Theology and Religion | University of Oxford
Theology and Religion
An image from the Kennicott Bible, f. 325b.
(copyright: Bodleian Libraries)

Theology and Religion

Theology is an ancient intellectual discipline with continuing and momentous social significance around the world today. Students gain an understanding of the intellectual underpinning of religious traditions, and of the social and cultural contexts for religious belief and practice. In order to engage fully with the questions raised by the critical study of Theology and Religion you will be required to become something of a historian and a philosopher, a textual and literary critic, and a linguist. The ability to employ these disciplines effectively will not only make you a scholar of religion but equip you to embark on a wide range of careers.

Oxford has been at the very heart of religious debate, reform and turmoil in the British Isles for eight centuries so that the faculty here wears a mantle of history not available in most other universities. At the same time Theology and Religion at Oxford is embracing wholeheartedly the challenges of the 21st century with the opportunity to study all the major world religions and their primary languages. Students can also explore the relationship between religion and science, and the place of religious ethics in public life.

The Faculty of Theology and Religion has more than 100 members ranging from experts in the ancient languages and literature of the world’s religions to church historians and systematic theologians. Its reputation and excellent library facilities attract scholars from all over the world as visiting lecturers.


While some Theology and Religion graduates go on to further academic study, other recent graduates have pursued careers in the law, the Civil Service, social work, education, the media, publishing, banking, management consultancy, accountancy, personnel management, teaching, the police force and the churches.

Rob says of his work as a manager in Accenture: ‘People are always surprised when I tell them what my degree was! However, it really helped shape my analytical skills through the tutorial system. The breadth of subject matter in Theology prepared me for the different subjects I encounter each day as a management consultant.’

Related courses

Students interested in this course might also like to consider Philosophy and Theology, or Religion and Oriental Studies.

A typical week

Work is divided between tutorials (usually one or two a week), lectures (up to six a week), and language classes (at least three a week in the first year). A large part of your week will be spent in private study to prepare for tutorials.

Tutorials are usually up to three students and a tutor. Class sizes may vary depending on the options you choose. There would usually be no more than around 10 students though classes for some of the more popular papers may be up to 20 students.

Most tutorials, classes, and lectures are delivered by staff who are tutors in their subject. Many are world-leading experts with years of experience in teaching and research. Some teaching may also be delivered by postgraduate students who are usually studying at doctorate level.

To find out more about how our teaching year is structured, visit our Academic Year page.

Terms 1–3


Four papers are taken:

  • Religion and religions
  • Introduction to the study of the Bible
  • The figure of Jesus through the centuries
  • One of the following languages:
    New Testament Greek
    Biblical Hebrew
    Qur'anic Arabic
    Church Latin


First University examinations:
Four papers each assessed by a written examination.

Terms 4–9


Choice of seven papers across four subject areas, from which students select freely

  • Biblical studies
  • Systematic theology and ethics
  • History of religions (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam and Judaism)
  • Religion and religions (Contemporary Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam and Hinduism)

All students must also prepare a 12,000-word thesis on a topic of their choice

The options listed above are illustrative and may change. More information about current options is available on the Theology and Religion website.


Final University examinations:
Seven papers (assessed either by written examination or by submitted coursework, depending upon
the option), plus a compulsory thesis

The content and format of this course may change in some circumstances. Read further information about potential course changes.

If English is not your first language you may also need to meet our English language requirements.

Wherever possible, your grades are considered in the context in which they have been achieved.  (See further information on how we use contextual data.)

A subject involving essay writing to A-level, Advanced Higher, Higher Level in the IB or another equivalent can be helpful to students in completing this course, although this is not required for admission.

If, and only if, you have chosen to take any science A-levels, we expect you to take and pass the practical component in addition to meeting any overall grade requirement.

Oxford University is committed to recruiting the best and brightest students from all backgrounds. We offer a generous package of financial support to Home/EU students from lower-income households. (UK nationals living in the UK are usually Home students.)


These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2019.

Fee status

Annual Course fees

(Channel Islands & Isle of Man)

For more information please refer to our course fees page. Fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Living costs

Living costs at Oxford might be less than you’d expect, as our world-class resources and college provision can help keep costs down.

Living costs for the academic year starting in 2019 are estimated to be between £1,058 and £1,643 for each month you are in Oxford. Our academic year is made up of three eight-week terms, so you would not usually need to be in Oxford for much more than six months of the year but may wish to budget over a nine-month period to ensure you also have sufficient funds during the holidays to meet essential costs. For further details please visit our living costs webpage.

Financial support


A tuition fee loan is available from the UK government to cover course fees in full for Home (UK)/EU students undertaking their first undergraduate degree*, so you don’t need to pay your course fees up front.

In 2019 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to those on a family income of around £42,875 or less, with additional opportunities available to those from households with incomes of £16,000 or less. This support is available in addition to the government living costs support.  See further details.

(Channel Islands and Isle of Man)

Islands students are entitled to different support to that of students from the rest of the UK.

Please refer the links below for information on the support to you available from your funding agency:

States of Jersey
States of Guernsey
Isle of Man


Please refer to the "Other Scholarships" section of our Oxford Bursaries and Scholarships page.

*If you have studied at undergraduate level before and completed your course, you will be classed as an Equivalent or Lower Qualification student (ELQ) and won’t be eligible to receive government or Oxford funding

Fees, Funding and Scholarship search

Additional Fees and Charges Information for Theology and Religion

There are no compulsory costs for this course beyond the fees shown above and your living costs.

All candidates must follow the application procedure as shown in applying to Oxford. The information below gives specific details for students applying for this course.

Written test

You do not need to take a written test as part of an application for this course.

Written work

Theology and Religion candidates are required to submit one piece of written work, by Saturday 10 November 2018, which has been marked in the normal process of school or college work. In place of this essay you may send an examination or test answer to an unseen question, which has been supervised and marked by your school or college. All written work must be in English.

Please send work in Religious Studies if you are studying this subject to A-level (or equivalent).  If you cannot submit a sample of work in Religious Studies, please submit work in a related area, for example work on any Humanities subject, such as History or English.  If you do not  have such written work available, please contact the Tutor for Admissions at your first choice or allocated college, and they will suggest essay topics or alternative work.

Please ensure that work is not overly long but conforms as far as possible to the published guidelines on the submission of written work, as tutors want to evaluate the succinctness and pertinence of your work. If you have any questions, please contact your first choice or allocated college, or email the Director of Undergraduate Studies and Outreach, Dr Mary Marshall, at

For more information, and to download a cover sheet, please see our further guidance on the submission of written work.

What are tutors looking for?

Tutors consider your whole application very carefully. They look for evidence of an excellent academic record, for example in GCSE or other examination results. Your submitted work should demonstrate your ability to construct an argument and to communicate your ideas in clear written English. Your personal statement should focus on your academic reasons for wishing to study Theology and Religion; references should comment primarily on academic performance.

In interviews, tutors will look for your ability to think clearly, form sound arguments and to listen and respond to counterarguments; your openness to learning; evidence of your enthusiasm and motivation for the course; and your oral communication skills.

For more detail on the selection criteria for this course, please see the Theology website.

Suggested reading

At present we do not produce a specific Theology reading list for people who are considering making an application, though we always advise prospective candidates to read beyond what they are reading in school and to explore areas that interest them.

You may also find it interesting to explore the BBC Radio 4 archives of the 'In Our Time' programme, especially the Religion and Philosophy archives.


Patrick Milner

Watch a series of short videos of students talking about some aspect of their time at Oxford.


'The Oxford tutorial system is thoroughly enjoyable and engaging because it challenges you to defend and develop your views on a whole range topics and authors. Being able to talk to some of the leading academics in the world really encourages you to reflect on your own thinking and writing. Theology incorporates such a broad range of skills that are transferable to many different situations, from literary-critical to historical-critical to evaluative skills.  The subject gives you great potential for academic and personal development.'


'The Theology course at Oxford is very diverse; it gives you an opportunity to explore interests from Pauline literature to modern Judaism in society. The Reformation papers that I opted to study allowed me to engage with the subject as if I was an historian or literature student, as well as tackling major theological issues.'

Theology students here are required to study a biblical language, classical Arabic, Pali or Sanskrit in their first year. Coming to university with little more than a GCSE in German, I was apprehensive about this at first! However, I was guided through the study of New Testament Greek with classes and one-to-one sessions, and although challenging, the benefits of studying texts in their original languages have proved invaluable. Much of what we study originates in the past, but is relevant to the contemporary world.

In tutorials, the prospect of speaking on a subject that you have only studied for a week or so with a tutor who has dedicated their career to it may seem intimidating. It is worth remembering that tutors don’t expect you to know everything! Some of the most valuable tutorials that I have had involved unresolved debates, more questions than answers and the realisation that maybe I got it all wrong at first!'


He now works as a Manager in Accenture within their Management Consulting division.  

‘People are always surprised when I tell them what my degree was! However, it really helped shape my analytical skills through the tutorial system. The breadth of subject matter in Theology prepared me for the different subjects I encounter each day as a management consultant.’


First job after graduating

I worked as an Access assistant coordinator at the University of Oxford for just shy of a year before training to be a humanities teacher, which I spent the next five years working as in a large South Wales comprehensive school.

Current job

Currently I work as a Leadership Development Officer at Teach First Cymru, support recent graduates and career changers entering the classroom striving to close the educational gap between pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and their more affluent peers.

How did Oxford prepare you for this type of work?

The ability to think critically and work to quick turnarounds, and often tight deadlines, that is essential to study at Oxford has been invaluable in all of my previous roles.

What was the most important thing your time at Oxford taught you?

It instilled me with confidence in my abilities and enabled me to develop the ability to prioritise and time manage effectively - no opportunity or challenge really fazes me as I know that I have the skills to meet it successfully after Oxford.

I remember having many concerns about applying to Oxford initially, being from a 'non-traditional' background but many of these turned out to be based upon misconceptions, and the experience that I had was tremendous!


First job after graduating

Receptionist/Paralegal at a Criminal Defence Solicitors firm

Current job

Trainee Solicitor at a firm specialising in crime and family work

How did Oxford prepare you for this type of work?

Tutorials got me used to having to confidence to think on my feet and assert my opinions, and defend them, against people with a lot more knowledge than me. The pace of work, and the sheer amount we needed to read, digest, and then construct an argument from was extremely useful for becoming a lawyer

What was the most important thing your time at Oxford taught you?

It gave me the ability to construct arguments, in writing and verbally, and challenged me to think about things in new ways.

Contextual information

The Key Information Sets provide a lot of numbers about the Oxford experience – but there is so much about what you get here that numbers can’t convey. It’s not just the quantity of the Oxford education that you need to consider, there is also the quality – let us tell you more.

Oxford’s tutorial system

Regular tutorials, which are the responsibility of the colleges, are the focal point of teaching and learning at Oxford. The tutorial system is one of the most distinctive features of an Oxford education: it ensures that students work closely with tutors throughout their undergraduate careers, and offers a learning experience which is second to none.

A typical tutorial is a one-hour meeting between a tutor and one, two, or three students to discuss reading and written work that the students have prepared in advance. It gives students the chance to interact directly with tutors, to engage with them in debate, to exchange ideas and argue, to ask questions, and of course to learn through the discussion of the prepared work. Many tutors are world-leaders in their fields of research, and Oxford undergraduates frequently learn of new discoveries before they are published.

Each student also receives teaching in a variety of other ways, depending on the course. This will include lectures and classes, and may include laboratory work and fieldwork. But the tutorial is the place where all the elements of the course come together and make sense. Meeting regularly with the same tutor – often weekly throughout the term – ensures a high level of individual attention and enables the process of learning and teaching to take place in the context of a student’s individual needs.

The tutorial system also offers the sustained commitment of one or more senior academics – as college tutors – to each student’s progress. It helps students to grow in confidence, to develop their skills in analysis and persuasive argument, and to flourish as independent learners and thinkers.

More information about tutorials

The benefits of the college system

  • Every Oxford student is a member of a college. The college system is at the heart of the Oxford experience, giving students the benefits of belonging to both a large and internationally renowned university and a much smaller, interdisciplinary, college community.
  • Each college brings together academics, undergraduate and postgraduate students, and college staff. The college gives its members the chance to be part of a close and friendly community made up of both leading academics and students from different subjects, year groups, cultures and countries. The relatively small size of each college means that it is easy to make friends and contribute to college life. There is a sense of belonging, which can be harder to achieve in a larger setting, and a supportive environment for study and all sorts of other activities.
  • Colleges organise tutorial teaching for their undergraduates, and one or more college tutors will oversee and guide each student’s progress throughout his or her career at Oxford. The college system fosters a sense of community between tutors and students, and among students themselves, allowing for close and supportive personal attention to each student’s academic development.

It is the norm that undergraduates live in college accommodation in their first year, and in many cases they will continue to be accommodated by their college for the majority or the entire duration of their course. Colleges invest heavily in providing an extensive range of services for their students, and as well as accommodation colleges provide food, library and IT resources, sports facilities and clubs, drama and music, social spaces and societies, access to travel or project grants, and extensive welfare support. For students the college often becomes the hub of their social, sporting and cultural life.

More about Oxford’s unique college system and how to choose a college

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