Religion and Culture MRes

This MRes degree is a research programme with some provision for taught modules.

It offers a framework within which you can develop knowledge and skills in the social, cultural and theological study of religion and lived faith in contemporary society.

Depending on your individual interests, studies can include formal religions, alternative/’New Age’ spiritualities, or alternative sources of meaning that are not conventionally thought of as ‘religious’. You can also study religion in different regional contexts, looking at anthropological, sociological, historical and cultural issues.

The Religion and Culture MRes is a research degree that includes taught components from the corresponding MA programme where applicable.

It may be followed as an end in itself, but also provides an excellent foundation for subsequent doctoral research.

The programme comprises four components; a compulsory Research Methodology module, two optional modules, and a 20,000-word thesis on a topic of your choice.

  • Research Methods in the Study of Theology and Religion
  • Religion and Culture (from 2016/17)

Optional modules ‘Modules’ section for more information:

  • Bible and Sacred Space
  • Christian-Muslim Relations
  • Contemporary Issues in Sikhism
  • Contemporary Sufism
  • Goddess Spirituality and Thealogical Embodiment
  • Historical and Contemporary Debates on the Holocaust
  • Jewish Religious Responses to the Holocaust
  • Political Islam
  • Problems of Religious Diversity
  • Religion and Peacebuilding
  • Religion in Contemporary Politics 1
  • Religion in Contemporary Politics 2
  • Sikh Perspectives on Interreligious Relations

Why study this course

  • Birmingham’s Theology & Religion graduates develop a broad range of transferable skills including: familiarity with research methods; the ability to manage large quantities of information from diverse sources; the ability to organise information in a logical and coherent manner; the expertise to write clearly and concisely and to tight deadlines; critical and analytical ability; the capacity for argument, debate and speculation; and the ability to base conclusions on statistical research.
  • Theology and Religion at the University of Birmingham was ranked second among all Theology departments in the country in the 2014 Research Excellence Framework exercise, with over 50% of our research judged to be ‘world-leading’.
  • Birmingham is one of the most multicultural cities in Europe, and most religious traditions are represented in the city. Our Department has built up excellent relationships and partnerships with Birmingham’s many different faith communities; this offers an ideal context to study religion in its contemporary as well as its ancient cultural contexts


This programme includes two core modules (from 2016/17):

Research Methods in the Study of Theology and Religion

This module consists of a series of formal discipline-specific sessions taught by members of the School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion. The main purpose of this module is to train, equip, and inform students concerning the methodological diversity and variety of concerns within Theology and Religion. You will also have an opportunity to discuss and analyse the "craft" of Theology and the study of Religion in order to help you to conduct your own research in competent and imaginative ways.

Religion and Culture (from 2016/17)

This foundational module consists of a series of sessions that explores the methodological issues and approaches relating to the study of religion and culture.

You will also choose one optional module from the following:

Bible and Sacred Space

This module will examine spatial concepts within biblical texts and critique them using spatial-critical theory. There will be an emphasis on the original settings of the texts and related archaeological findings, and also on the history of their interpretation in different contexts, with a focus on contemporary interpretation (including virtual sacred space). Key spatial themes may include, but will not be limited to: land, temple, city, country/agricultural space, and empire. The module will also deal with the ethics of examine biblical space in light of contemporary political conflicts.

Christian-Muslim Relations

The module comprises weekly seminars divided between the development of mutual attitudes between Christians and Muslims in the early centuries of the Islamic era and the legacy of historical attitudes as reflected in present-day relations.

Contemporary Issues in Sikhism

This module explores the workings of the Sikh religion in the contemporary world with particular reference to Sikhs in the Diaspora and in the Punjab. Examples of issues to be discussed include: attitudes towards caste, dowry and arranged marriages; questions of adaptation and dialogue in a new environment with particular emphasis on second and third generation Sikhs; and changing traditions.

Contemporary Sufism; origins and issues

This module aims to examine the diverse beliefs and practices of contemporary forms of Sufism. It will examine the historical and cultural antecedents of Sufism, discussing various interpretations and understandings of Sufi origins and practice and will focus on how these are expressed in differing contexts in the contemporary world. The module will particularly focus on Sufi tariqas, examining the social and theological formulations of the different traditions, such as the Naqshabandiyya, Shadhiliyya, Qadiriyya and Mawlawiyya, as well as more heterodox orders such as the Bektashiyya. Consideration will be given to the different methodological approaches to the study of these tariqas, such as the ethnographic and sociological, in both Islamic and Western contexts, and how these approaches might be applied to other mystical and esoteric traditions.

Goddess Spirituality and Thealogical Embodiment

This module introduces the pioneering and subsequent thinkers for this relatively new field of study and explores critically its key themes and its theoretical concerns. The module maps thealogy’s critical engagement with history, philosophy and theology, assessing its alternative concepts. It explores the connections between thealogy and embodiment, particularly its engagement with contemporary issues such as environmental destruction, weight-reducing diets, menstrual taboos, women and labour, female sexuality. The module problematises the predominant association of this field of study with women, assessing the contribution of male scholars to date and discussing the value of thealogical thinking for all genders.

Historical and Contemporary Debates on the Holocaust

The module introduces you to a range of historical and contemporary debates on the Holocaust. The focus is methodological, focusing on how this historical period is conceptualised, interpreted and studied, both as events were unfolding and subsequently. The module begins by considering when these events began to be spoken of and conceptualized as ‘the Holocaust’; the range of possible definitions of ‘the Holocaust’ (e.g., in relation to the experience of non-Jewish victims of Nazi persecution), and issues relating to language, terminology and the naming of these events. Consideration will be given to evaluating the range of possible perspectives and sources (often conceptualised as those of ‘victims’, ‘survivors’, ‘perpetrators’, ‘bystanders’, etc.), and whether it is possible to construct an ‘integrated’ history of the Holocaust. We will explore some ongoing controversies relating to the history and memory of the Holocaust relating to the identity and motives of the perpetrators (both German and non-German), the nature and extent of resistance, the role of survivors and their testimony in Holocaust-related trials.

Jewish Religious Responses to the Holocaust

The module analyses a range of Jewish responses to the Holocaust, both as events were happening and subsequently. These responses fall into three broad chronological and/or thematic groupings: a) Orthodox responses emphasise continuity with what has gone before; b) Holocaust theology emerged in the mid 1960s and emphasises discontinuity, interpreting the Holocaust as a radical challenge in the face of which traditional categories of meaning are deemed inadequate and/or in need of radical reinterpretation; c) post-Holocaust responses are characterised by chronological and geographical distance from events and explore the impact of the Holocaust, and the ways in which it has been interpreted, on Jewish identity and Jewish/non-Jewish relations, particularly attitudes towards the Palestinians. In the module we focus on the contribution of key thinkers and the evolution of their thought, as well as on recurrent themes or controversies.

Political Islam

The course is a detailed study and critique of the rise and development of political Islam or Islamism in the Muslim world and beyond. As such, it critically examines and evaluates the origins, roots, theory and history of Islamism. The course assesses the impact and effects of this trend on contemporary Muslim thought. Also, it investigates the causes that have led to the emergence of political Islam, its nature, agendas and role in domestic, regional and international politics. Special emphasis will be placed on the distinction between the worldviews of political Islam and moderate Islam. The course will be approached from three angles: governments and their Islamic oppositions, Islamism in power, and the global aspect of political Islam.

Problems of Religious Diversity

This module aims to focus on a range of key perspectives and models on inter-religious engagement taken from selected theologians/philosophers, thinkers from different world religions and some non-religious perspectives. There will be an evaluative overview of the structure of the presuppositions and worldviews underlying the various responses to religious diversity. Attention will be given to discussing the theology and philosophy of religions, models of dialogue, and contemporary issues facing the future of religion and dialogue.

Religion and Peacebuilding

This module provides you with an understanding of contemporary theories and practices in the area of religion and peacebuilding. A wide range of education programmes, non-governmental organisations, new forms of diplomacy, conflict resolution efforts and post-conflict reconstruction engage with religious actors, responding to the increased relevance of religious factors in national and international conflicts. Examples of leading scholars (e.g. John Paul Lederach, R. Scott Appleby, Volker Rittberger) will be analysed and case studies of diverse localities as well as of institutional settings (e.g. political institutions) will provide the contemporary background.

Religion in Contemporary Politics I

This module provides you with an advanced level understanding of the theoretical and conceptual debates about the role of religion in contemporary global politics. Traditionally the study of political science and international relations has framed the understanding of religion within the context of secularisation and the nation-state. This interpretation is being contested by the impact of globalisation and the rise of anti-secular movements. The module critically examines the secularisation thesis as applied to the ‘West’ (developed countries) and the ‘East’ (underdeveloped countries) and evaluate the impact of globalisation on collective religious identities.

Religion in Contemporary Politics II

This module examines the public policy responses to the global religious revival since 1989. Although traditionally organised religions have been viewed as the source of intractable political conflicts, of introducing a ‘cosmic dimension’ into normal political life, in the last decade there has been an increasing recognition of the need to manage religious differences, to utilise religious resources for conflict resolution. Theoretically and conceptually this departure is anchored in the inter-related debates on multiculturalism, pluralism and the need for religious dialogue among the world’s great religion.

Sikh Perspectives on Interreligious Relations

This module will begin by looking at key concepts within Sikhism: God, Guru, Gender Equality, Salvation and Liberation. These concepts will be considered in relation to attitudes to other religions and, what might be called ‘alien contexts’. There will be a special concentration on Sikhism in diasporic contexts, particularly in the British context.

Related staff

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2016/17:

  • Home / EU £4,110 full-time; £2,055 part-time*
  • Overseas: £13,680 full-time

For part-time students, the above fee quoted is for year one only and tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

* For UK/EU postgraduate research students the University fee level is set at Research Council rates and as such is subject to change. The final fee will be announced by Research Councils UK in spring 2016.

Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students.

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments. Learn more about postgraduate tuituion fees and funding.

Entry requirements

Normally a 2:1 degree in a relevant discipline is required for entry

Learn more about entry requirements

International students

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications; our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

How to apply

Before you make your application

Please refer to our six step process on applying for PhD, MA by Research and MRes opportunities for Arts subject areas.

You may wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

Additional Guidance for applicants to the PhD Distance Learning study mode.

Making your application


When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

As well as the taught modules you take on this programme, the department has a busy programme of research seminars, conferences and workshops which you can attend, so you’ll be able to gain insight from a range of academics and peers from across the department.

You will also become part of, and contribute to, the vibrant international community of the College of Arts and Law Graduate School, which offers dedicated research resources and a supportive working environment. Our team of academic and operational staff are on hand to offer support and advice to all postgraduate students within the College.

The University has been recognised for its impressive graduate employment, being named ‘University of the Year for Graduate Employment’ in The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2016.

In addition, the global edition of The New York Times has ranked the University 60th in the world and 9th in UK for post-qualification employability. The rankings illustrate the top 150 universities most frequently selected by global employers and are the result of a survey by French consulting firm Emerging and German consulting firm Trendence.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by the employability skills training offered through the College of Arts and Law Graduate School. The University also offers a wide range of activities and services to give our students the edge in the job market, including: career planning designed to meet the needs of postgraduates; opportunities to meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs, employer presentations and skills workshops; individual guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique; and access to comprehensive listings of hundreds of graduate jobs and work experience opportunities.

Birmingham’s Theology graduates develop a broad range of transferable skills including: familiarity with research methods; the ability to manage large quantities of information from diverse sources; the ability to organise information in a logical and coherent manner; the expertise to write clearly and concisely and to tight deadlines; critical and analytical ability; the capacity for argument, debate and speculation; and the ability to base conclusions on statistical research.

Over the past five years, over 92% of our postgraduates were in work and/or further study six months after graduation. Many of our graduates go into careers in churches of various denominations. For those in further study, teacher training courses remain a popular choice. Other students use their transferable skills in a range of employment sectors, including local government, education and charities. Employers that our graduates have gone on to work for include: British Council; Church of England; Institute of Education; International Greek New Testament Project; Quaker Homeless Action; Queens Ecumenical Theological College; and University of Birmingham.

Birmingham has been transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Get involved

In addition to the student groups hosted by the Guild of Students, each school runs its own social activities, research fora, seminars and groups for postgraduates.


Coming to Birmingham to study might be your first time living away from home. Our student accommodation will allow you to enjoy your new-found independence in safe, welcoming and sociable surroundings.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and cultures, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work. Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.