Theology and Religion - Contemporary Religion and Society specialism PhD/MA by Research (On-Campus or by Distance Learning)

At Birmingham we offer promising candidates the opportunity to carry out research in one of the UK’s largest and most diverse Departments of Theology and Religion.

 We have an outstanding international reputation in the study of all types of religion in the contemporary World including, inter-cultural theology; the exploration of values and cultural practices; practical theology; Islamic studies; contemporary and alternative spiritualities; cyber religion; Jewish Studies; and Sikh studies.

Major funding opportunity for Home/EU applicants to this PhD programme

We are part of the Midlands3Cities consortium, offering up to 89 Arts and Humanities Research Council funded studentships. This includes full research fees, a substantial maintenance grant and additional research training support. Applications are now open. Find out more detailed information on this scheme.

Nikolaj  Christensen

Nikolaj Christensen

“The best things about my PhD is the regular access to a world-leading expert in my field – my supervisor – and I can present my research results in a safe environment in our monthly research centre seminar, and get lots of constructive feedback. I also have access to libraries with a great and diverse collection, with long-term loan available, which is highly practical when I can’t be on campus every day.”
Ask Nikolaj a question

The MA by Research programme requires you to prepare a dissertation of up to 40,000 words on a topic of your choice, for which an academic staff member will provide expert supervision.

The PhD – the most advanced research degree – leads to a dissertation of up to 80,000 words on a subject of your choice and under the expert supervision of an academic member of staff.

You can study an MA by Research or PhD programme on campus or by distance learning. Please note that if you are studying with us by distance learning, there is a compulsory annual visit to campus (every two years for part-time PhD students) - please see our frequently asked questions about distance learning to find out more.

At Birmingham you also have the option of studying languages, free of charge. Almost no other UK University offers you the opportunity to learn the intense graduate academic language skills which you may need to pursue your research.

Why study this course

  • This programme sits within our Religious Studies research cluster which aims to provide a context in which postgraduate research can flourish. It draws upon the expertise of academic staff across a variety of disciplines and offers a vast array of research methods and approaches to a range of religions. It also has substantial links with other departmental research clusters, which means your postgraduate research will take place in a fully supported, fully integrated environment.
  • Theology and Religion celebrated excellent Research Assessment Exercise 2014 results  - 51% of research at the University of Birmingham for Theology and Religious Studies was top 4*  rated ‘world-leading’, a further 28% was rated 3* ‘internationally excellent’.
  • The University of Birmingham is an excellent centre for the study of religion and culture.  It has built up good relationships and partnerships with Birmingham's many different communities, and such a rich cultural mix means that it provides an ideal setting to study the relations between Religion and Culture. The city is recognised as one of the most multicultural cities in Europe, with representation from most religious traditions.

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.

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To be eligible for these awards, candidates must hold either an offer of a place to study or have submitted an application to study at the University. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

Entry requirements

Applicants for research degrees should normally have a first- or upper second-class Honours degree in Theology, Religious Studies or a related discipline.

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

The following summary indicates our principal areas of research expertise. Please view our staff profiles for further possible research topics.

  • Contemporary and alternative spiritualities, Islam in Britain, Contemporary Sufism, cyber religion
    Contact: Dr Mustafa Draper
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 3613
  • Modern and Contemporary Islamic thought
    Contact: Dr. Haifaa Jawad
    Tel. +44(0)121 41 58337
  • Sikh Studies, Ethnic Minorities, Religion and Law
    Contact: Dr. Jagbir Jhutti-Johal
    Telephone: +44 (0)121 41 58338
  • Religion and ethics, practical theology contemporary religion and spirituality
    Contact: Professor Stephen Pattison
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5777
  • Sociology/anthropology of religion; churches in modern Britain; Christian worship 
    Contact: Professor Martin Stringer
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 6867
  • Jewish and Holocaust studies
    Contact: Dr Isabel Wollaston
    Tel: +44 (0)121 414 5662

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.

University of the Year for employability

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.