Study of Religions

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This course explores a wide range of religious traditions, from Buddhism to Christianity to Paganism, with a focus on living traditions. The approach taken is open and exploratory, with an emphasis on direct first-hand experience of religious communities.

The religious traditions studied are diverse, including major traditions such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam or Christianity, and the less well known such as newer religious movements. Included in the programme are contemporary developments such as Paganism and Goddess spirituality. We range from the local, such as religions in Bath and Glastonbury, to the global, such as Japanese Religions. Crucial to the study of religions is direct encounter and experiential learning, and the course includes visits and a one-week placement in a religious community. There are opportunities to follow up your own interests or career plans in a variety of special projects, employment related placements and a dissertation.

Study of Religions is offered as a Major, Joint or Minor component of a Combined degree. If you want to combine it with Philosophy and Ethics you should take the Religions, Philosophies and Ethics specialised award.

Why study Study of Religions?

‘My stay at the Buddhist monastery was challenging, yet very rewarding. I learnt a lot about Theravada Buddhism, but about myself too’

Diverse range of traditions

We try to explore as many different traditions as possible, 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, and we are equally welcoming of those who belong to a religious tradition and those who don’t.

First hand experience and community placement

‘There is no substitute for seeing the architecture, rituals and colours first hand as well as the account of the religion from a believer’

We think it is important to meet people from religious traditions, and the 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 all students 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

Excellent teaching 

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.

Chance to study abroad

One semester can be spent abroad, for example, at the University of Helsinki in Finland or the University of Sibiu in Romania.

Course structure

In Year 1 we offer a core module which explores the meaning of religion and spirituality, examines a variety of methods of studying religions and spiritualities, and illustrates these from a variety of contemporary traditions, from Druidry to the Bahá’í faith. There is also a field visit to Glastonbury. An optional module in global religions and philosophies looks at major traditions and movements, and key thinkers. 

The core module in Year 2 focuses on philosophies and religious or non-religious world views in Indian and Chinese traditions. Optional modules include philosophy, religions and the environment; and in depth study of major religious traditions including Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Buddhism.

There is also a Special Project in which you can explore topics of your choice, engage in a placement or project relevant to employment, or take part in a summer school in another country such as Korea.

In the third year, as part of a core module on religion in the contemporary world, you will undertake a fieldwork placement with a religious community such as a Buddhist monastery, a Christian convent, the Hare Krishnas or the Salvation Army. For further details see our website www.livingreligion.co.uk. Optional modules include religion, philosophy and gender; advanced study of pagan, new and alternative religions; and modules studying the Bhagavad Gita, Muslim migration and Islam in Europe, culture and counter-culture, religion and education internationally, Buddhism, and religion, culture and society in Japan. There is also a special Research Project (past students have helped to run a conference for year 12 students or to digitise an archive on contemporary religions), a Dissertation which allows for in-depth concentration on a topic of your choice, or an employment related project.

NOTE: You will need to study another subject to study with Study of Religions.

 

 

Modules

Year 1

  • 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.

Year 2

  • Darshana, Dharma and Dao: Philosophy in the Indian and Chinese Traditions (core module);Exploring Global Christianity;

  • Exploring Global Christianity
  • Power, Duty and Desire: Life and Liberation in the Hindu Tradition;
  • Special Project;
  • Buddhism: Historical and Doctrinal Developments;
  • Saints and Soldiers: Mysticism, Militancy and Modernity in the Sikh Tradition;
  • Philosophy, Religions and the Environment.

Year 3

  • Studying Religions in the Contemporary World (core module);
  • Dissertation;
  • 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 Bhagavad-Gita;
  • 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’.

Course assessment

Assessment is mainly by coursework such as essays, reports, projects, presentations, on-line discussion board participation, or even the production of a short film, and there are also some timed elements such as 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.

 

Teaching methods

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 by, for example, participating in the existing Erasmus exchanges in Europe (e.g., University of Helsinki and University of Sibiu).

Application method

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.

Course enquiries

Typical offer range for UK / EU applicants

260–300 UCAS Tariff points.

Career opportunities

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 studying religions and philosophy is particularly good preparation for this, and one module is specially designed as preparation for a career in education. Others have gone on to further academic study and university teaching.

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, for example past students have had careers in the police, hospital administration, social work, and journalism. Study of Religions comes in useful when working overseas whether in tourism or other businesses.

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...

Student Profile: Alex Hyde, Year 3 Study of Religions

I chose my course because I have always been interested in the world and in people.  I am fascinated by the thoughts, needs, beliefs and knowledge of others who have been brought up outside of Christianity.

I really like the structure of the course because the first year enables you to study in breadth and then in the second year focus more deeply on some of the religions studied in the first year. I was enthralled by the prospect of going on a placement for a week in a religious community as part of the course in second year.  I am soon to find out whether I will be going to live with The Community of the Many Names of God or the Hare Krishnas.

The Department has a friendly ethos, with lecturers who are genuinely willing their students to do well and continually supporting them along the way. It is with thanks to this course that my understanding of people in the world is ever expanding and even when the pressure is on with assignments due, I continue to brim with enthusiasm for the knowledge I gain.