MA by Research Theology and Religion

Duration Full time 2 years
Part time 3 years
  • Theology and Religion
LocationExeter (Streatham)
Start date September, January or April


The Master by Research in Theology like other research degrees contains no taught element and offers you the opportunity to pursue a research project, without entering into the commitment of a PhD. As such, it’s ideal for those in employment who are interested in pursuing a specific shorter-term research project. The degree programme is intended both as an award in its own right or as a progression route to a PhD.

The Department adopts a ‘hands on’ approach to supervision which has proven effective with respect to successful completion. The research culture at Exeter is characterised by conversation that crosses sub-disciplinary boundaries (biblical studies, patristics, historical theology, systematics, ethics and philosophical theology), and is sustained by a variety of formal and informal means. 

To support your research, the College offers an established series of courses in generic research skills and the Department offers various fora to enable research students, staff and distinguished visiting theologians to exchange ideas, encourage each others’ research and present papers. Staff are actively involved in societies such as the Society for the Study of Theology and the Society for New Testament Study and postgraduates are encouraged to attend and present papers. You will also be able to take advantage of the University's Effective Researcher Development Programme.

A Masters by Research degree is assessed by a written dissertation of up to 40,000 words. The dissertation will not need to constitute an original contribution to knowledge but will need to provide evidence that you have worked at the current limits of understanding of the subject. Unlike a taught Masters degree, there is no taught element, so dedication and enthusiasm for your subject are essential. As with other research students, you may be required to ‘audit’ all or part of certain modules, following a training needs analysis.

The MbyRes programmes are two years full time or three years part time. There is no minimum registration period and students may complete their studies within a shorter time scale. However, students who are accessing financial support through the Student Loan Company Postgraduate Research Loan should be aware that funding payments are scheduled across two years of the defined full time programme duration, or three years for part-time equivalents.

Distance-based MA by Research

It may be possible to study with only occasional visits to the University. Distance-based students undertake the majority of their research at an off campus location of their choosing. If you think you may be interested in a distance-based MA by Research, please read the guidance and further information before applying.

Research areas

A summary of our main areas of research is provided here. The Theology Research webpages provide more comprehensive details about current research projects. Details on individual staff research interests and publications can be found on the Theology staff profiles pages.

These broad headings indicate some of the main areas where our work is focused:

  • Religion and ethics in public life
  • Biblical studies and biblical interpretation
  • Christian theology and the learning church
  • Philosophical reflection and aspects of human life

Current and recent research projects

We have a successful track record in attracting funding for a variety of research projects advancing debates in Theology and Religion and contributing to our knowledge of important interdisciplinary topics, with a recent focus on:

  • Uses of the Bible in environmental ethics
  • Exploring formation for ministry in a learning church
  • The church and climate change
  • Texts of land, sea and hope
  • Vegetarianism as a spiritual choice in historical and contemporary theology

Research centres

Centre for Biblical Studies

  • Uses of the Bible in Environmental Ethics
  • Texts of Land, Hope and Sea
  • The Roles of Ancestor Veneration in Biblical Land Claims (British Academy) 2007-2008
  • Publication of Pre-Islamic Incantation Bowls (British Academy, 2009). Dr Siam Bhayro is collaborating with a team of scholars in Israel, under the supervision of Professor Shaul Shaked (Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Religion, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem).
  • Louise Lawrence, "Sensory Impairment in the New Testament and Biblical Interpretation" (British Academy Small Research Grant, 2009-2011, to support research activity leading to a monograph for an OUP series entitled Sense and Stigma: Refiguring Sensory Impaired Characters in the Gospels.
  • Cherryl Hunt is currently engaged in a research project funded by Bible Society to evaluate the progress and outcomes of their Pathfinder programme, which is being run within a small group of churches of different denominations.

Centre for the Learning Church

  • The church and climate change (Dr Michael W. DeLashmutt, supported by the Nuffield Foundation)
  • Exploring Formation for Ministry in a Learning Church (Dr Michael DeLashmutt, St Luke's College Foundation, 2007-2010)
  • Texts of Land Sea and Hope (Louise Lawrence; SWMTC; 2006-2009)

Network for Religion in Public Life

Areas of particular interest include:

  • Religion in public life
  • Cultural diversity, belief pluralism and political theory
  • Global human rights discourses
  • Legal and theological perspectives on natural law
  • Social and political co-operation between faith communities
  • The common good in theology, philosophy, ethics and political science
  • Religion and pragmatism
  • Public reasoning in democracies
  • Theologies of forgiveness in political contexts
  • Religious freedom and the law


Theology and Religion postgraduates benefit from being part of a wide-ranging interdisciplinary postgraduate community bringing together other disciplines within humanities.

We offer excellent support including research skills training, a dedicated postgraduate study space and common room, financial support and a dedicated Postgraduate and International Support Officer who provides academic and pastoral help.


We are committed to ensuring you receive high quality research supervision to maximise your potential and prepare you for a rewarding career.

Postgraduate students have access to the wide range of support offered by our Career Zone. In addition, postgraduate research students can access our Postgraduate Researchers' Programme, which covers a range of topics to help you to succeed during your research degree and to act as a springboard for your research career.

Graduate destinations

Below are some examples of initial jobs undertaken by Theology and Religion postgraduates who studied with us in recent years.

Please note that due to data protection, the job titles and organisations are listed independently and do not necessarily correspond.

Job titleOrganisation
Associate Research Fellow
HR Projects Assistant
Sustainable Travel Advisor
Teaching Assistant
Capita Education
Devon County Council
Jamaica Theological Seminary
Prospect College
Ripon College Cuddesdon
The Churches Conservation Trust
University of Exeter

Entry requirements 2018

Students applying to enter directly into the MA by Research programme would normally be expected to have a Masters degree with Merit or equivalent in Theology, or other relevant qualifications such as a doctorate in another subject.

If you are an international student, please visit our international equivalency pages to enable you to see if your existing academic qualifications meet our entry requirements. 

Requirements for international students

If you are an international student, please visit our international equivalency pages to enable you to see if your existing academic qualifications meet our entry requirements.

English language requirements

IELTS (Academic)

Overall score 7.0 with a minimum score of 6.5 in the writing component and all other sections no less than 6.0.


Overall score 100 with minimum scores of 25 for writing, 21 for listening, 22 for reading and 23 for speaking.

Pearson Test of English (Academic)

65 with no less than 58 in all communicative skills.

Other accepted tests

Information about other acceptable tests of linguistic ability can be found on our English language requirements page.

Pre-sessional English

Applicants with lower English language test scores may be able to take pre-sessional English at INTO University of Exeter prior to commencing their programme. See our English language requirements page for more information.

Finance: fees and funding

Tuition fees per year 2018/19

  • UK/EU: £4,400 full-time; £2,200 part-time
  • International: £16,400 full-time

Fee information

Fees can normally be paid by two termly instalments and may be paid online. For further information about paying fees see our Student Fees pages.

Current available funding

Contact us

College of Humanities
Postgraduate Administrator
Phone: +44 (0)1392 725306
Web: Enquire online

Dr Esther Reed
Phone: +44 (0) 1392 724241
Email: or

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Why study for a Theology PhD at Exeter?

Hear Penny Cowell Doe explain why she chose to study for her PhD in Theology at the University of Exeter.

I love my PhD

Theology PhD student Dave Shaw tells us about his research and why he loves his PhD. See full size.