A PhD in Theology and Religious Studies enables you to undertake a substantial piece of supervised research in the subject that makes an original contribution to knowledge and is worthy of publication.
A PhD, also known as a doctorate, is a requirement for a career as an academic or researcher. In addition, it has become a qualification valued by many employers who recognise the skills and commitment a PhD requires. Employers also recognise that a PhD indicates excellent research capabilities, discipline and communication skills.
Over the duration of the PhD, you produce an original piece of research of up to 100,000 words. Recent and ongoing research theses include: ‘A Theology of Interconnectivity: Buber, Dialogue and Cyberspace’, ‘Ghosts in the Machine: Reassessing the Evolution of the Science/Religion Phenomena - Alternative Perspectives’, ‘Heart of the Flame: Rethinking Religion and the Theatre Work of Jerzy Grotowski’, ‘The Politics of Opposites and Same-Sex Union: A Foucaultian reading of the Hermetic Hermaphrodite’ and ‘Sacred Entanglements: Studying Interactions between Visitors, Objects and Religion in the Museum’.
The Department of Religious Studies offers supervision from world-class academics with expertise in a wide range of disciplines, able to support and guide you through your research. Your progress is carefully monitored to ensure that you are on track to produce a thesis valued by the academic community. Throughout your programme, you are able to attend and contribute to research seminars, workshops, and research and transferable skills training courses.
You may be eligible for a fully-funded PhD scholarship to support your studies with us. The PhD in Theology and Religious studies at Kent can be funded through the Graduate Teaching Assistantship (GTA) scheme, or through the Consortium for the Humanities and the Arts South-East England (CHASE) collaborative doctoral partnerships. Please indicate in your application if you want to be considered for any of these programmes, and explain your eligibility for the chosen scheme. For the full list of scholarships available within the School, please see our postgraduate scholarship page.
For the full list of ongoing and completed projects in the department, see our postgraduate research page.
In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, theology and religious studies was ranked 3rd for research impact in the UK. We were also ranked 7th for research quality and in the top 20 for research intensity and research output.
An impressive 98% of our research was judged to be of international quality and the School’s environment was judged to be conducive to supporting the development of world-leading research.
About the Department of Religious Studies
The Department of Religious Studies at the University of Kent provides the highest standards of graduate training in the UK. It is the only department in its subject area to have received two national grants from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to support specialist training for doctoral students.
Collectively the staff at Kent cover all the current methodologies and theoretical approaches from empirical research to psychology of religion to continental philosophy and history of ideas. As well as offering expertise in all the major ‘world religions’, we are widely recognised for groundbreaking work at the edges of the category of religion as well as for work on the invention of the category of ‘religion’. Among the many combined subject areas covered in the department are religion and media, religion and politics, religion and comparative literatures, religion and society. See the 'Staff research' tab for more details.
The Department strongly supports cross-disciplinary work and students are encouraged to take advantage of the wide range of postgraduate classes and seminars available both within the School of European Culture and Languages (SECL) and across the University as a whole.
The Templeman Library has strong electronic and print collections in religious studies, and a wide range of related disciplines including anthropology, cultural and critical theory, history, literature, philosophy, politics and sociology. Doctoral students are offered research support funds to enable them to attend academic conferences or to meet other costs associated with their research.
Postgraduate students in Religious Studies are expected to play an active role in the training and research culture of the Department as a whole. This includes the Department’s regular research seminar, the advanced theory reading group and other training workshops offered through the year involving internationally recognised researchers. Postgraduate students have the opportunity to take the Department’s week-long training course in methodological approaches to the study of religion in the spring term, which is also taken by doctoral students from around the UK. Doctoral students are supported with undertaking wider professional development activities, including teaching and writing for publication, that would prepare them for future academic work. Broader training support is also available through the University’s Graduate School.
Dynamic publishing culture
All staff are involved in writing research monographs and articles, as well as a range of research networking and editing activities. Where appropriate, postgraduate students are helped to publish their own work, either as sole-authored pieces with feedback and guidance from staff, or as co-authored projects written with a staff member. The Journal of Hindu Studies, published by Oxford University Press, is edited from the Department. Details of recently published books can be found within our staff research interests.
Researcher Development Programme
Kent's Graduate School co-ordinates the Researcher Development Programme for research students, which includes workshops focused on research, specialist and transferable skills. The programme is mapped to the national Researcher Development Framework and covers a diverse range of topics, including subject-specific research skills, research management, personal effectiveness, communication skills, networking and teamworking, and career management skills.
A first or upper-second class BA honours degree or equivalent in a relevant subject, and a distinction or merit in an MA programme or equivalent in a relevant subject.
You are expected to provide a strong research proposal at the time of application.
All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and experience will also be taken into account when considering applications.
Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information for your country. Please note that international fee-paying students cannot undertake a part-time programme due to visa restrictions.
English language entry requirements
The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.
For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages.
Need help with English?
Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.
Work within the Department focuses particularly on theory and method of religion, with staff specialising in the following areas:
Religion, the sacred and contemporary society
Within the Department, this includes the study of the role of religious NGOs in global civil society, the cultural sociological study of the sacred (including humanitarianism and nationalism), the relationship between religion and late capitalism, and religious engagements with pluralist, secular societies.
Religion, media and culture
The Department has particular expertise in the study of religion and film, including both the religious significance of film as a medium and the critical theological analysis of film texts. Other work explores different forms of the mediation of religion, the material and aesthetic dimensions of religious life, and the significance of news media for the circulation of sacred meanings.
Theory and method in the study of religion
In addition to engaging with current debates about the nature of religious experience and the broader understanding of religion and the sacred, the Department has expertise in a range of theoretical writers and debates within continental philosophy, cultural, critical and social theory, and psychological theory. Research supported within the Department utilises a range of approaches including theoretical research, textual analysis, analysis of visual and material culture, historical research and ethnography.
Understanding Unbelief is a major new research programme aiming to advance the scientific understanding of atheism and other forms of so-called ‘unbelief’ around the world. Its central research questions concern the nature and diversity of ‘unbelief’.
Staff research interests
Kent’s world-class academics provide research students with excellent supervision. The academic staff in this school and their research interests are shown below. You are strongly encouraged to contact the school to discuss your proposed research and potential supervision prior to making an application. Please note, it is possible for students to be supervised by a member of academic staff from any of Kent’s schools, providing their expertise matches your research interests. Use our ‘find a supervisor’ search to search by staff member or keyword.
Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.
Dr Ward Blanton: Reader in Biblical Cultures and European Thought
St Paul; the New Testament; continental and European thought.View Profile
Professor Jeremy Carrette: Professor of Religion and Culture
Michel Foucault; William James; critical psychology and religion; globalisation, social theory and religion; politics of spirituality; capitalism and religion; theology and economics; Christian ethics; gender, sexuality and theology.View Profile
Dr Chris Deacy: Reader in Applied Theology
Theology, religious studies and film; theological/religious perspectives on life after death.View Profile
Professor Richard King: Professor of Buddhist and Asian Studies
Buddhism and Asian traditions, theory and method; politics and spirituality; the comparative study of apophatic mysticism (Christian, Vedantic, Buddhist); Eastern-inspired New Age spiritualities.View Profile
Dr Lois Lee: Research Fellow
Understanding unbelief; nonreligious belief and identities, both contemporary and 19th century.View Profile
Professor Gordon Lynch: Michael Ramsey Chair of Modern Theology
The sacred within contemporary culture; religion, media and culture; lived religion; religion and the secular; conservative and progressive religious movements in the West; religion, arts and public cultural spaces.View Profile
Professor Yvonne Sherwood: Professor of Biblical Cultures and Politics
Biblical studies (Old Testament/Hebrew Bible); religion and continental philosophy; genealogies of the religious and the secular.View Profile
Dr Leslie de Vries: Lecturer in East Asian Studies
East Asian medicine, particular interactions with Confucianism, Daoism and Buddhism, Chinese medical history.View Profile
The 2019/20 annual tuition fees for Home/EU PG Research programmes have not yet been set by the Research Councils UK. This is ordinarily announced in March.
General additional costs
Find out more about general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent.
Search our scholarships finder for possible funding opportunities. You may find it helpful to look at both: