About the course
The Master of Studies (MSt) in Theology is offered in many areas of theology, such as Biblical Interpretation, Christian Doctrine, Christian Ethics, Ecclesiastical History, New Testament studies and Old Testament studies. Students of Christian Doctrine specialise in one of two areas: Patristic Theology or Modern Theology. You will be part of an active and vibrant community of graduate students within the Faculty of Theology and Religion.
The degree offers an intensive period of advanced study in a chosen field, with rigorous training in relevant research methods. It offers the opportunity to gain specialist knowledge of distinct topics within the field of study and includes an element of scholarly research and writing which can constitute part of the training for a future research degree.
The course is taught through a combination of core lectures and/or seminars and regular meetings with your supervisor, either one-to-one or in a very small group. Attendance at other lectures and seminars may be recommended or required. The topics being studied will normally be covered during the first two terms.
You learn to analyse and evaluate both primary and secondary literature, how to select the most significant materials, and combine them to form a structured argument. You also develop the habits of critical questioning, clear exposition, and objective evaluation.
You work closely with your supervisor, who, in most cases, is the course coordinator for the specific subject stream of the MSt in Theology on which you are enrolled. They provide support, guidance, and overall direction for your studies. The number of students studying in each subject area varies between individual disciplines but is usually small, allowing teaching to be tailored to the needs and interests of each student.
Students are encouraged to attend and participate in research seminars in their subject area. There are regular research seminar series in the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible, New Testament, Patristics, Modern Theology, Church History and Christian Ethics. Other research seminars of interest are hosted by other faculties and regular seminars, colloquia, and conferences are organised by the interdisciplinary research centres affiliated to the Faculty.
The MSt degree is awarded on the basis of two short essays of up to 5,000 words each, a written exam of three hours in duration, and a dissertation of up to 15,000 words in Trinity term. These assessments may require a demonstration of linguistic competence according to your field of study. There may be an oral examination (viva voce) on your dissertation topic and wider knowledge of your field of study, unless individually dispensed by the examiners.
The choice of essays and dissertation topics is decided by the student, subject to advice from the supervisor, and final approval from the Graduate Studies Committee at the Faculty of Theology and Religion. For those who intend to proceed to the DPhil, the topic of the dissertation normally provides a foundation for doctoral research.
Students apply to work in one of the following areas:
- Old Testament
- New Testament
- Christian Doctrine, specialising in one of the following sections:
- History of Doctrine: Patristic Theology (c. AD 100-787)
- Modern Theology (post-1789)
- Ecclesiastical History (AD 200-600, AD 400-110, AD 1000-1500, AD 1400-1800, or AD 1800 to present)
- Christian Ethics
- Biblical Interpretation
The allocation of graduate supervision for this course 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. In such circumstances, a second internal supervisor may be appointed.
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, or parliamentary research assistants, or go on to work with non-governmental organisations or in the media and journalism.
Changes to this course and your supervision
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. In certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.
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, parental leave or change in employment.
For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.
Other courses you may wish to consider
If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.
All graduate courses offered by the Faculty of Theology and Religion
Entry requirements for entry in 2020-21
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:
- a first-class or strong upper second-class (67% or above) undergraduate degree with honours in theology, religious studies or another closely related field.
Applicants with a degree in another discipline, who can demonstrate significant competence in handling theological and religious ideas in their statement of purpose, will be considered.
Entrance is very competitive.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.8 out of 4.0.
If your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.
GRE General Test scores
Other examination results may be submitted alongside degree qualifications. If offered, the minimum Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores normally sought are 160 in verbal reasoning, 5.0 in analytical writing and 150 in quantitative reasoning.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
- You may require knowledge of a particular language and you are advised to research your subject area for more information on individual requirements. Knowledge of Hebrew and Greek is required for Old and New Testament respectively. You may require other languages. Most courses in the history of doctrine will require study of texts in languages other than English: Greek or Latin is required for patristic theology.
- 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.
- Publications are not required.
Progression to the DPhil in Theology relies on a strong performance in the taught course. The faculty would normally expect a final grade of 67% or above.
English language requirement
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement.
Detailed requirements - higher level
The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are:
|IELTS Academic||7.5||Minimum 7.0 per component|
Minimum component scores:
|Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced||191||Minimum 185 per component|
|Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency||191||Minimum 185 per component|
Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. For more information about the English language test requirement, visit the Application Guide.
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
Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process. However, all applicants who are offered a place will be given a short 20-minute interview via telephone or Skype to gain a better sense of their interests and to facilitate the appointment of an appropriate supervisor. Interviews will normally concern the scope of the applicant's proposal.
Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. 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. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
Admissions panels and assessors
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
After an offer is made
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will be required to meet the following requirements:
If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.
Disclosure of criminal convictions
In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.
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, 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.
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 library 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.
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.
There are over 1,100 full or partial graduate scholarships available across the University. You will be automatically considered for over two thirds of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline, with most scholarships awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. To help identify those scholarships where you will be required to submit an additional application, use the Fees, funding and scholarships search and visit individual college websites using the links provided on our college pages.
Annual fees for entry in 2020-21
Annual Course fees
|Home/EU (including Islands)||£11,605|
Course 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 course fees). 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.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.
For more information about course fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.
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.
In addition to your course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2020-21 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,135 and £1,650 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. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2020-21, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.
The following colleges accept students on the MSt in Theology:
- Balliol College
- Campion Hall
- Christ Church
- Harris Manchester College
- Keble College
- Lady Margaret Hall
- Linacre College
- Magdalen College
- Mansfield College
- Oriel College
- Pembroke College
- Regent's Park College
- Ripon College
- St Benet's Hall
- St Catherine's College
- St Cross College
- St John's College
- St Peter's College
- St Stephen's House
- Trinity College
- University College
- Wolfson College
- Worcester College
- Wycliffe Hall
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:
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.
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/personal statement:
You should provide a statement of purpose, written in English, explaining your motivation and suitability for graduate study at Oxford.
This will be assessed for your commitment to the study of your chosen area of theology and should indicate how you meet the required level of any necessary language ability. The 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.
Your statement should focus on academic endeavour rather than personal achievements, interests and aspirations.
Two essays of 2,000 words each or one essay of 4,000 words
Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Extracts of the requisite length from longer work are also permissible.
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.
To submit one longer piece of work in your application, upload your work as written work in your application and for the second piece of written work, upload the following text as a PDF or Word document:
"I have included one long essay in lieu of the two short essays as permitted by the department."
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.
Start or continue an application
Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.
Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.
Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and plan your time to submit your application well in advance.
Step 4: Our Application Guide will help you complete the form. It contains links to FAQs and further help.
Step 5: Submit your application as soon as possible (you can read more information about our deadlines).