MA/Diploma Philosophy of Religion and Ethics

Do you want to explore deeper 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 this programme by distance learning - for more information, see Philosophy of Religion and Ethics MA (Distance Learning).

 

You will study six taught 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, and can be chosen from across the School of Philosophy, Theology and Religion, including at least one from each Department. Modules available typically include:

  • Classic Problems in the Philosophy of Religion: Evil, Miracles and Immortality 
  • Islamic Philosophy 
  • Philosophy of Health and Happiness
  • Philosophy of Mind
  • Problems of Religious Diversity
  • Religion in Contemporary Global Politics I and II
  • Religious Nationalism

Assessment

Modules are assessed by written assignment. MA students will also complete a 15,000-word dissertation, or a placement-based dissertation, with support from a supervisor.

Why study this course

  • Taught by experts – you will study alongside some of the finest minds in Philosophy. We are ranked second among all Philosophy departments in the UK in the latest Research Excellence Framework exercise.
  • Friendly and relaxed atmosphere – staff within the Department of Philosophy are very approachable and happy to offer additional advice on academic performance.
  • Small classes – teaching on the masters-level modules involve mainly small-group seminars allowing you to really get to grips with the learning material. 
  • Be a part of an active postgraduate community – you will join a lively and stimulating Department where you can contribute to on-going research activities, including research seminars and events such as our weekly speaker series and various workshops, reading groups and conferences throughout the year. 
  • Access to a wide range of services – as a postgraduate student you will have access to services such as the Academic Writing Advisory Service and the Bank of Assessed Work which will aid your transition from undergraduate to postgraduate level, or back into academia after a time away. 

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: 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: One 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: 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: Two 2,000-word essays

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: 4,000-word essay

You will also choose three optional modules from within Philosophy, Theology and Religion, including at least one from the Department of Philosophy and one from the Department of Theology and Religion. Modules available typically include:

Classic Problems in the Philosophy of Religion: Evil, Miracles and Immortality

This module will consider classic topics in the philosophy of Religion which will: develop and hone your methodological skills; direct you to core features of the nature of religious life/belief and its relationship to other forms of life and belief; offer you the opportunity to engage with some key thinkers in the history of Western culture; and offer you the opportunity to think creatively about matters that may have existential import.
Assessment: Written assignment

Islamic Philosophy

The module traces the major developments in philosophical thinking through the classical period of Islamic thought. It includes such topics as the emergence of Islamic philosophy and its connection with Greek and Hellenistic learning, the flowering of a distinctive systematic discipline in the Islamic world, the relationship between philosophy and theology, the influence of Islamic philosophy on Jewish thought, and the transmission of philosophical method from the Arab to the European world. Emphasis will be placed upon the study of particular contributions to learning, and discussion will centre on the works of such masters as al-Kindi, al-Farabi, Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd, as well as al-Ghazali and his critique of falsafa.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Problems of Religious Diversity

This module aims to focus on a range of key texts on inter-religious topics taken from theologians/philosophers, thinkers from world religions and some non-religious perspectives. There will be an evaluative overview of the structure of the presuppositions and worldviews underlying the various religious outlooks (e.g. Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish etc.). Attention will be given to discussing the theology and philosophy of religions, problems of dialogue, and contemporary issues facing the future of religion and dialogue.
Assessment: One 4,000-word essay

Religion in Contemporary Global Politics I

This module focuses on 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 increasingly contested by the impact of globalisation and the rise of anti-secular movements. The module will critically examine 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. Following an introduction to the theoretical perspectives the course will focus on three particular themes: religious nationalism; religious identities and mobilisation; and religious transnationalism. The module concludes by reflecting on the wider implications for the study of politics and international relations of organised religious movements today.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Religion in Contemporary Global 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, in the last decade there has been an increasing recognition of the need to manage religious differences and 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 religions. Following an examination of these debates and the assumptions underpinning them, the module will evaluate policy response in three contexts: the United Nations system; transnational organisations; and national and local public policy agendas. The module concludes by reflecting critically on the achievements and the limitations of integrating organised religions into public policy implementation.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay

Religious Nationalism

This module examines how religious ideologies, practices and institutions have been politically mobilised in the public sphere of states. Divisive social conflict and communal violence have resulted from this mobilisation, challenging conventional secular notions of national identity and political community. This module asks a series of important questions: How have nationalist, developmental and democratic agendas in the post-colonial era contributed to the emergence of assertive, contentious religious identities? How have religious beliefs, communities, and historical memories been transformed by this mobilisation? In what ways have these visions of religious nationalism transformed political, economic and social dynamics? We will examine a variety of cases to give greater substantive understanding and analytical focus. An indicative but not exhaustive range of examples are the Hindutva and communal violence in India, Buddhist nationalism in Myanmar, and ethno- Islamic radicalism and pogroms in Indonesia, gender and sexual violence of Catholic nationalism in Poland, and the ethno-religious civil war in the Balkans.
Assessment: 3,000-word essay and 1,000-word critical evaluation

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


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:

MA

  • UK/EU: £9,000 full-time; £4,500 part-time
  • Overseas: £16,290 full-time

Diploma

  • UK/EU: £6,000 full-time; £3,000 part-time
  • Overseas: £16,290 full-time

The above fees quoted are for one year only; for those studying over two or more years, tuition fees will also be payable in subsequent years of your programme.

Fee status

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

We can also confirm that EU students who are already studying at the University of Birmingham or who have an offer to start their studies in the 2018-19 academic year will continue to be charged the UK fee rate applicable at the time, provided this continues to be permitted by UK law. The UK Government has also confirmed that students from the EU applying to courses starting in the 2018-19 academic year will not see any changes to their loan eligibility or fee status. This guarantee will apply for the full duration of the course, even if the course finishes after the UK has left the EU.

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.

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

Entry requirements

You will need an upper second-class Honours degree, or equivalent, in Philosophy, Theology or another relevant subject (e.g. Sociology, English).

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

International students requiring visas

Monday 2 July 2018 is the application deadline for international students who require a visa to study in the United Kingdom. We are not able to consider applications for 2018 made after this date - a new application should be made for September 2019. Applications will reopen for 2019 entry by 21 September 2018.

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

As well as the taught modules you take on this programme, you are encouraged to participate in our weekly Postgraduate Seminar and in the regular meetings of PhilSoc, so you'll be able to gain insight from a range of academics and peers from across the department.

Support with academic writing

As a postgraduate student in the College of Arts and Law, you have access to the Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) which aims to help your transition from undergraduate to taught Masters level, or back into academia after time away. The service offers guidance on writing assignments and dissertations for your MA/MSc programme with individual support from an academic writing advisor via tutorials, email and the provision of online materials.

International students can access support for English Language development and skills through the Birmingham International Academy (BIA).

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 tailored programmes of careers events and local support.

You will have opportunities to: meet employers face-to-face at on-campus recruitment fairs; attend employer presentations and skills workshops; receive 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.

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.

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

The Guild of Students hosts over 250 student groups and societies to suit a wide range of interests. These include the Postgraduate and Mature Students Association which runs a regular and varied programme of events specifically tailored to postgraduate students.

In addition, you will find that each Department runs its own social activities, research fora and student groups.

Accommodation

We offer accommodation for postgraduates on or near to campus, although many of our students also choose to live privately in student accommodation, shared houses or flats. If you do choose to live in private accommodation, the University has dedicated support services to help you to find properties from accredited landlords.

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.