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.


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 typically consists of:
• a single three-hour exam on the core course “Theories and Methods in the Study of religion" and "Themes in the Interaction between Religions”;
• two essays of up to 5,000 words, between them covering two religious traditions eiher on their own or in comparison/connection with another;
• a dissertation of 10,000 to 15,000-words on a topic relating to either one religious tradition on its own or two or more religious traditions in comparison/connection with each other -if you are intending to proceed to doctoral study this is normally used as a foundation for future research; and,
• an oral examination (viva voce) on your dissertation and essay research topics and wider knowledge of the study of religion unless individually dispensed by the examiners.

The choice of essay and dissertation topics is decided by the student, subject to advice from the supervisor and final approval. Students would be encouraged to use the work on their essays as building blocks towards their dissertation.

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.

Course handbook

To review the course handbook, please click here.

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