MA Philosophy of Religion and Ethics (Distance Learning)

Do you want to explore the key issues in the field of philosophy of religion and ethics? Are you looking to develop your professional or academic career path? 

On the MA Philosophy of Religion and Ethics programme you will explore a variety of questions – for example: Are there shared human values? How do we negotiate different belief systems in pluralistic societies? Is there a conflict between science and religion? Do people with different religious views have the same morals? Is life without God meaningless? 

You will be taught by a vibrant community of philosophers, pursuing original research on a wide range of topics on which expert supervision is available.

We also offer an on-campus programme over one or two years – for more information, see Philosophy of Religion and Ethics MA.

 

You will study six modules in total, two of which are core Philosophy modules:

  • God, Freedom and the Meaning of Life
  • Bioethics or Ethics and Global Ethics

You will also study a core module in theory and methods: Research Skills and Methods (for Philosophy) if you are writing a dissertation in Philosophy, or Research Methods in Theology and the Study of Religion if you are writing a dissertation in Theology and Religion.

Your remaining three modules are optional. Distance learning modules available in Philosophy and Theology and Religion typically include:

  • Philosophy of Health and Happiness
  • Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science
  • Contemporary Theology of the Holy Spirit
  • World Christianity in the Twentieth Century

You can also take Bioethics or Ethics and Global Ethics, if not taken as core.

You are permitted to choose one optional module outside your main discipline. 

Assessment

Modules are assessed by written assignment; students are also expected to participate in online discussion. You will also complete a 15,000-word dissertation, with support from a supervisor.

Why study this course

  • Taught by experts – you will be taught by some of the finest minds in Philosophy. We are ranked second among all Philosophy departments in the UK in the latest Research Excellence Framework. 
  • Flexibility – you can study at home, in your own time and at your own pace, so you can combine achieving a qualification with work or family commitments. You also have the benefit of developing your career without having to leave employment.
  • Join an active online community – studying by distance learning is not a lonely experience within the Department of Philosophy. You will get to meet interact with students – virtually – which will impact on your learning experience.
  • Career changing – a qualification from the University of Birmingham can be the springboard to promotion with your current employer, the platform from which to launch a new career or simply a way to become more effective in your current role. Studying at Birmingham is a rewarding and enriching experience that brings about significant personal development.
  • Support – there is always support available from tutors at the University. The programme is designed to keep you in touch with fellow students and tutors. Our ‘virtual learning environment’ provides a focal point and help provide a structure for your learning. You will be assigned a personal tutor. Personal tutors are available to answer questions regarding the content of your programme, and also to give advice and provide clarification if you don't understand something, for example what an assignment question demands.

Modules

You will study three core modules as follows.

God, Freedom and the Meaning of Life

This module is an introduction to a number of philosophical issues that have a relevance to the philosophy of religion, such as: freedom and determinism, the existence of god and the meaning of life. The treatment of the areas covered will often involve discussion of the writings of central figures in the history of philosophy.
Assessment: Participation in online discussion, and one or two written assignments totalling 4,000 words

Plus, one of:

Bioethics

Bioethics is the study of ethical issues surrounding life and death, especially those involved in biology, health care, research, and the beginning and end of life. This course introduces students to the key debates surrounding a number of theoretical and practical issues in bioethics, including but not limited to those that are transnational in nature. Possible topics covered include: abortion, euthanasia, intellectual property, enhancement, commodification, resource allocation and rationing, and infectious disease control.
Assessment: Participation in online discussion, and or two written assignments totalling 4,000 words

Or

Ethics and Global Ethics

This module aims to introduce you to key concepts and debates in ethics, with some focus on the global dimension of current ethical problems. First, we will explore several prominent traditions in ethical theory; next we will apply these normative ethical theories to concrete ethical questions. In investigating these theories and applications, you will be encouraged to question your presumptions about the nature of ethics and moral values. The module also develops critical reasoning and argumentative skills through philosophical discussion and writing. The theoretical tools of analysis and argument can be applied in all aspects of ethics and global ethics.
Assessment: Participation in online discussion, and one or two written assignments totalling 4,000 words

And one of:

Research Skills and Methods

This module provides an introduction to the methods of contemporary philosophy. Topics addressed typically include: critical thinking in philosophy, reading in philosophy, research skills, dissertation planning, and presenting philosophical arguments in written work. You will also participate in online sessions focused on generic research skills.
Assessment: Participation in online discussion, and one or two written assignments totalling 4,000 words

Or

Research Methods in the Study of Religion

This module unpacks the core issues of researching in theology and religious studies.It addresses debates surrounding the design, conduct, ethics and evaluation of research in a multidisciplinary subject area. It prepares you to carry out independent research and to critically assess others’ research across a wide spectrum of approaches.
Assessment: Participation in online discussion, and one or two written assignments totalling 4,000 words

Your remaining three modules are optional. Options available within Philosophy and Theology and Religion typically include:

Philosophy of Health and Happiness

This module is an introduction to the philosophical and interdisciplinary study of philosophical issues concerning health and happiness. It introduces you to controversies over the correct account of human happiness and related concepts such as well-being and welfare, covering desire/preference-satisfaction accounts, ‘objective list’ accounts, hedonism and ‘whole-life satisfaction accounts’. The module then moves on to consider the concepts of health and disease, where many similar arguments appear. It examines the debate between normativists and non-normativists about health before concluding with an examination of controversies concerning mental health, its existence and nature.
Assessment: Participation in online discussion, and one or two written assignments totalling 4,000 words

Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science

This module covers a range of advanced topics in the philosophy of mind and empirically-informed philosophy of psychology. In any given year, some of the following topics will be addressed in detail: the mind-body problem; perception; theories of intentionality; differences between human and animal cognition; theories of emotion; accounts of cognitive rationality; the relationship between ownership and authorship of thoughts; introspection, neuroscience and free will; and the narrative view of the self.  
Assessment: Participation in online discussion, and one or two written assignments totalling 4,000 words

Contemporary Theology of the Holy Spirit

This module considers the theological distinctives of contemporary Evangelicalism, tracing their historic roots and practical outworking today. You will engage with the most recent scholarship in the area of pneumatology by reading primary texts, discussing selected passages, and by reading secondary scholarly literature located in journals. 
Assessment: Participation in online discussion, and a 4,000-word essay

World Christianity in the Twentieth Century

This module studies the enormous changes in the nature and demography of world Christianity from the time of the missionary movement and the Second Evangelical Awakening in the 19th Century to the end of the 20th Century, with particular focus on schisms and denominational histories, including Roman Catholicism, the Protestant churches, non-conformist and evangelical churches, African and Asian independent churches, and Pentecostalism. Attention will also be given to globalisation and the relationship between Christianity and society.
Assessment: Participation in online discussion, and a 4,000-word essay

You can also choose Bioethics or Ethics and Global Ethics, if not taken as core.

You may choose to study one module outside your main discipline as one of your optional modules. This would be chosen from other Arts and Humanities distance learning programmes such as those offered by the Ironbridge Institute for Cultural Heritage or the Shakespeare Institute.


Please note that the optional module information listed on the website for this programme is intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2018/19 are as follows:

  • Full-time: £9,000
  • Part-time: £4,500

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

Paying your fees

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

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. 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.

Entry requirements

The normal entrance requirement is an upper second-class Honours degree in a relevant discipline (to be determined by the Admissions Tutor – usually Philosophy, Theology or Religious Studies).

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

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.

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

Although much of the course is delivered through our ‘virtual learning environment,’ support is always available.

You will have a personal tutor and dissertation supervisor to guide you and answer any questions, and you have access to a wide range of online resources too.

You also have the opportunity to meet other students and academic staff through online chats and discussion forums.

For more information on distance learning including answers to frequently asked questions, student experiences and funding opportunities, please see our distance learning website

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University.

The University's Careers Network provides advice and information specifically for postgraduates that will help you to develop an effective career and skills development strategy, and to make the most of your time with us at the University. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated careers and employability team to deliver local support.

In addition to a range of campus-based events and workshops, Careers Network provides extensive online resources, and comprehensive listings of hundreds of graduate jobs and work experience opportunities.

You will also be able to access our full range of careers support for up to two years after graduation.

Postgraduate employability: Philosophy

Birmingham's Philosophy postgraduates develop a range of skills that are highly desirable in the job market, including: articulacy; precise analytical thought; clarity; rigour in formulating complex problems; and the ability to analyse and construct sound arguments.

Due to the transferable nature of their skills, Philosophy postgraduates traditionally enter a wide range of employment areas, from teaching and lecturing to publishing. Employers that graduates have gone on to work for include: BBC; Friends of the Earth; Birmingham Children?s Hospital; Highways England; and University of Birmingham.