University of Chester

Programme Specification
Theology and Religious Studies BA (Hons) (Single Honours)
2017 - 2018

Bachelor of Arts (Single Honours)

Theology and Religious Studies

Theology and Religious Studies Bhaktivedanta College

University of Chester

Bhaktivedanta College, Belgium

Bhaktivedanta College Campus, Belgium

Bhaktivedanta College Online Campus

Undergraduate Modular Programme

Full-time and Part-time

Classroom / Laboratory, Distance,

3 Years (for full-time)

7 Years

Annual - September


17a. Faculty

17b. Department

Arts and Humanities Theology & Religious Studies

Theology and Religious Studies

University of Chester

Theology and Religious Studies

Monday 2nd May 2011

The programme will provide students with:

  • A broad yet detailed understanding of Vaishnava heritage, culture, and theology.

  • The ability to apply theological insight to all aspects of personal growth and transformation, and to develop the commensurate values and attitudes.

  • The opportunity to become competent, exemplary and independently-thoughtful representatives of their tradition, especially in making theology relevant to contemporary issues and audiences.

  • Knowledge and understanding of, and appreciation for, other religious traditions and a wide range of worldviews and philosophies.

  • The knowledge, skill and disposition to evaluate Vaishnavism from the respective viewpoints of (a) the tradition itself (b) the academy, and to develop mature, balanced and reflexive approaches towards ‘faith and reason’.

  • Transferable professional skills, especially academic, pastoral, and inter-personal.

  • Preparation for a range of ethical and fulfilling jobs, careers and vocations.

Students will be assessed on their ability to:

Level 4:

  • demonstrate a detailed knowledge and critical understanding of the major religious, philosophical, and ethical ideas within Hinduism (e.g. TH4443, TH4451).
  • demonstrate a thorough knowledge and understanding of the key concepts and history of Western philosophy and how they relate to Vaishnava perspectives; a mature analysis of key ideas that have shaped the development of modern philosophy and the impact of those ideas on contemporary approaches to religion (e.g. TH4450).
  • demonstrate a critical understanding of and appreciation for the diversity of beliefs and practices of the major world religions and an in-depth study of the relationship between science and religion, including the significance of this relationship for religion in the modern era (e.g. TH4453)

Level 5: demonstrate a thorough knowledge of some of the scientific ‘landmarks’ in history and an understanding of their impact on Western theological understanding (e.g. TH5447).

Level 6:

  • demonstrate an advanced knowledge and understanding of the central concepts of the six major philosophical schools within Hindu tradition and their contribution to the development of a) Vaishnava and b) ISKCON theology and practice (e.g. TH6449).

  • demonstrate an ability to critically analyse the lives and teachings of some of the influential teachers of modern Hinduism (e.g. TH6443).

Students will be assessed on their ability to:

Level 4:

  • engage with empathy, integrity, and critical reflection with the convictions and behaviours of other faiths and cultures (e.g. TH4453, TH4443).
  • show independence in thought and critical self-awareness about one's own beliefs, commitments, and prejudices (e.g. TH4443, TH4453).

Level 5: undertake self-directed study and reflect on one's strengths and weaknesses as a learner (e.g. TH5450).

Level 6:

  • attend to, critically evaluate, and interact with ideas, arguments, and abstract concepts (e.g.TH6449).
  • undertake self-directed study and reflect on one's strengths and weaknesses as a learner (e.g.TH6449).

Students will be assessed on their ability to:

Level 4: formulate a coherent argument, with appropriate use of data and evidence, and with an awareness of the  implications of divergent views. (e.g. TH4443, TH4451)

Level 5:

  • exercise personal responsibility and decision-making, necessary for employment and ministerial vocations (e.g. TH5450).
  • make use of scholarly reviews and primary sources (e.g. refereed research articles and/or original materials appropriate to the discipline such as writings of theologians, and historical sources and writings) (e.g. TH5443, TH5444).

Level 6:

  • make decisions in complex and unpredictable contexts (e.g. TH6445).

  • communicate information, ideas, problems and solutions (both orally and in written form) to both specialist and non-specialist audiences. (e.g. TH6441,TH6442).

Students will be assessed on their ability to:

Level 4: communicate accurately and demonstrate appropriate use of primary and secondary sources, with full   and  accurate references, within a structured and coherent argument (e.g. TH4446, TH4450).

Level 5: to use information technology and computer skills for data capture, to identify and retrieve material and support research and presentations (e.g. TH5444, TH5447).

Level 6: ability to deal with complex issues systematically, sensitively 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. (e.g. TH6445, TH6449).

The programme focuses on four areas of study:

  1. Philosophy and Theology,
  2. Religious Studies,
  3. Scriptural Studies,
  4. Practical Theology.

The programme may be taken either full-time or part-time, and either onsite or off-site.
The programme consists of the following modules (* indicates a compulsory module; # indicates a module is
not available to Distance Learners):

Philosophy and Theology

  • LEVEL 4 1. TH4450 Introduction to Western Philosophy (20 credits)* 2. TH4451 History of Vaishnava Thought (10 credits)*
  • LEVEL 5 3. TH5443 Pre-modern Indian Theologians: Rupa & Jiva Goswamins (20 credits)* 4. TH5447 Science and Religion (10 credits) 5. TH5448 Hindu Theories of Knowledge and Learning (10 credits)
  • LEVEL 6 6. TH6449 Six Classical Indian Philosophies (20 credits)*

Religious Studies

  • LEVEL 4 1. TH4452 Theory and Method in the Study of Religion (10 credits)* 2. TH4443 Introduction to Hinduism (20 credits)* 3. TH4453 Encountering World Religions (20 credits)*
  • LEVEL 5 4. TH5444 Sociology of Religion (20 credits)
  • LEVEL 6 5. TH6443 Modern Hinduism (20 credits)*

Scriptural Studies

  • LEVEL 4 1. TH4446 Modern Interpretations of Bhagavad-Gita (10 credits) 2. TH4447 Introduction to Sanskrit (10 credits)# 3. TH4454 Canonical Bhakti-shastri Study (Part A) (20 credits)*
  • LEVEL 5 4. TH5445 Vedas and Upanishads (20 credits)* 5. TH5446 Classical Indian Literature: Ramayana and Mahabharata (10 credits) 6. TH5451 Sacred Texts: The Bhagavata Purana (20 credits)* 7. TH5452 Canonical Bhakti-shastri Study (Part B) (20 credits)*
  • LEVEL 6 8. TH6442 Indian Sacred Biography: The case of the Chaitanya Charitamrita (20)* 9. TH6441 Chaitanya Vaishnava Literature (20 credits)

Practical Theology

  • LEVEL 4 1. TH4445 Introduction to Ethics (10 credits)* 2. TH4449 Core Skills for Teachers 1: Planning and Delivery (10 credits)#
  • LEVEL 5 3. TH5450 Pastoral Care (20 credits)* 4. TH5449 Western and Hindu Approaches to Contemporary Ethical Issues (20 credits)
  • LEVEL 6 5. TH6445 Theory and Practice of Managing Conflict in Faith-Based Organizations (20 credits)Dissertation Module TH6448: Research on a selected topic (40 credits)*

Distance Learners follow the same course as on-campus students with the exception that two level 4 modules are unavailable (TH4447; TH4449).

Students can only choose between two of the three optional 10 credits modules at level 5.

Mod-Code Level Title Credit Single
TH4443 4 Introduction to Hinduism 20 N/A
TH4445 4 Introduction to Ethics 10 N/A
TH4446 4 Modern Interpretations of The Bhagavad-Gita 10 N/A
TH4447 4 Introduction to Sanskrit 10 N/A
TH4449 4 Core Skills for Teachers 1: Planning and Delivery 10 N/A
TH4450 4 Introduction to Western Philosophy 20 N/A
TH4451 4 History of Vaishnava Thought 10 N/A
TH4452 4 Theory and Method in the Study of Religion 10 N/A
TH4453 4 Encountering World Religions 20 N/A
TH4454 4 Canonical Bhakti-Shastri Study (Part A) 20 N/A
TH5443 5 Pre-modern Indian Theologians: Rupa and Jiva Goswamins 20 Comp
TH5444 5 Sociology of Religion 20 Optional
TH5445 5 Vedas and Upanishads 20 Comp
TH5446 5 Classical Indian Literature: Ramayana and Mahabharata 10 Optional
TH5447 5 Science and Religion 10 Optional
TH5448 5 Hindu Theories of Knowledge and Learning 10 Optional
TH5449 5 Western and Hindu Approaches to Contemporary Ethical Issues 20 Optional
TH5450 5 Pastoral Care 20 Optional
TH5451 5 Sacred Texts: The Bhagavata Purana 20 Comp
TH5452 5 Canonical Bhakti-Shastri Study (Part B) 20 Comp
TH6441 6 Chaitanya Vaishnava Literature 20 Optional
TH6442 6 Indian Sacred Biography: The case of the Chaitanya Charitamrita 20 Comp
TH6443 6 Modern Hinduism 20 Comp
TH6445 6 Theory and Practice of Managing Conflict in Faith-Based Organizations 20 Optional
TH6448 6 Dissertation 40 Comp
TH6449 6 Six Classical Indian Philosophies 20 Comp

  • 120 credits at Level 4 entitles the student to a Certificate of Higher Education

  • 240 credits at Level 5 entitles the student to a Diploma of Higher Education

  • 360 credits at Level 6 entitles the student to a Bachelor’s degree


As the University is in the process of terminating its partnership with Bhaktivedanta College, it was agreed the September 15/16 cohort would be the final enrolment.

The design, structure and content of this programme have each been informed by the QAA Theology and Religious Studies Benchmark Statement published in 2000 and revised in 2007 and 2014. This benchmark statement details the range of subject knowledge, the qualities of mind, and generic skills acquired and developed in TRS degree programmes.


  1. Knowledge and Understanding


The single honours programme in theology and religious studies would usually have ‘a broadly based core’ while allowing for more specialised study in depth of some aspects of the field. This underlies the programme design of the BA Theology as a broad based core at level 4 provides the foundation for more specialized engagement at subsequent levels.

The Theory and Method in the Study of Religion (TH4452) and Encountering World Religions (TH4453) develop an understanding of the various approaches to the study of religion and provide knowledge of, and appreciation for, the diverse religious beliefs and practices. Philosophy and ethics are being discussed in TH4450, TH445, while Introduction to Hinduism (TH4443) explores understandings of Hindu and Vaisnava identity by giving students a broad introduction to the beliefs and practices of the Hindu traditions. To provide a basic understanding of the major doctrines of prominent Vaishnava Acharyas and their writings, at level 4 students listen to the History of Vaishnava Thought (TH4451), and Introduction to Sanskrit (TH4447) introduces students to the overall structure of the Sanskrit language. One of the practical theology modules, Core Skills for Teachers 1: Planning and Delivery (TH4449), draws on personal experience, current professional good-practice and Hindu-Vaishnava theology, to give students real insight into learning, teaching and group facilitation, with focus on interactive, experiential and learning-centered theories, styles and methods. While establishing the broad knowledge base for more focused modules at Level 5 & 6, in practical, contextual and systematic theologies (TH5443, TH5445, TH5446, TH5448, TH5449, TH5451), these module encourage students to think carefully about the theological/philosophical issues, in relation to the concept, practice and experience of bhakti.

Building on Canonical Bhakti-Shastri Study (Part A) (TH4454), at level 5 Canonical Bhakti-Shastri Study (Part B) (TH5452) promotes students’ interpretive skills, especially through comparing and critically examining a wide range of interpretations and exegeses of sacred scripture, with particular focus on the Bhakti-shastras. Pastoral care (TH5450) provides students with systematic knowledge, understanding, and critical evaluation of the principles and practice of pastoral care, including a range of approaches in administering them. To provide an introduction to the historical and conceptual relation between science and religion, at level 5 Science and Religion (TH5447) is introduced, and Sociology of Religion (TH5444) provides knowledge of key concepts of both Western and Vedic sociological theory and methodology.

Along with another practical theology module, Theory and Practice of Managing Conflict in Faith-Based Organizations (TH6445), which gives students knowledge and understanding of the unique factors related to conflicts within faith-based communities, more contextual and systematic theology modules (TH6441, TH6442, TH6443, TH6449) provide students with a thorough knowledge of the structure, key themes, theology and central narratives of important literary works in the Chaitanya Vaishnava tradition that have not been studied in previous modules.

All modules apply a variety of critical methods of study, often adapted from those of other disciplines in the humanities and social sciences, to the study of texts, practices, religious communities as social or cultural entities, or their diverse art forms.


 II. Qualities of Mind


All modules provide students with the ability to understand how people have thought and acted in contexts other than the student’s own, how beliefs, doctrines and practices have developed within particular social and cultural contexts and how religious traditions have changed over time. In particular, Classical Indian Literature: Ramayana and Mahabharata (TH5446) invites students to consider the Epics’ theistic ideas and central themes, their characters as role models, their ethical teachings and the moral dilemmas they explore, and Vedas and Upanishads (TH5445) provides students with a broad understanding of the principal religious and philosophical ideas contained within the four Vedas and the principal Upanishads. Throughout these modules students develop the ability to interpret literature and narrative composed in remote antiquity and to identify the contemporary significance of such texts. They also acquire the ability to perceive the ways in which textual traditions influence religion and society.

All modules develop students' capacity to give a clear and accurate account of a subject, marshal arguments in a mature way and engage in debate and dialogue with respect for the opposite case or different viewpoint. For instance, Western and Hindu Approaches to Contemporary Ethical Issues (TH5449) equips students with the ability to evaluate the benefits of discussing contemporary issues, especially in schools and with reference to post-modern tensions between secular and religious standpoints. The Sacred Texts: The Bhagavata Purana (TH5451) enables students to reflect on and analyse personal devotional understandings and practice in terms of the role models and religious teachings of the Bhagavata Purana.

Appreciation of both, the inter-connectedness of and internal tensions within a system of beliefs and practices, is particularly emphasized in Indian Sacred Biography: The case of the Chaitanya Charitamrita (TH6442) through which students develop knowledge of the historical, cultural and theological background to the Caitanya Caritamrta in the context of wider Hindu scripture, belief and practice.


III. Generic Skills


These are developed through the learning ethos of the department and specifically through formative learning
methods such as class discussion, group seminar presentations, assignment proposal development, dissertation
research and presentations. Self-discipline and self direction are particularly tested in modules with a fieldwork
component that is assessed or with the double module dissertation (TH6448), which equips students with a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of a specific aspect of the Chaitanya Vaishnava tradition and how it influences or shapes its application in the modern world. Furthermore, at level 4 students are empowered to identify key principles and values associated with learning and teaching with some reference to Hindu-Vaishnava teachings (TH4449), and in (TH5450) they learn counselling skills in ethical decision-making in relation to difficult issues. 


Students will be able to achieve the intended learning outcomes through the following teaching and learning

  • Lectures, supported with subject guides and hand-out materials; Group work (presentations, research projects, debates, etc.); Guided group discussions; Coursework assignments; Tutorials, seminars, and workshops. On-going on-line support from tutors; Study skills support for essay writing and dissertation composition

  • Appropriate forms of delivery will be offered to Distance Learning students to ensure comparability of learning opportunity. Online teaching will include real-time (synchronous) and anytime-anywhere (asynchronous) interactions. Lectures and seminars onsite will be video or audio recorded; within 24 hours the recordings will be available in the Moodle environment.

  • The following synchronous methods of teaching will be used: Webinar (audio and video conferencing), which includes data and application sharing, shared whiteboard, virtual "hand raising" with supported real time speaking; joint viewing of multimedia presentations and online slide shows; live chat. The following asynchronous methods will be used: recorded video and audio lectures; e-mail; forum; discussions; quizzes; file attachments.

  • At level 4, learning is predominantly tutor-designed and guided, and students are supported in developing individual initiative and collaborative enquiry within this framework, which provides groundwork in critical reflection, subject-specific methods, transferable study skills and skills of accurate communication.

  • At level 5, learning design remains largely tutor-guided with encouragement to work in collaboration with tutors and fellow-students, but with more opportunity for independent learning. There is opportunity for consolidation and development of appropriate study skills and for experiencing a wider range of appropriate methods of study, and opportunity to apply their learning and skills in fieldwork.

  • At level 6, students develop a greater responsibility for their own learning, both independent and collaborative. There is encouragement to articulate personal engagement and response in the context of respect for views of others; and with appreciation of complexity, ambiguity and uncertainty.

Students are inducted into different forms of assessment at level 4 in a range which responds to the different learning preferences of students, prepares them for the standard forms of graduate assessment, and offers some opportunities for creative and applied forms of assessment.

At level 4, students are given formative experiences within the module or programme for any type of summative assessment they will encounter at that level. Where new forms of assessment are introduced at levels 5 or 6, again formative exercises are used.

At every level assignment proposal forms are used for all essays and for some other forms of assessment (e.g. presentations). These are used in initial negotiation of topic and resources, for title agreement, and for supervising the development of the analysis and argument.

The assessment methods are chosen for fitness of purpose with the modular learning. Different forms of assessment are used on all levels (e.g. essays, exams, presentations, portfolios, group discussions, book reviews, etc.) The assessment load for every 10 credits is 2000 words or equivalent (+/- 10%).

Whenever possible, identical assessment methods will be used for onsite and online delivery. Alternative forms of assessment will be utilized for online students when required (e.g. an essay or a book review instead of an exam). A variety of assessment methods will be available according to each module’s aims and learning outcomes. Formal assessment for online students may include essays, book and article reviews, project reports, reflective writing, case studies, dissertations, and other suitable assignments. In addition, informal formative assessment may be employed by tutors in the Moodle learning environment. Examples of such tasks may include quizzes, checklists, group discussion, presentations, tests, and similar assignments, which will prepare students for the formal assessment.

University of Chester policies on assessment, marking, late work, and plagiarism will be followed.

Following the acquisition of this award, students will be equipped to follow a number of related career pathways, including, for example, work in the voluntary and public sectors, teaching, employment related to interfaith work and religious professions, social work, mediation, counseling, media and communications.

Students also engage with their own particular careers agenda through opportunities for work-based learning or skills for chaplaincy, congregational development, leadership and management, training and education.

The skills developed in TRS degrees valued by students on these programmes include:

  • Sensitivity to social, political and cultural etiquette
  • Appreciation of diversity
  • Awareness of individual and cultural differences
  • Open-mindedness - less likely to judge others and more likely to listen
  • Researching and interviewing skills through fieldwork
  • Academic, intellectual and social development
  • IT skills
  • Writing skills
  • Presentation and speaking in public
  • Organising own workload and meeting deadlines
  • Confidence in own abilities
  • Leadership and organisational skills

Successful students will be able to apply the methods and techniques that they have learned to review, consolidate, extend and apply their knowledge and understanding, and to initiate and carry out projects; critically evaluate arguments, assumptions, abstract concepts and data (that may be incomplete), to make judgements, and to frame appropriate questions to achieve a solution - or identify a range of solutions - to a problem; communicate information, ideas, problems, and solutions to both specialist and non-specialist audiences.

Students will also have qualities and transferable skills necessary for employment requiring:

  • the exercise of initiative and personal responsibility
  • decision-making in complex and unpredictable contexts
  • the learning ability needed to undertake appropriate further training of a professional or equivalent nature

Various modules in the programme offer opportunities for addressing questions of gender, sexuality, race and religious identity. Pastoral and ministerial modules and projects may additionally address issues relating to age and disability. Bhaktivedanta College will actively address University of Chester priorities regarding admissions, widening access and participation, equal opportunities and AP(E)L; and offer individual academic support to all its students.

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