20 Optional
TH7518 7 Biblical Ethics in Contemporary Context 20 Optional
TH7519 7 Reformation Studies 20 Optional
TH7520 7 Apologetics 20 Optional
TH7521 7 Christology Yesterday and Today 20 Optional
TH7522 7 Preaching in the Contemporary World 20 Optional
TH7523 7 Mission Studies 20 Optional

The target award of Master of Arts is made up of 180 credits.
100 credits are at level 7 achieved through modules of theological preparation, or alternatively a claim based on credit for a relevant master's degree or postgraduate diploma and updated professional experience.
80 credits are for a dissertation of 16,500-22,000 words.

The interim award of Postgraduate Certificate in Theology is available for students achieving at least 60 credits (including TH7501) at level 7 on the programme but not continuing for the MA in theology award.

The interim award of Postgraduate Diploma in Theology is available for students achieving at least 120 credits  (including TH7501) at level 7 on the programme and by adding enough modules (eg. a total of 6 at 20 credits each) and by not continuing for the MA in theology award.

Typically, students will hold a Bachelors degree. All applicants should normally have at least an upper second class Honours degree in a discipline appropriate to their intended area of research, or a lower second class Honours degree plus a Masters degree. Substantial prior professional experience may, in some instances, be acceptable in place of an appropriate degree qualification.   

Applicants shall also satisfy the requirements for English Language, where English is not their first language (IELTS 6.5 or TOEFL 570 (230 computer-based) is the minimum requirement). 

Qualifications and preparedness for postgraduate research will be judged from the application form endorsed by the Irish Baptist College. 

Students with additional needs should declare this at the time of application, and an assessment made by Student Support and Guidance of the University's ability to support these needs. 

Where a candidate might be disadvantaged by not meeting the normal qualification entry criteria, the following (for example) can apply:

  • where the first degree is lower than a 2:1 honours degree and more than 10 years old the following may be taken in its place: other more recent qualifications (or a substantial amount of study) at levels 6 or 7 (e.g. PGCE, Masters) or experience of at least 3 years work at a professional level within the last 5 years
  • Substantial prior research or professional experience is understood to mean at least 2 years operating at a senior level (e.g. as an independent or principal researcher/practitioner). 
  • Students presenting international qualifications which are not judged to be the equivalent of an Honours degree, would normally be required to undertake and attain a good pass on at least one 7 level module as a condition of entry.

The Theology and Religious Studies Benchmark Statement, published by the QAA in 2000 and revised in 2007 and 2014, details the range of subject knowledge (TRS Benchmark 3.1), the qualities of mind (3.2), and generic skills acquired and developed in TRS degree programmes. Appendix A of the subject Benchmark Statement states that a Master’s degree in theology and religious studies is awarded to students who have demonstrated these standards. In fulfilment of this, the MA Theology will  build on and extend the benchmarks developed in TRS BD and BTh degree programmes, and are in line with the current MA draft benchmarks enabling students to take 'responsibility for their own learning experience.' (Appendix A6.1)

The MA in Theology equips students with an ‘expanded range of research and study tools’ (A4.3) beginning initially in the core modules TH7501 where students learn the research skills needed to engage in advanced independent research, and developed then in a range of optional modules. 

Students cultivate appropriate knowledge of research methods and ethical research (A4.2, A6.1) and are required to demonstrate an advanced ability to use primary and secondary sources. Optional modules enable students to extend these skills allowing for broadness of scope both in terms of disciplines and theories, and understanding issues of context giving rise to their own theological tradition and that of others

Independence and originality of research is encouraged as students design their own projects and form their own – sometimes original – conclusions. The research dissertation (TH7514) allows students to expand their skills in self-directed learning, and to show an advanced ability to source material, think independently, and critically engage with and reflect upon a key area within the study of theology.(TRS Benchmark 3.2) 

This is a study/research degree. The programme provides structured elements of research training. All the components are pursued as supervised independent study.

At the heart of the Master of Arts in theology is a dyn­amic relationship between theory and practice. The primary component of this environment for students enrolled on the Master of Arts in theology will be the residentials and the relationships developed during them within particular cohorts of students. The residentials will both provide the opportunity for engaging with a range of tutors, and will enable the students to develop as researchers by engaging with each other's research projects. In stage 2, during the dissertation writing stage, contact with the supervisor will provide help related to research and the writing process.

The level 7 components may be accounted for by APCL in a student's profile, for example by the research training undertaken within a master's degree. For these modules, students are assigned a member of staff (normally the programme leader or one of the associate programme leaders) who acts as advisor/personal academic tutor to advise on their progress and to provide pastoral support; and for each module there is a module tutor, or a module co-ordinator and an appointed supervisor. 

Sessions in the residentials include work on research skills and methodology, practical exercises in enquiry-based learning and lectures, seminars and student-led discussions.

Following the modules (level 7) students are assigned a supervisor for the dissertation.   The supervisor is responsible for agreeing a suitable programme of research work and overseeing its progress, and for administrative issues relating to the student's registration and progress.

For the 20-credit modules assessment is by coursework totalling 4,000-5,500 words per 20 credit module. In many cases the coursework comprises one long essay or equivalent, but where appropriate to the learning outcomes of the module, it may comprise a combination of shorter pieces, such as a regular journal plus a reflective essay.

    1. All written work is double marked internally, and then by the appointed External Examiner.
    2. Each module in Stage 1 is assessed through a 4,000-5,500 word essay or equivalent. The objective is that the student is well prepared for the level of research required for the master's dissertation. 
    3. Stage 2 is assessed by a dissertation of 16,500-22,000 words which is examined normally by one internal and the appointed external examiner. No viva is normally required.
    4. No student may progress (via upgrade) to Stage 2 (dissertation) without having successfully met the requirements for Stage 1.
    5. The pass mark in all modules is 40%.
    6. When a candidate cannot, through disability, be fairly assessed by the methods prescribed for the course concerned, the University of Chester Module Assessment Board in collaboration with IBC may vary those as they deem appropriate, bearing in mind the aims and learning outcomes of the programme of study and course and the need to assess each candidate on equal terms with other candidates.
    7. In determining the nature of any variation in the methods of assessments, full account must be taken of the University's policies in respect of students with disabilities which are set out in University's Code of Practice.
    8. The dissertation will reside within the University Regulation for Research Degrees. All other modules within the programme will reside within University regulations for modular provision.

The holder of a Master of Arts theology degree will be a professional who has

  • extensive knowledge and reflective understanding which is at the forefront of the academic discipline of practical theology and/or area of professional practice;
  • the ability to integrate theoretical and professional-practical perspectives, knowledge and reflective understanding in such a way as to generate mutual critique, and reformulation of theory and of professional practice;
  • a detailed understanding of applicable techniques for original research, effective communication, critical and independent reasoning appropriate to advanced academic enquiry.

Students taking this programme should be aware that they need to be highly self-motivated and self-directed to maintain the necessary momentum to complete the programme successfully.  University support will be provided but the distance learning nature of the programme requires determination from the student and pro-activity in maintaining contact with tutors. 

The residentials offer peer and tutor support to students who would not immediately thrive with only individual supervision and independent study.

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