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Religious Studies (MScR/MTh)

Course Description

Research profile

The interests of staff in religious studies include Islam, contemporary Judaism, indigenous religions (Africa and the Arctic), south Asian and south-east Asian traditions, and new age religions. The methodologies supported include phenomenology, anthropology and cultural studies.

There is a regular religious studies research seminar, for both students and staff, to which postgraduates regularly contribute work-in-progress papers, and at which research students, staff, and visiting academics present special lectures.

The School of Divinity is home to a thriving research community. All of our academic staff are engaged in individual research and writing projects and many are also involved in collaborative projects with colleagues across the globe.

The School of Divinity has consistently scored exceptionally highly in the Research Assessment Exercise, the most recent assessment putting us among the best schools in theology, philosophical theology and religious studies in the UK.

Our researchers currently boast the highest percentage of 4* scores (world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour) of any Scottish university in theology and religious studies.

We have the largest number of divinity research-active staff in Scotland, and the third largest in the UK. Overall, the RAE ranked us third in the UK with 60 per cent of our research activity judged internationally excellent or world-leading.

Training and support

Our community comprises 450 students (undergraduate and postgraduate) and nearly 30 full-time academic staff, including internationally respected scholars in a wide range of specialisms.

We welcome students from around the world, from religious and non-religious backgrounds, taking pride in our status as a renowned research centre in a broad spectrum of subject areas.

We take a personal interest in our students and offer a welcoming and friendly setting in which to pursue the exciting and demanding study of theology and religious studies.

The large graduate school and the presence of visiting academics from around the world help ensure a diverse and stimulating research environment.

All research students are assigned a primary and secondary supervisor. You are offered a training course in research methods, and are given conscientious supervision from your first weeks through to submission of your thesis.

There are also special orientation events for international students.


As a postgraduate researcher you can draw on the outstanding library resources of New College, the University of Edinburgh 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, including the papers of Thomas Chalmers, John Baillie, JH Oldham and James S Stewart.

The strengths of the Library collections contribute greatly to the teaching and research of members of the School as well as students elsewhere in the University.

These collections are complemented by the many resources available in the University and beyond. The total holdings in all the University libraries exceed 2.25 million volumes. In addition, the National Library of Scotland holds more than five million volumes.

The New College Library boasts a magnificent reading hall, originally built as the sanctuary of the Free High Kirk.

The School provides extensive and well-equipped computing facilities for coursework and research at all levels, including dissertations. We provide all students with access to PCs, scanners and printers, across four labs.

Research opportunities

We offer two types of research-based masters degree, as well as PhD programmes.

Masters by Research (MSc by Research/MTh by Research)

These one-year masters degrees by research are designed for students with an academic training in divinity or religious studies (or other relevant subject) who wish to focus on a particular topic.

The programme may be taken as either a Master of Theology by Research or a Master of Science by Research. The difference is one of nomenclature only.

Both involve research training and orientation courses, after which you may either research and submit a dissertation of about 30,000 words, which comprises the remaining assessment for the degree, or write three supervised research essays to provide appropriate background and preparatory study for the topic of your research, and then submit a dissertation of about 15,000 words.

Visit the Religious Studies (MScR/MTh) page on the University of Edinburgh website for more details!

Entry Requirements

To study at postgraduate level you should have a first degree in an appropriate subject or relevant qualifications and experience. School of Divinity PhD applicants typically require a specialist postgraduate degree beyond their first degree. Confirm with the School to find out whether there are specific entry requirements for this programme.

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