MSt in Study of Religion | University of Oxford
OCIS
The dome of the Oxford Center for Islamic Studies
(Image Credit: Fr Lawrence Lew OP)

MSt in Study of Religion

About the course

This course offers an intensive training in research in the study of religions. It enables you to study two major religions, and to explore the nature of religion itself, at an advanced level. You can select your special subjects from the following five religious traditions currently covered by the faculty: Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism.

In many cases, you will study the early doctrines and practices of religious traditions in their historical contexts, engaging with primary source texts in English translation, but you may also opt to study the modern variations of a particular religion, or a set of religious practices or institutions in the contemporary world. The Oxford tutorial system applies to post-graduate study in this course, so you are encouraged to develop your particular interests in conversation with your tutors.

Each of these traditions has an internationally-recognised research centre, institute, or outstanding cluster of scholars in Oxford. This typically means that you are not only taught by specialists in your chosen tradition, but also have access to a variety of specialist libraries and collections.

Assessment typically consists of:

  • a single three-hour exam on the core course Methods and Study of Religion/Themes in the Interaction Between Religions;
  • two essays of up to 5,000 words, between them covering two religious traditions either on their own or in comparison/connection with another;
  • a dissertation of 10,000 to 15,000 words on a topic relating to either one religious tradition on its own or two or more religious traditions in comparison/connection with each other - if you are intending to proceed to doctoral study this is normally used as a foundation for future research); and
  • an oral examination (viva voce) on your dissertation and essay research topics and wider knowledge of the study of religion unless individually dispensed by the examiners.

The choice of essay and dissertation topics is decided by the student, subject to advice from the supervisor and final approval. Students would be encouraged to use the work on their essays as building blocks towards their dissertation.  

Graduate destinations

Students who leave the University of Oxford with graduate degrees in theology enter a variety of careers all around the world. Over half of those who gain an MSt or MPhil proceed to further, usually doctoral, study. Most of the others secure employment as, for example, school teachers, civil servants, parliamentary research assistants or staff members of (or researchers at) non-governmental organizations that work on issues pertaining to religion in public life.

Related courses

Changes to the course

The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.

Entry requirements for entry in 2017-18

Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:

1. Academic ability

Proven and potential academic excellence

Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in theology, religious studies or a related field. Entrance is very competitive.

For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.7 out of 4.0.

If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).

Other examination results may be submitted alongside degree qualifications. If offered, the minimum Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score sought is 160 and the minimum GMAT score sought is 600.

Other appropriate indicators will include:

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview(s)

Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process. 

Publications

Publications are not required.  

Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience

Research or work experience in areas of theology may be an advantage, if it demonstrates that you have transferable skills which may be of use during your studies.  

2. English language requirement

Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.

3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places

The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • The ability of the Faculty of Theology and Religion to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work
  • Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.

The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:

  • The allocation of graduate supervision is the responsibility of the Faculty of Theology and Religion and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff
  • Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Faculty of Theology and Religion.

Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.

4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties

Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.

Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.

Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.

5. Assessors

All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).

Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.

6. Other information

Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.

Progression to the DPhil in Theology relies on a strong performance in the taught course. The faculty would normally expect a final grade of 66% or above.  

Resources

The Faculty of Theology and Religion is based in the Gibson Building, which is situated in the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter on the Woodstock Road. Facilities there include teaching, seminar and lecture rooms, a graduate common room and graduate workspace and faculty administration. The Philosophy and Theology Faculties Library (PTFL) is located near by on the ground floor of the Radcliffe Humanities building.

Libraries

Oxford has a wide and rich range of library resources for theology and religion graduates. You will not only have access to the resources of your college and faculty, but also the Bodleian Libraries. This has been a legal deposit for 400 years, which means it can claim a copy of any book or journal published in the UK or Ireland.

The Philosophy and Theology Faculties Library (PTFL) is located in the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter on the same site as the Gibson Building. The PTFL is a lending library primarily for staff and students of the two faculties, in support of research, teaching and learning. It has a collection of c. 30,000 books for loan on open access, with a further 20,000 available by request from remote store. It is also a delivery location for books from the Bodleian stacks for reference use in the library. Many books are now also available in electronic format; some are downloadable for 24-hour loan.

Languages

The Oxford University Language Centre (OULC) at 12 Woodstock Road offers excellent facilities and free courses to members of the University who wish to learn or improve a foreign language relevant to their academic work – or indeed for their general interest and education. Courses are offered in Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), French, Georgian, German, Modern Greek, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Welsh, and English as a Foreign Language (EFL). Most courses consist of two single fifty-minute classes each week or one double class. 

Courses begin in October and continue throughout the academic year. If a course is required for study or research, there is a priority enrolment scheme.

Funding

There are over 1,000 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.

A number of awards are available from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) each year, to support graduate students in a range of disciplines. To be considered for any of these studentships you must apply before the January admissions deadline.

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2017-18

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU
(including Islands)
£7,400£3,021£10,421
Overseas£19,335£3,021£22,356

The fees shown above are the annual tuition and college fees for this course for entry in the stated academic year; for courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

Tuition and college fees are payable each year for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay tuition and college fees).

For more information about tuition fees, college fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details on the impact of the result of the UK referendum on its membership of the European Union.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of this course that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs.  However, as part of your course requirements, you may need to choose a dissertation, a project or a thesis topic. Please note that, depending on your choice of topic and the research required to complete it, you may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips. You will need to meet these additional costs, although you may be able to apply for small grants from your department and/or college to help you cover some of these expenses.

Living costs

In addition to your tuition and college fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.

For the 2017-18 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between £1,002 and £1,471 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our Living costs page.

How to apply

You are not expected to make contact with an academic member of staff before you apply.

The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:

Official transcript(s)

Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.

More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.

CV/résumé

A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.

Statement of purpose:
One page

A  statement of purpose, written in English and explaining your motivation and suitability for graduate study at Oxford and your reasons for wishing to pursue this course of study in particular, is required.

This will be assessed for your clarity about the goals of the course, and your compatibility with and commitment to the programme as it is designed. This statement is of primary importance in your application, and you should be as focused as you can in your articulation of why you wish to pursue this particular course of study.  Your statement may also include details of your possible future research plans, career aspirations, and what you hope to do with this Oxford qualification.

It will be normal for your ideas subsequently to change in some ways as you investigate the evidence and develop your project. You should nevertheless make the best effort you can to demonstrate the extent of your research question, sources and method at this moment.

Written work:
Two essays of 2,000 words each

Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Extracts of the requisite length from longer pieces  are  accepted if prefaced by a note which puts them into context. 

Written work submissions should relate closely to the proposed area of study. The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

This will be assessed for an appropriate intellectual standard, including good theological understanding, conceptual sophistication, analytical and critical skill, and the ability to sustain a cogent argument.

References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally academic

Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.

References should generally be academic. Professional references are acceptable but limited in what they can demonstrate about academic ability; you should submit no more than one such reference.

Your references will support your academic ability, your relevant background knowledge and language skills, and overall suitability for your chosen course.