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Practical Theology Doctorate (DPT)

Start date
5–6 years part-time
Course Type
Postgraduate, Combined research and taught, Continuing professional development, Doctoral research
Part-time annual tuition fee 2024:
UK: £2,389
More details.

Are you looking to use your professional, voluntary or ministerial practice as the foundation for your research? Our Practical Theology Doctorate (DPT) provides an ideal opportunity for practitioners in a wide variety of settings to work with peers from similar and different contexts to gain a practice-based and relevant research degree.

The DPT is suitable for anyone actively involved in professional or substantial voluntary work who wants to examine the implications of action guiding beliefs, values, and ideologies (‘theologies’) for their practices, and vice versa.  A variety of social science and other methodologies can be used to research practice and across a range of contexts and institutions.

At Birmingham, Postgraduate Taught and Postgraduate Research students also have the opportunity to learn graduate academic languages free of charge, to support your studies.

My favourite thing about being a postgraduate I think is being able to study something that I really enjoy. The support of the department is great and there’s a really good postgraduate community.


Why study this course?

  • Dynamic relationship: At the heart of professional doctorates like this programme is a dynamic relationship between theory and practice. All doctoral research represents a contribution to knowledge and understanding within a particular academic discipline. The professional doctorate also generates evidence- or practice-based research that informs and enhances understanding and options for action in a particular professional/institutional context.
  • Part-time study: The staged and part-time nature of this programme make it particularly suitable for people in mid-career who are looking to develop themselves professionally and academically in a sequential way supported by a cohort of fellow learners and day school events.
  • Networking opportunities: Students on the course have the benefit of meeting major national and international scholars at seminars, workshops and a summer school that includes candidates doing similar doctorates at other universities.
  • Long tradition: The modern study of Practical Theology in the UK started in Birmingham in the 1960s and it has spread out to many centres from here, as well as having a long tradition in this institution.
  • Partners and community: We have excellent 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.

The postgraduate experience

The College of Arts and Law offers excellent support to its postgraduates, from libraries and research spaces, to careers support and funding opportunities. Learn more about your postgraduate experience.


We charge an annual tuition fee. Fees for 2024 are as follows:

• UK: £2,389 part-time *

The above fees quoted are for one year only; tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

* For UK 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 2024.

Paying your fees

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

How To Apply

Please Note:  Postgraduate research on the DPT launches at the start of the academic year in September and not as stated in the first sentence under Application deadlines below.  The rest of the information does apply and it is still important to allow time for us to review your application and communicate a decision.

Although structured, the DPT is a research degree, so make sure to look at the resources for applying for research degrees, including drafting a proposal.

Application deadlines

Postgraduate research can start at any time during the year, but it is important to allow time for us to review your application and communicate a decision. If you wish to start in September 2024, we would recommend that you aim to submit your application and supporting documents by 1 June 2024.

If the programme has a Distance learning option then students will usually attend a residential visit in September or January, and those students wishing to attend the September residential are also encouraged to apply by 1 June 2024. The visit will take place at the end of September/beginning of October and you will receive further details once you have accepted your offer.

Six easy steps to apply for a postgraduate research course in the College of Arts and Law

Six steps to apply for our Postgraduate Research courses

Do you have an idea for an interesting research project? You can follow our six easy steps to apply to study for our postgraduate research courses. These include guidance on identifying funding opportunities and writing your research proposal.

Please also see our additional guidance for applicants to the PhD Distance Learning study mode.

Please note: While our PhD programmes are normally studied in three years full-time or six years part-time, and Masters-level research programmes one year full-time or two years part-time, many programmes have a longer length listed in course or funding applications. This is because the course length is defined as the maximum period of registration, which includes a period of supervised study plus a thesis awaited period. The maximum period of registration for a full-time PhD is four years (three years supervision plus one year thesis awaited). For a full-time Masters-level research programme, it is two years (one year supervision plus one year thesis awaited). For part-time programmes, the periods are double the full-time equivalent.

Making your application

How to apply

To apply for a postgraduate research programme, you will need to submit your application and supporting documents online. We have put together some helpful information on the research programme application process and supporting documents on our how to apply page. Please read this information carefully before completing your application.

Apply now

Our Standard Requirements

Normally a good 2:1 degree in a relevant discipline is required for entry. We are looking for candidates who show the potential for doctoral level study in their applications and can reflect on their own practice.

We welcome applications from:

  • Public sector professionals in health, education and social services
  • Active members of caring professions such as psychotherapy, counselling, nursing, social work, community development
  • Those involved in religious ministry in parish, congregational, or chaplaincy settings
  • People working in charities, non-governmental organisations, in the cultural industries, or in the arts
  • Those involved in industry or business wishing to deepen their understanding of the ethical and theological dimensions of their practice

International/EU students

Academic requirements: We accept a range of qualifications from different countries - use our handy guide below to see what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements: standard language requirements apply for this course - IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band. If you are made an offer of a place to study and you do not meet the language requirement, you have the option to enrol on our English for Academic Purposes Presessional Course - if you successfully complete the course, you will be able to fulfil the language requirement without retaking a language qualification.

IELTS 6.5 with no less than 6.0 in any band is equivalent to:

  • TOEFL: 88 overall with no less than 21 in Reading, 20 Listening, 22 Speaking and 21 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE): Academic 67 with no less than 64 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced - minimum overall score of 176, with no less than 169 in any component

Learn more about international entry requirements

International Requirements

The programme is designed particularly for part-time students.

It consists of structured research papers and a final thesis, permitting a staged approach to research. Assessment is by a portfolio of work including a literature review, a publishable article, a research proposal and a final 50,000-word thesis.

You will be supported throughout by regular supervision, seminars and workshops with peer and academic engagement. There will also be a summer school drawing together professional doctoral students in practical theology from other universities offering this programme.

Students will also attend compulsory day schools and a residential event to further support your studies. The day schools usually run for one day between 10am-5pm in October, December, February, April and June. The residential usually takes place in July for two days.

Throughout the programme you will be supported to:

  • Analyse case studies
  • Acquire relevant research methods
  • Identify appropriate research questions
  • Design research strategies
  • Develop communication and dissemination skills
  • Make use of peer/academic support and critique to improve your work

Stage 1: Structured Research Papers

Stage 1 supports you to produce structured research papers in preparation for the longer thesis-based research.

  • Practical theology: context, practice and performance

Your first year introduces you to the discipline of practical theology, and you will be asked to produce critical reviews of key thinkers and ideas, helping you to situate your particular area of enquiry in relation to themes, traditions and practices.

  • Presentation and publication of research

As you develop as an independent researcher you will be in a position to contribute a new voice to ongoing debates.  This module supports that development by asking you to produce a publishable article, responsive to current landscapes of thinking and practice.  The topic is driven by your research interests and professional context.

  • Establishing advanced research practice in practical theology

Approaching the longer-term thesis-based project, the final stage asks you to produce a detailed research proposal, and a more reflective piece, giving you the chance to continue to refine your perspective on practical theology in light of your thinking and experience throughout Stage 1.

All these modules are student-driven, but guided by regular one to one supervisions with your supervisor.  In addition attendance at the series of study days is expected.  Those seminars bring all Practical Theology Doctorate students together allowing new voices and veteran researchers to come together for peer-to-peer learning, as well as critical discussion of theology and seminars from external national and international speakers.

Stage 2: Independent Research

Students are fully launched into their independent doctoral research work, working regularly through supervision, and continuing to contribute to the Practical Theology Doctorate research community through the seminar series.


Students on the DPT are usually already in senior or mid-career positions, and the DPT supports a deepening and strengthening of their professional and leadership skills.

The University of Birmingham is the top choice for the UK's major employers searching for graduate recruits, according to The Graduate Market 2024 report.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for your future career, but this can also be enhanced by a range of employability support services offered by the University and the College of Arts and Law.

The University's Careers Network provides expert guidance and activities especially for postgraduates, which will help you achieve your career goals. The College of Arts and Law also has a dedicated  careers and employability team who offer tailored advice and a programme of College-specific careers events.

You will be encouraged to make the most of your postgraduate experience and will have the opportunity to:

  • Receive one-to-one careers advice, including guidance on your job applications, writing your CV and improving your interview technique, whether you are looking for a career inside or outside of academia
  • Meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs and employer presentations
  • Attend an annual programme of careers fairs, skills workshops and conferences, including bespoke events for postgraduates in the College of Arts and Law
  • Take part in a range of activities to demonstrate your knowledge and skills to potential employers and enhance your CV

What’s more, you will be able to access our full range of careers support for up to 2 years after graduation.

Postgraduate employability: Theology and Religion

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.

Postgraduates in theology and religion go on to a wide variety of industries, including public service, education, law, consulting, and other competitive graduate schemes. Others consider further study and go on to doctoral research, including the Midland4Cities funded scheme. Employers that our graduates have gone on to work for include Birmingham Council, Frontline, and the NHS.