Religious Studies - BA (Hons)

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Religion is everywhere today, often where we least expect to find it. Explore the major institutions and theological traditions of world religions and discover how religion can reframe contemporary understandings of secular politics, money, sex, international relations, spirituality, and immigration.

Overview

Religious Studies is a creative discipline, vital to contemporary understandings of economy, art, politics, media culture and globalisation.

Our Department of Religious Studies is a lively, interdisciplinary community in which exploration of global traditions and a rich historical past enables us to rewire contemporary issues.

Staff are internationally-recognised experts in their fields and committed teachers with interests in areas including the philosophy of religion, mindfulness, East Asian medicines, blasphemy, unbelief and the secularisation of religion.

They will show you how to engage in collaborative exploration at the cutting edge of the humanities.

Our degree programme

You will encounter specific traditions from Christianity to South Asian religions and might explore more experimental topics including Chinese philosophy and medicine, death and the afterlife, blasphemy, sexuality and the secular.

In your first year you take one compulsory module, which asks ‘What is religion?’ You can also choose options from introductory modules in Judaism and Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism, Christianity, or ways to understand religion in secular society.

In your second and final years, you can choose to study particular world religions in more depth, or you can take modules on topics like religion and film, ancient biblical traditions in contemporary politics, or secular cultures and spirituality. At all stages of your degree it is possible to choose elective modules from other subject areas.

This programme will help you develop important transferable skills in critical analysis and communication and give you a fascinating insight into some of the most influential forces shaping our world.

Year or term abroad

Working or studying abroad is a great opportunity to discover a new culture and demonstrates to future employers that you have the enthusiasm to succeed in a new environment. You can apply to spend a whole year or just a term abroad as part of your degree programme. You don’t have to make a decision before you enrol at Kent but certain conditions apply. See Kent’s Go Abroad pages for more details.

Placement year

It is also possible to spend a year on placement in the UK, gaining valuable workplace experience and increasing your professional contacts. Have a look at the Course structure or the Placement Year information from the Faculty of Humanities for more details.

Study resources

Access more than 1 million books, ebooks, databases and journals, including our special collections, at the University’s Templeman Library. We also have strong links with Canterbury Cathedral library and archives.

Extra activities

You have opportunities to broaden your understanding of the field, including seminars and talks by invited speakers. You can get involved with student societies such as the Religious Studies society, as well as societies representing other faith groups and cultural activities.

11th
Religious Studies at Kent was ranked 11th in The Times Good University Guide 2021.

Entry requirements

You are more than your grades

At Kent we look at your circumstances as a whole before deciding whether to make you an offer to study here. Find out more about how we offer flexibility and support before and during your degree.

Entry requirements

Home/EU students

The University will consider applications from students offering a wide range of qualifications. Typical requirements are listed below. Students offering alternative qualifications should contact us for further advice. 

Please note that meeting this typical offer/minimum requirement does not guarantee an offer being made. Please also see our general entry requirements.

New GCSE grades

If you’ve taken exams under the new GCSE grading system, please see our conversion table to convert your GCSE grades.

  • Certificate

    A level

    BBB

  • Certificate

    Access to HE Diploma

    The University will not necessarily make conditional offers to all Access candidates but will continue to assess them on an individual basis. 

    If we make you an offer, you will need to obtain/pass the overall Access to Higher Education Diploma and may also be required to obtain a proportion of the total level 3 credits and/or credits in particular subjects at merit grade or above.

  • Certificate

    BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma (formerly BTEC National Diploma)

    The University will consider applicants holding BTEC National Diploma and Extended National Diploma Qualifications (QCF; NQF; OCR) on a case-by-case basis. Please contact us for further advice on your individual circumstances. A typical offer would be to achieve DDM.

  • Certificate

    International Baccalaureate

    34 points overall or 15 points at HL

International students

The University welcomes applications from international students. Our international recruitment team can guide you on entry requirements. See our International Student website for further information about entry requirements for your country. 

However, please note that international fee-paying students cannot undertake a part-time programme due to visa restrictions.

If you need to increase your level of qualification ready for undergraduate study, we offer a number of International Foundation Programmes.

Meet our staff in your country

For more advice about applying to Kent, you can meet our staff at a range of international events.

English Language Requirements

Please see our English language entry requirements web page.

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. You attend these courses before starting your degree programme. 

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Course structure

Duration: 3 years full-time (4 with a year abroad/placement year), 6 years part-time (7 with a year abroad/placement year)

Modules

The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This listing is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.  

On most programmes, you study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also be able to take ‘elective’ modules from other programmes so you can customise your programme and explore other subjects that interest you.

Stage 1

Compulsory modules currently include

This module will introduce students to discussions about the definition of religion and to some of the disciplines in which religion is studied, with special reference to the differences between Theology and Religious Studies. Particular consideration will be given in the initial weeks to the phenomenological approach and to the efficacy of Ninian Smart's dimensions of religion. In the following weeks, the module will be focused on the comparative study of religion (with reference to Eliade), the sociology of religion (with reference to Durkheim, Weber and Marx) and the psychology of religion (with reference to Otto, James, Freud and Jung). The module will also host a study skills session to be run in conjunction with the Student Learning Advisory Service, the aim of which is to equip students with key study skills in the areas of writing essays, referencing and plagiarism-prevention.

Find out more about TH341

Optional modules may include

The curriculum will be structured to introduce students to a range of key theories and debates which provide a basic framework for the social and cultural study of contemporary religion. Each session will introduce students to a particular theory or debate, using panel presentations in the seminars to get a small group to present their initial understanding and questions of relevant introductory literature. Throughout the module, students will be helped to see possible connections between these various theories and debates, as well as think about current issues to which these theories and debates might be relevant.

Find out more about TH342

This module provides an historical introduction to the philosophical, religious and cultural traditions of East Asia. It will provide a foundation for understanding the historical development, key concepts and important practices of the major worldviews of East Asia with specific reference to traditions such as Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, Shinto and other animist traditions.

Find out more about TH348

This module provides a cross-cultural introduction and exploration of philosophical, religious and cultural traditions which have shaped and informed historical and contemporary ethical judgements and notions of the good life. From ancient Asian, Greek, Jewish, Christian and Islamic philosophies inspired by thinkers such as the Buddha, Plato, Jesus and Mohammed, to modern secular philosophies such as humanism and Marxism, humans have articulated a variety of approaches to ethics, politics, spirituality, and the relationship of the individual to society, in many cases developing legal frameworks for the regulation of issues of ethical concern in areas such as human rights, wealth distribution, medical ethics, the environment and human sexuality.

Find out more about TH349

This module provides a thematic introduction to selected topics and debates that span global philosophical, religious and cultural traditions. It will explore issues such as the nature of reality, of the self, and of goodness or value, the foundations of ethics and the ideal society, and the goals of life in a variety of worldviews. Cross-referencing cultural traditions with broader theoretical and philosophical debates, it seeks to provide a foundation for understanding key concepts and themes found within the world's traditions of philosophy and religion, and exploring their implications for fundamental debates about truth, society, psychology and the good life.

Find out more about TH350

The purpose of this module is to introduce students to the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, through a consideration of their key concepts, ideas, texts and practices (such as bhakti, moksha, yoga, dharma). The first half of the module will examine some of the most interesting features of the Vedic and post-Vedic tradition: the Upanishads, the Bhagavad Gita and the polytheism of the Mahabharata. The second half will examine the contrasting philosophical positions of the Theravada and Mahayana Buddhist traditions using materials from the Pali canon and several Sanskrit Sutras. Particular attention will be given to the variety of interpretations of the Buddhist 'No-self' doctrine and concept of enlightenment as well as the meaning and function of the Buddha’s career.

Find out more about TH331

This course investigates the beliefs and practices of Jews and Muslims in the world today. Topics in Judaism include the life and work of the Patriarchs, the concept of the 'chosen people', the Promised Land, the Torah, synagogue, Jewish festivals and the Jewish home. In the case of Islam, topics include the life and work of Muhammad, the Five Pillars, the Qur'an and Hadith, Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims, Sufism, the Shariah and the Islamic contribution to the arts and sciences.

Find out more about TH340

You have the opportunity to select elective modules in this stage.

Stage 2

Compulsory modules currently include

This module provides an introduction to the theoretical, methodological and socio-political issues pertaining to the cross-cultural and comparative study of philosophies, ideas, worldviews and religions. It will introduce and explore theoretical frameworks and methodological questions related to the translation and representation of ideas, texts and worldviews as explored by different theories of interpretation. It will also explore issues surrounding understanding rituals, cultural practices and modes of identity formation and reflect upon the nature of 'the global' and ‘globalisation’ as categories. Questions to be explored in this module would normally include: how does one determine the meaning of a text? What hermeneutic, ethical and political issues arise when translating a concept, idea or practice from one linguistic, cultural or historical context into another? What are the challenges and pitfalls of comparative analysis? How do ideas, texts and forms of identity take on new meanings in the global circulation of ideas, practices and people? How does the mode of media/technology (oral composition, printed text, film, digital representation) impact upon thinking and its interpretation?

Find out more about TH652

Optional modules may include

This module explores the cultural specificity and diversity of Asian cultures, traditions, social and political systems and literature from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. The topic of Asia will be approached on a thematic basis but with particular emphasis on an understanding of the historical and interpretive challenges to inter-cultural understanding between Asia and Europe/ the West.

Find out more about TH640

This module will evaluate and critique a range of historical, philosophical, theological and secular perspectives on death and the afterlife, beginning with the way the Hebrew Bible, New Testament, the Qu'ran, the Tibetan Book of the Dead and the Upanishads conceptualise the nature and destiny of humankind, including such concepts as sheol, moksha, purgatory, eternal life, heaven and hell. This will be followed by a discussion of the interplay in western theological and philosophical traditions between competing notions of the resurrection of the flesh and the immortality of the body as well as an evaluation of what various Christian thinkers, including Augustine and Origen, believed that an eternity in heaven or hell might be like.

The module will then investigate the range of eschatological teachings that different traditions have offered, including in Christian thought the diversity of realised and future forms of eschatology, as well as the tenability of purported testimony surrounding the possibility of out-of-body experiences, near-death experiences and mind-dependent worlds, and the way in which such endeavours have been sustained or critiqued in the light of scientific and historical advances.

The module will conclude with a detailed study of the way in which filmmakers and novelists have approached eschatological and apocalyptic teachings and reconceptualised them. This will be done with specific reference to Conrad Ostwalt's work on the desacralisation of the apocalypse in Jewish and Christian thought in a range of 1990's Hollywood science fiction movies, and the impact that such attempts have had on the way questions of life after death have conventionally been approached.

Find out more about TH641

The aim of this module is to enable students to think sociologically about religious life. Whilst addressing key debates within the sociology of religion (e.g. secularisation, subjectivisation), it seeks to introduce students to core concepts and methods in sociology that will enable them to understand religious life in terms of broader social structures and processes. Examples of issues covered in the module include: the nature of sociology as a discipline, macro and micro levels of analysis, the agency/structure debate and the nature of social structure, individualisation, and sociological perspectives on gender, class, emotion, materiality and belief. The significance of intersectionality between different social structures will also be discussed, and useful sources of secondary data (e.g. BRIN) will be explored. The central assessment task for the module – a case study presenting the sociological analysis of the nature and place of religion in a particular individual's life – brings these theoretical and methodological approaches together into a micro-level analysis of lived religion in a way that is informed by broader social and cultural structures. Examples of good writing in this style of sociological research are presented and explored through the module.

Find out more about TH608

You have the opportunity to select elective modules in this stage.

Year in industry

You have the opportunity to undertake a placement year, either at home or abroad, between the second and final year of your degree and to receive credits and a dedicated award for this achievement.

The placement year enables you to gain work experience in a professional environment, and to develop employment-related skills and qualities such as independent thought, personal responsibility and decision-making.

The placement can be either paid work or an internship. Tuition fees for the placement year are greatly reduced, and employers may offer expenses or a salary. The year is assessed on a pass/fail basis through employer feedback and a written report that you submit.

Year abroad

Going abroad as part of your degree is an amazing experience and a chance to develop personally, academically and professionally.  You experience a different culture, gain a new academic perspective, establish international contacts and enhance your employability.

You can apply to add a Year Abroad to your degree programme from your arrival at Kent until the autumn term of your second year.  The Year Abroad takes place between Stages 2 and 3 at one of our partner universities.  Places and destination are subject to availability, language and degree programme.  For a full list, please see Go Abroad.

You are expected to adhere to any academic progression requirements in Stages 1 and 2 to proceed to the Year Abroad.  The Year Abroad is assessed on a pass/fail basis and will not count towards your final degree classification.

Stage 3

Optional modules may include

Students are required to identify a viable research focus or question for their project which they will then pursue, with supervisory support, in order to submit their final dissertation. In the summer before joining the module, students will be given advice on how to identify their research focus, and by the start of the autumn term in which the module begins they will be expected to have produced a single side of A4 summarising key literature or other sources relevant to their specific project. Individual supervision will begin from the autumn term onwards. Initially this is likely to focus on clarifying the research focus or question, and situating it more deeply in existing literature and debates. Following this a clearer outline plan for conducting the research will be developed, with students then undertaking work necessary to meet each phase of this plan. If the project involves original fieldwork, the student will be expected to submit a research ethics application form for Faculty approval. As the project develops, chapter drafts will be submitted for review and discussion with the supervisor. Supervision contact time is likely to vary according to the project and student need, but will not exceed a total of 6 hours per student (including face to face supervision or time spent writing written feedback to electronically-submitted drafts). Supervisors will provide feedback on chapter drafts, which will need to be submitted to supervisors in good time before supervision meetings, but will not provide feedback on whole draft manuscripts once chapters are completed.

Supervisors will only provide supervisory support during term-time. Once the project has been agreed and a supervisor allocated in the autumn term, students will not normally be allowed to change their fundamental focus of their project (although their specific questions are likely to change as the project develops) or change their supervisor unless in highly exceptional circumstances.

Find out more about TH515

In this module we will be looking at famous and obscure blasphemy cases, and asking why an old concept like 'blasphemy' continues to be so powerful today. We will analyse a range of recent cases in a variety of media, including Monty Python's Life of Brian; The Satanic Verses; the Danish Cartoon Affair; Visions of Ecstasy; the Charlie Hebdo massacres in 2015; public Femen demonstrations; Pussy Riot; Bezhti; and the Gay News controversy over the homoerotic poem 'The Love that Dares to Speak its Name'. But we will also be looking at blasphemy in historical and global contexts. How have old British colonial laws been developed in Pakistan and India, for example? When was the last execution and imprisonment for blasphemy in the UK? 'Blasphemy' will be explored as a flashpoint for major controversies at the heart of modern democracies. These include the conflict between freedom of religion and freedom of speech, and the conflict between religion and sexual freedom.

Find out more about TH647

This module explores the cultural specificity and diversity of Japanese culture, traditions, social and political systems and literature from a variety of disciplinary perspectives. The topic of Japan will be approached on a thematic basis but with particular emphasis on an understanding of the historical and interpretive challenges to inter-cultural understanding between Japan and Europe/the West.

Find out more about TH649

Traditional Chinese Medicine and other forms East Asian medicine have become available to patients everywhere in the world as Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), but their cultural backgrounds are mostly misunderstood by patients, providers and adversaries. This module explores the historical emergence of East Asian medical systems, their relations to philosophical and religious worldviews and practices, their trajectories from the East to the West, and their relations, interactions and clashes with bio-medicine.

In this module, we read passages from foundational literature such as the Inner Classic of the Yellow Emperor (in English translation) and discuss key texts in which Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese doctors argue about the nature of health and medical ethics. We also compare different views of the body, illnesses and therapeutic intervention, and examine the importance of "tradition" in East Asian medicine, Early Modern exchanges with Western medicine and the transformation and globalisation of East Asian medical systems in the twentieth and twenty-first century. Applying comparative and genealogical methods, we discuss East Asian medicines in terms of efficacy, culture, politics and economics and reflect on healthcare, in general, from (multi)cultural perspectives.

Find out more about TH653

You have the opportunity to select elective modules in this stage.

Fees

The 2021/22 annual tuition fees for this programme are:

  • Home full-time £9250
  • EU full-time £12600
  • International full-time £16800
  • Home part-time £4625
  • EU part-time £6300
  • International part-time £8400

For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.

For students continuing on this programme, fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* 

Your fee status

The University will assess your fee status as part of the application process. If you are uncertain about your fee status you may wish to seek advice from UKCISA before applying.

Fees for Year in Industry

Fees for Home undergraduates are £1,385.

Fees for Year Abroad

Fees for Home undergraduates are £1,385.

Students studying abroad for less than one academic year will pay full fees according to their fee status. 

Additional costs

General additional costs

Find out more about accommodation and living costs, plus general additional costs that you may pay when studying at Kent.

Funding

University funding

Kent offers generous financial support schemes to assist eligible undergraduate students during their studies. See our funding page for more details. 

Government funding

You may be eligible for government finance to help pay for the costs of studying. See the Government's student finance website.

Scholarships

General scholarships

Scholarships are available for excellence in academic performance, sport and music and are awarded on merit. For further information on the range of awards available and to make an application see our scholarships website.

The Kent Scholarship for Academic Excellence

At Kent we recognise, encourage and reward excellence. We have created the Kent Scholarship for Academic Excellence. 

The scholarship will be awarded to any applicant who achieves a minimum of A*AA over three A levels, or the equivalent qualifications (including BTEC and IB) as specified on our scholarships pages.

Teaching and assessment

You are usually taught in small groups, with most modules involving either two or three hours per week in class, plus individual consultations with teachers as well as sessions on computing and library skills.

Stage 1 modules are normally assessed by 100% coursework. At Stages 2 and 3, some modules are assessed by 100% coursework (such as essays), others by a combination of formal examination and coursework.

Contact hours

For a student studying full time, each academic year of the programme will comprise 1200 learning hours which include both direct contact hours and private study hours.  The precise breakdown of hours will be subject dependent and will vary according to modules.  Please refer to the individual module details under Course Structure.

Methods of assessment will vary according to subject specialism and individual modules.  Please refer to the individual module details under Course Structure.

Programme aims

The programme aims to:

  • increase knowledge of religious ideas and institutions as found in a diversity of cultural settings both past and present
  • explore and discuss religious ideas and institutions, through texts and historical data as well as direct observation of the contemporary world
  • develop critical understanding of a sympathetic insight into the diversity of religious life, both as it has shaped and been shaped by, other factors within culture and history.

Learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

You gain knowledge and understanding of:

  • the place, role and influence of religion, and religions, in human culture - particularly the culture of Europe
  • the role and significance of religion within human experience
  • the relationship between the study of religion and other branches of the humanities and social sciences
  • the main approaches and methodologies characterising the critical study of religion, and its influences, as defined by the secular context of the University.

Intellectual skills

You gain the following intellectual abilities:

  • evaluation of empirical data
  • analysis and interpretation of relevant textual resources
  • assessment of alternative theories and interpretations
  • ability to construct and defend arguments and conclusions in a coherent manner.

Subject-specific skills

You gain subject-specific skills in the following:

  • sensitive and critical evaluation of religious data within their proper historical and cultural contexts
  • sympathetic appreciation of the ideas and practices of other groups and individuals
  • ability to articulate the multiple connections between experiences, ideas, practices and institutions in the appreciation and understanding of religion and religions.

Transferable skills

You gain transferable skills in the following:

  • research and writing
  • computing and IT
  • effective formal and informal communication
  • working creatively and flexibly, on your own or with others
  • time management, especially under pressure
  • performance evaluation.

Teaching Excellence Framework

All University of Kent courses are regulated by the Office for Students.

Based on the evidence available, the TEF Panel judged that the University of Kent delivers consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It is of the highest quality found in the UK.

Please see the University of Kent's Statement of Findings for more information.

TEF Gold logo

Independent rankings

Religious Studies at Kent scored 89% overall in The Complete University Guide 2021

Over 86% of final-year Religious Studies students were satisfied with the quality of teaching on their course in The Guardian University Guide 2020.

Careers

Graduate destinations

Recent graduates have gone into areas such as:

  • teaching
  • publishing
  • travel
  • advertising
  • personnel
  • diplomacy
  • social work
  • journalism
  • media
  • marketing
  • the legal profession.

Many of our students choose to move on to further study at Master’s or PhD level.

Help finding a job

The School of European Culture and Languages runs its own employability programme to help you develop your professional skills. This includes paid and voluntary work opportunities.

The University also has an award-winning Careers and Employability Service, which can give you advice on how to:

  • apply for jobs
  • write a good CV
  • perform well in interviews.

Career-enhancing skills

As well as an excellent grounding in your subject, you also develop the key transferable skills that graduate employers look for. These include:

  • excellent communication skills
  • organisational and research skills
  • the ability to analyse problems
  • teamworking.

You can also gain additional skills by signing up for our Kent Extra activities, such as learning a new language or volunteering.

If you choose to take the year abroad option, you further increase your skills by gaining experience of living and studying in a different culture.

Those who decide to take a placement year gain valuable workplace experience, which will impress prospective employers.

Apply for this course

If you are from the UK or Ireland, you must apply for this course through UCAS. If you are not from the UK or Ireland, you can choose to apply through UCAS or directly on our website.

Find out more about how to apply

All applicants

Apply through UCAS

International applicants

Apply now to Kent

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Enquire online for full-time study

Enquire online for part-time study

T: +44 (0)1227 768896

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International student enquiries

Enquire online

T: +44 (0)1227 823254
E: internationalstudent@kent.ac.uk

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