MSt Study of Religions

Course overview

This 9-month full-time course offers an intensive training in research in the study of religions. It enables you to study two major religions, and to explore the nature of religion itself, at an advanced level. You can select your special subjects from the following five religious traditions currently covered by the faculty:

• Buddhism
• Christianity
• Hinduism
• Islam
• Judaism

In many cases, you will study the early doctrines and practices of religious traditions in their historical contexts, engaging with primary source texts in English translation but you may also opt to study the modern variations of a particular religion, or a set of religious practices or institutions in the contemporary world.   The Oxford tutorial system applies to post-graduate study in this course, so you are encouraged to develop your particular interests in conversation with your tutors.

Each of these traditions has an internationally-recognised research centre, institute, or outstanding cluster of scholars in Oxford. This typically means that you are not only taught by specialists in your chosen tradition, but also have access to a variety of specialist libraries and collections.

Syllabus

The course will comprise three component parts:

1.     A core course which comprises the following two elements: ‘Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion’ and ‘Themes in the Interaction between Religions’. The first part of this course, ‘Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion’ will provide an introduction to the core theoretical approaches in religious studies and will be delivered via 8 weekly 1.5-2 hour seminars throughout Michaelmas.  The second part of the course, ‘Themes in the interaction between Religions’ will explore various themes touching on interactions between religions including inter-religious disputations and will be delivered via 8 weekly 1.5-2 hour seminars throughout Hilary. All seminars will require student preparation and will be led by academic staff.

2. and 3.  Tuition in TWO world religious traditions, as selected by students. Tuition on the major texts and doctrines in the following religions is normally offered: (a) Buddhism, (b) Christianity, (c) Islam, (d) Judaism, or (e) Hinduism, or (f) any other paper that may from time to time be approved by the Board of the Faculty of Theology and Religion. Students will normally be assigned a tutor (or tutors) for each religion, who will guide them through study over one of each of the first two terms of the academic year (i.e. you can normally expect to study one religion in each term, though arrangements are subject to tutor availability).

In addition there is a fortnightly Inter-disciplinary Research Seminar on the Study of Religions on alternate Fridays in the Michaelmas and Hilary Terms, on topics directly relevant to the course, which all MSt students are expected to attend.  The Research Seminar also gives MSt students a wonderful opportunity to get to know the research community in the Study of Religions and to meet doctoral students working in areas of mutual interest.

Assessment

Assessment for this programme comprises three elements. These are:

  1. One three hour examination on the nature, definition and explanation of religious belief and practice and on themes in the interactions between religions. The core course of the MSt will be designed as preparation for this examination. You will be expected to answer three questions on a previously unseen exam paper. The exam will be held in Week 10 or 11 of Trinity Term.
  2. Two essays, relating to one or both of the two religious traditions that you will study, each of which will have an upper limit of 5,000 words. Essays on the interactions, relations or comparisons between two religions, or approaches taken from one view towards others, are encouraged with the proviso that there is no overlap between essays. Titles will need to be agreed in discussion with your supervisor, and are be submitted to the Faculty for advance approval in 5th Week of Hilary term (see above for details).
  3. A dissertation of up to 15,000 words, on a topic which relates to one or both of the two religious traditions that you will study.  Please note that between them essays and dissertation must cover the two religions you will study.  Dissertations on the interactions, relations or comparisons between two religions, or approaches taken from one view towards others, are encouraged with the proviso that there is no overlap between the dissertation and the essays. Titles will need to be agreed in discussion with your supervisor, and are be submitted to the Faculty for advance approval in 5th Week of Hilary term (see above for details). 

Faculty specialists

Information about the Faculty's specialists in the Study of Religions can be found here.

Research Centres in Oxford

Numerous specialists in the Study of Religions are based in those of Oxford's independent research centres that focus on particular religious traditions: the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies, the Oxford Centre for Christianity and Culture, the Oxford Centre for Hindu Studies, the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies, and the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies.

How to apply

For details of the entry requirements for the MSt Study of Religions, information on the application process and to apply, please click here.

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