The research interests of academic staff and graduate students in Ethics and Practical Theology encompass a range of theoretical and practical approaches to ethics, religion and theology, including environmental ethics, peace-building and reconciliation, ethical theory, and pastoral and practical theology.
You can find out more and identify a potential supervisor by looking at the School of Divinity’s * Staff Profiles, which give details of research interests and publications, and email addresses.
You are encouraged to contact a potential supervisor to discuss your research project before making a formal application. In the Ethics and Practical Theology research area, projects are often interdisciplinary. If this is the case, you may be jointly supervised with a subject specialist from another School in the University.
At the School of Divinity you will join a community of around 150 research students, drawn from around the world, and from a variety of religious and non-religious backgrounds.
You will study in a stimulating environment. The Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014 ranked the School’s research environment at 100% world-leading / internationally excellent, second in the UK on this front in theology and religion. This outstanding result reflects the vibrancy of the School’s research culture.
The ethos of the Graduate School is to promote excellence in postgraduate study, within a stimulating and supportive environment. We value equality and diversity in the School community, and an academic culture that is both critical and constructive.
At the start of the academic year, you will be invited to Welcome Week, an intensive introduction to study and life in Edinburgh. Some events are especially for international students new to Scotland and the UK, but everything is open to all.
In the first weeks, the School provides a general orientation to research skills and to wider opportunities for training and support.
From your first days as a PhD or MPhil student, you will work 1:1 with your primary research supervisor.
Your progress will be tracked, through regular supervisions and milestone reviews, to ensure that you get the support you need to bring your project to fruition.
You will be part of the research seminar in Theology and Ethics, to which visiting speakers are invited and to which postgraduates present work-in-progress.
You can also engage with the work of the * Centre for Theology and Public Issues.
You will be able to follow taught courses that contribute to your interests and research needs, and can also take advantage of opportunities to learn ancient and modern languages.
If you are a PhD student, after successful completion of your first year, you will be eligible to apply for tutoring opportunities, to gain teaching experience.
A University review (2015) commended the Graduate School for providing excellent support: responsive to student feedback; proactive in helping new postgraduates to adjust to their studies and to life in Scotland; enthusiastic and practical in promoting career development. The postgraduate student committee works closely with the School to make the research student experience the best it can be.
The School of Divinity, one of the largest centres for the study of religion in the United Kingdom, is located in the historic setting of New College, close to Edinburgh Castle and overlooking Princes Street.
Resources for research are excellent. You can draw on the outstanding holdings of New College Library, the University of Edinburgh’s main library, and the nearby National Library of Scotland. New College Library has one of the largest theology collections in the UK, with more than a quarter of a million items and a large and rich manuscript collection. The University library exceeds 2.25 million volumes. The National Library of Scotland – a ‘legal deposit’ library like the British Library in London and the university libraries of Oxford and Cambridge – is just around the corner.
The School provides an extensive programme of weekly research seminars and special guest lectures. In addition, three research centres provide a special focus for activity: the Centre for the Study of Christian Origins; the Centre for Theology and Public Issues; the Centre for the Study ofWorld Christianity.
You will have access to excellent study facilities, dedicated to postgraduates. PhD and MPhil students have access 24/7, and can request an allocated desk. Masters by Research students have shared study space. All areas have printing/scanning and computer facilities. The main postgraduate study wing has a kitchen. New College has an on-site cafe that is open during term time.
You can choose from three research programmes: two Masters programmes and the PhD. Each takes a different amount of time: the Masters by Research, full-time, takes a year; the MPhil takes two years; a PhD takes at least three. More detail is given below.
Masters by Research If you have academic training in theology or religious studies (or another relevant subject), and would like to develop your interest with a focus on a particular area, the Masters by Research may interest you. This programme can be taken either as a ‘Master of Theology by Research’ or as a ‘Master of Science by Research’ – the difference is only in the name. You can study full-time (one year) or part-time (two years). Your pattern of study can either be three supervised research essays followed by a 15,000 word dissertation, or a 30,000 word dissertation. Most students take the ‘research essays + shorter dissertation’ path. All students receive research training.
Master of Philosophy (MPhil) Studying for an MPhil commits you to at least two years’ full-time study and to writing a thesis of up to 50,000 words. You will have regular 1:1 supervision and work with advice from two supervisors. During the first year you explore your chosen area of research and refine your research proposal. At around the nine-month mark, you will submit a draft chapter for discussion at a Review Board, together with a developed proposal for the whole thesis. On the basis of your progress-to date, and the prospects for your research, the Review Board will make recommendations on the continuation of your studies into the second year.
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) Research for a PhD will require you to undertake at least three years’ full-time study, and to write a thesis of up to 100,000 words. You will have regular 1:1 supervision and work with advice from two supervisors. For admission to the PhD programme, you will need to show a proven ability to sustain independent research under supervision, normally in the form of a masters programme that includes a dissertation. From the beginning, the British pattern of PhD studies focusses on working towards the thesis – there is little or no coursework. This means that from the start you need to be well-prepared in any special skills you need for your research project, including languages. You will also need to be competent in academic writing in English. During the first year you explore your chosen area of research and refine your research proposal. At around the nine-month mark, you will submit a draft chapter for discussion at a Review Board, together with a developed proposal for the whole thesis. On the basis of your progress-to date, and the prospects for your research, the Review Board will make recommendations on the continuation of your studies into the second year. After that, you will have an annual review to discuss your progress.