Research course

Religious Studies

University of Edinburgh · School of Divinity
MTh by researchMSc by researchMPhilPhD

Entry requirements

All applicants must meet our general entry and language requirements.

Months of entry


Course content

The interests of staff in religious studies include Islam, contemporary Judaism, indigenous religions (Africa and the Arctic), south Asian and south-east Asian traditions, and new age religions.

The methodologies supported include phenomenology, anthropology and cultural studies. There is a regular religious studies research seminar, for both students and staff, to which postgraduates regularly contribute work-in-progress papers, and at which staff and visiting academics occasionally present special lectures.

We offer two types of research degree at masters level, as well as PhD programmes.

Masters by Research

These one-year masters degrees by research are designed for students with an academic training in divinity or religious studies (or other relevant subjects) who wish to focus on a particular topic. The programme may be taken as either a Master of Theology by Research or a Master of Science by Research. The difference is one of nomenclature only.

Both involve research training and orientation courses, after which you may either research and submit a single dissertation of about 30,000 words, which comprises the remaining assessment for the degree, or you can take three further courses to provide appropriate background and preparatory study for the topic of your research, and then submit a dissertation of about 15,000 words.

Master of Philosophy (MPhil)

The MPhil requires a minimum of two years’ full-time study. You will be provided with two supervisors.

During the first year you will explore your chosen area of research and refine your proposal. After nine to twelve months a draft of a chapter or a part- chapter will be submitted for discussion at a Review Board, together with a developed proposal for the whole thesis (of no more than 50,000 words).

On the basis of progress-to-date, and the prospects for the research, the Review Board will make a recommendation on the continuation of studies, for which your programme may be confirmed as MPhil status or, exceptionally, promoted to PhD status.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Research towards a PhD requires a minimum of three years’ full-time work under the guidance of two supervisors. For PhD study we look for a proven ability to sustain independent research under supervision, normally in the form of a masters degree involving a dissertation. Since in the British model of doctoral studies there is little formal coursework, and the time available is limited to four years, we look for a substantial degree of preparation in any necessary adjunct skills, including languages. Competence in academic writing in English is also essential.

Progress during the first year is monitored by an end-of-year Review Board at which a full, formal research proposal must be presented, along with a sample of work. The Board will make a recommendation based on its reading of your submission and an interview. You then proceed with your research, culminating in your 100,000-word dissertation.

Department specialisms

Hinduism; Buddhism; Sanskrit; Islam; Christianity; Primal Religions; New Religious Movements

Information for international students

Fees and funding

Qualification and course duration

MTh by research

full time
12 months
part time
24 months

MSc by research

part time
24 months
full time
12 months


full time
24 months


part time
72 months
full time
36 months

Course contact details

Postgraduate Admissions
+44 (0)131 650 8952