Religions, Philosophies and Ethics
Religions, Philosophies and Ethics explores responses to ultimate questions and crucial issues facing humanity. We adopt global, contemporary and applied approaches to the exploration of these questions and issues.
The course is offered as a Specialised Award, which means that you are not required to combine it with any other subject. Alternatively, you may study either Philosophy & Ethics or Study of Religions as part of a Combined Degree with another subject.
Why study Religions, Philosophies and Ethics?
"What I love about this course is being able to discuss and explore topical issues within philosophy and religions with an open mind. Bath Spa has a very good reputation and a very personal feel to it."
Religions, philosophies and ethical systems have powerful impact on the lives of individuals and societies today as well as in the past. In studying Religions, Philosophies and Ethics you explore alternative answers to life’s ultimate questions: who am I? how should I spend my life? what happens when I die?
You discover radically different ways of seeing the world, and reflect on your own beliefs, values and identity. You understand the philosophical and/or religious underpinning of ethical standpoints and how these can be applied to contemporary moral and social issues. You explore sources of knowledge and how we can be certain what is true.
Global religions and world philosophies:
We explore religions, philosophies and ethics from a world perspective, not just a Western one. We include the philosophies and ethics of the Indian subcontinent and China as well as Anglo-American and European approaches. We study a wide range of religious traditions, from Buddhism to Christianity to Paganism, with a focus on living religions followed by people you can meet today.
Open and exploratory:
We stress that we are studying religions, trying to understand, rather than trying to convert. We are equally welcoming of those who belong to a religious tradition and those who don’t. That is not to say that we do not also take a critical approach to religions and philosophies, and engage in dialogue with their truth claims and ethical positions.
Rather than teaching philosophy primarily as a history of ideas, we are concerned with enabling you to develop as analytical, critical and systematic thinkers. The programme has been constructed to foreground teaching and learning events that promote the formation of subject-specific and employment-facing thinking and practical skills.
First hand experience and community placement:
"My stay at the Buddhist monastery was challenging, yet very rewarding. I learnt a lot about Theravada Buddhism, but about myself, too."
We think it is important to meet people from religious and belief traditions. Our programme includes visit to religious communities, mosques, temples, gurdwaras and churches. You may visit the Goddess temple in Glastonbury, meet a Druid or have an opportunity to interview a Buddhist monk. In the third year you will have the opportunity to spend a week living with a religious or belief community: such as a Buddhist monastery, a Christian convent, the Hare Krishnas, the British Humanist Association or the Salvation Army. For further details see www.livingreligion.co.uk.
Contemporary / Applied:
The programme is aimed at exploring how religious, philosophical and ethical perspectives can be applied to a range of contemporary debates, issues and problems, such as the ethics of war, ecological ethics, education and religious and philosophical views on gender.
Our external examiners praised us last year for the excellent quality of our feedback to students on their work. Tutors think it is important to make time for individual students.
Appropriate for teaching RE:
A popular career destination for our students is teaching RE in primary or secondary schools, or sixth-form colleges. Every year the numbers of pupils taking GCSE and A level Religious Studies is going up, and popular papers include religious, philosophical and ethical topics.
Chance to study abroad:
One semester can be spent abroad, for example at the College of Charleston in the USA or the University of Helsinki in Finland. There is also the opportunity of a one month summer school studying religion and culture in Korea, with a focus on Buddhism, and we are exploring links with other universities.
In Year 1, we offer two core modules and five optional modules.
Beyond Belief introduces you to the Study of Religions as an academic discipline. It will examine the meaning of 'religion' and spirituality by introducing you to a variety of methods of studying religions. You will study several contemporary religious traditions from Druidry to the Bahá’í faith. You will have the opportunity to participate in a field visit to Glastonbury.
Truth and Value introduces you to philosophical and ethical enquiry. It will provide you the tools of philosophical and ethical analysis. You will have opportunity to critically examine core concepts in epistemology, metaphysics and ethics.
We also offer several optional modules including Global Religions and Philosophies which examines several major traditions with a focus on key contemporary thinkers.
In Year 2, we offer one core module, Darshana, Dharma and Dao, which examines philosophy in Indian and Chinese traditions.
There is a choice of optional modules. Ethics, Religion and Humanism: Contemporary Moral Dilemmas offers an examination of ethical theories and their application to contemporary bio-medical issues and moral problems. Philosophy, Religions and the Environment addresses questions such as ecological degradation and nonhuman rights. Other optional modules offer in depth study of major religious traditions including Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism.
The Special Project enables you pursue topics of your choice by undertaking a placement or project relevant to employment, or take part in an international study programme. Past students have helped running a summer conference for Year 12 school students and digitising an archive for contemporary religions.
In Year 3, we offer one core module, Studying Religions in the Contemporary World, which enables you to undertake a fieldwork placement of participant observation in a religious community on residential basis. Our placement website www.livingreligion.co.uk provides further details of some selected communities such as Samyeling Buddhist monastery in Scotland, a Christian convent, the Hare Krishnas or the Salvation Army.
Optional modules we offer include: Life and Meaning—a philosophy module on the meaning of human existence, encompassing such topics as absurdity and purpose, identity and mortality; a module on Religion, Philosophy and Gender, Spiritual Revolution: Pagan, New and Alternative Religions in the 21st Century; The Song of the Lord: Hinduism, Religion, Scripture and the Bhagavadgita; Muslim Migration and Islam in Europe; Culture and Counterculture: From Orientalism to the ‘Hippy Trail’; Without Fear or Favour: National and International Perspectives on Religion, Culture and Education (particularly relevant for intending teachers); Buddhism in Practice; and Religion, Culture and Society in Japan. The Advanced Special Project or Dissertation allows you to study in-depth a topic of your choice, or an employment-related project.
- Beyond Belief: Introduction to the Study of Religions and Spiritualities (Core Module)
- Truth and Value: Introduction to Philosophical and Ethical Enquiry (Core Module)
- Global Religions and Philosophies
- Spirituality, Culture and Civilisation: An Introduction to Faith and Belief in Global Perspective
- Philosophy and Thinking in Schools
- Medieval and Renaissance Worlds
- Darshana, Dharma and Dao: Philosophy in the Indian and Chinese Traditions (Core Module)
- Exploring Global Christianity
- Power, Duty and Desire: Life and Liberation in the Hindu Tradition
- Ethics, Religion and Humanism: Contemporary Moral Dilemmas
- Religion and Heritage
- Film and Philosophy
- Buddhism: Historical and Doctrinal Developments
- Saints and Soldiers: Mysticism, Militancy and Modernity in the Sikh Tradition
- Philosophy, Religions and the Environment
- Special Project
- Studying Religions in the Contemporary World (Core Module)
- Employment related placement (alternative to Dissertation)
- Buddhism in Practice
- Religion, Philosophy and Gender
- Life and Meaning
- Advanced Special Project
- The Song of the Lord: Hinduism, Religion, Scripture and the Bhagavadgita
- Spiritual Revolution: Pagan, New and Alternative Religions in the 21st Century
- Religion, Culture and Society in Japan
- Muslim Migration and Islam in Europe
- Without Fear or Favour: National and International Perspectives on Religion, Culture and Education
- Culture and Counterculture: From Orientalism to the ‘Hippy Trail’
We use a variety of forms of assessment to develop a range of skills and enable you to demonstrate your strengths.
Assessment is primarily by coursework such as essays, reports, projects, presentations, participation in on-line discussion boards, or even by producing a short film. Some timed assessment items include critical analyses or examinations.
Learning is encouraged through participation in a wide variety of activities including lectures, seminars, workshops, tutorials and fieldtrips.
We teach with attention to individuals. We welcome non-traditional entrants and mature students.
Resources include a well-stocked library, on-line materials in our virtual learning platform and our many contacts with faith communities (and ethical associations) locally and nationally.
BACRA (the Bath Archive of Contemporary Religious Affairs) is an archive of ephemera devoted mainly to New Religious Movements and concentrated on the 1980s and 1990s before most movements had their own websites.
Our lectures set out the broad themes and issues, often include visual materials and enable you to participate and raise questions.
Seminars are in smaller groups where you have more opportunities to participate and interact with each other. These might involve you giving short presentations, working in groups, debates and discussions. They help you clarify issues that you find in your readings and raised in lectures; some seminars may include viewing of brief documentaries.
One-to-one tutorials are an important part of our teaching, especially in giving individual feedback on your work.
To give you an experiential understanding of the subjects that you study, we organise educational visits and fieldtrips to religious and pilgrimage centres in Bath, Glastonbury, Bristol, London, etc. We also enable you to take part in a one-week placement in a religious or ethical community to see how religions and philosophies impact on people's daily lives. For examples see www.livingreligion.co.uk.
We encourage you to take part in the study abroad programmes, for example, by participating in the existing Erasmus exchanges in Europe (e.g., University of Helsinki and University of Sibiu).
All full time applications are through UCAS
International students should visit our international pages for more information about our entry requirements, fees and scholarships, and student support.
For any enquiries, please contact the subject leader, Professor Denise Cush email@example.com or 01225-875468.
Typical offer range for UK / EU applicants
260–300 UCAS Tariff points.
A popular career for our students is teaching Religious Education and/or Citizenship in secondary or primary schools, where there is a shortage of specialists.
The combination of the Study of Religions and Philosophy is particularly good in preparing for teaching. One of our modules is specially designed as preparation for a career in education.
In the past, some students have gone on to further academic study and university teaching.
Today it is increasingly important for people in a wide range of careers to be able to mix with people from different religious and cultural backgrounds. Some of our past students, for example, sought careers in the police, civil service, hospital administration, social work and journalism. The study of religions, philosophies and ethics become useful for working overseas in the capacity as a language teacher or working in tourism and other businesses.
Graduate careers for which Study of Religions is good preparation include:
- Teaching and other careers in education
- Social Work
- Hospital administration
- Local government
The study of Philosophy and Ethics develops many skills valued by employers such as clarity and precision in thinking, the ability to recognise unnoticed assumptions, the expertise to present a strong case and to see the ethical issues involved in everyday decisions. Graduate careers for which Philosophy is good preparation include:
- Civil service
- Local government
- Financial institutions
Since 2010, employers such as Global Xchange. Ethicall, Citizens' Advice Bureau and Birmingham University have recruited graduates from this course. Students have also gone into roles including Healthcare Assistant, Fundraiser, Children's Home Activities Coordinator and Assistant to the Communications Director.
What students say...
"I am fascinated by the thoughts, needs, beliefs and knowledge of others…The Department has a friendly ethos, with lecturers who are genuinely willing their students do well and continually supporting them along the way."
"I have learnt many new and interesting things within this course as well as having had to evaluate my own beliefs, assumptions and prejudices, a fantastic experience."
"The greatest and most useful attribute that I have gained from this course is an incredible passion and curiosity for a subject that I had previously not known."
"The course has enabled me to think critically and intellectually, and to develop an understanding and appreciation of other people's beliefs that I did not have before. Tutors were so supportive that I felt it was like a family."