Professor Emerita – Denise Cush – Bath Spa University

 Emerita Professor 

Personal statement

I joined Bath Spa University (then Bath College of Higher Education) in 1986 after teaching Religious Studies and Religious Education for nine years at St. Mary’s RC Sixth-form College in Middlesbrough. Starting with a casual contract for one day a week for a term to help with RE teacher training, I ended up staying for 29 years, until retiring in 2015. I stayed at Bath Spa mainly because I was able to maintain a dual career in both Study of Religions and Religious Education, difficult at older universities, and because both these disciplines were innovative and cutting-edge at BSU.

My responsibilities at BSU were many and varied. I taught within Study of Religions and eventually became Head of Department, and Subject Leader for Religions, Philosophies and Ethics. I taught on both undergraduate and MA programmes, including leading modules on Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Contemporary Spiritualities (eg Paganism), and methodology courses, as well as minor contributions on Jain thought and on John Hick to philosophy modules. One unique feature of our Study of Religions programme was the compulsory one-week placement in a religious or worldview community, started in the 1970s, and for which my colleague Catherine Robinson and I created a website, the Living Religion Project, which received the Shap Award for outstanding contribution to Education in Religions in 2013.

Within Education Studies, I developed and taught a module on national and international perspectives on religion, culture and education, offered at UG and MA level, as well as leading and teaching on generalist and specialist RE modules within various primary ITT programmes such as the BEd and the primary PGCE. In 1991 I developed, led and taught on the PGCE Secondary RE ITT programme which is still running today. Over the years I developed and taught on various CPD courses in religious education for in-service primary and secondary teachers, at Certificate, Diploma, Degree and MA level.

Outside of my two disciplines, I was involved in various international projects such as ROMEO, an EU funded project on Teacher Education through English medium in Finland, Austria, Norway, Spain and Portugal, and TEMPUS (links with Eastern Europe). Together with membership of international organisations in my subjects, attendance at conferences, and external consultancy and examining such links enabled me to visit many different countries as part of my work at Bath Spa, including the USA, Mexico, Canada, Romania, Poland, Germany, Austria, Belgium, Latvia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Ireland, Turkey, Japan and South Africa. These were amazing opportunities and enabled me to add an international dimension to teaching in Bath, as well as providing treasured memories, such as taking a student group to Romania for Orthodox Easter, attending the annual festival of a Zulu religious movement in South Africa, or staying in a Buddhist monastery on a sacred mountain in Japan.

I had a variety of school/faculty or university wide responsibilities and/or committee chairs/memberships over the years, including such varied things as Widening Participation, Area Safety Management, Equality and Diversity, Quality Management, Academic Board and the UCU Union.

I always tried to keep a balance between teaching, management/administrative roles and my own research, however, the students always came first, and the personal professorship awarded in 2003 was primarily (and unusually but suitably for a university with the strengths of BSU) on the basis of outstanding contribution to teaching, supported by achievements in research and management. Nevertheless, I kept up my own research in both religious education and Study of Religions, on topics from Buddhism in Britain to Teenage Witches, and from experiential learning to policy and curriculum development in religious education. My cv to date includes five books, five commissioned reports, over 70 journal articles or chapters in edited books and c.70 conference papers or invited research seminars.

I was awarded the post of Professor in Religions and Education (in addition to my personal chair) in 2013 and Emeritus Professor after my retirement. Since retiring in 2015, I have continued with research, writing, conference papers and involvement in various projects in religion and education.

Academic qualifications

  • BA Theology, University of Oxford, 1975 (upgraded to MA, University of Oxford, 1979)
  • PGCE RE/Science, Westminster College, Oxford, 1976
  • MA (with Distinction) Religious Studies, University of Lancaster, 1977
  • PhD (Religious Education), University of Warwick 2012
  • Honorary Degree - Doctorate in Theology, University of Uppsala, 2016

Professional memberships

  • Association of University Lecturers in Religion and Education (AULRE): Honorary Lifetime membership to recognise 'dedicated work in and for religious education, through both scholarship and leadership and work within and across the RE community networks, which constitute an outstanding and distinguished contribution to Religious Education'
  • International Seminar on Religious Education and Values
  • British Association for the Study of Religions
  • British Sociological Association Sociology of Religion Study Group
  • National Association for Teachers of RE
  • UK Buddhist Studies Association
  • European Forum for Teachers of Religious Education (rep. for AULRE)
  • Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (including as Chair of Academic Advisory Board for Philosophy and Religious Studies Subject Centre 2008-10)
  • University and Colleges Union (retired member)

Other external roles

  • Steering group for REC and TRS-UK joint project on the concept of ‘worldview(s)’ and its application to RE 2019-2021
  • Commissioner - National Commission on Religious Education 2016-18
  • International adviser for four-year project (2015-2019) funded by Swedish Research Council Teaching Religion in Late Modern Sweden – professionalism on the borders between public and private PI Anders Sjöborg
  • Chair of the Association of University Lecturers in Religion and Education (2008-2011)
  • Chair of the Academic Advisory Board for the HEA Philosophical and Religious Studies Subject Centre (2008-2010)
  • Representative for the Association of University Departments of Theology and Religious Studies on the Religious Education Council of England and Wales and its Qualifications subcommittee (2006-2015)
  • Bath and North East Somerset Standing Advisory Council on Religious Education (until 2015)
  • Member of Commissioning Panel for the AHRB/ESRC Religions and Society Programme 2007
  • Subject Specialist Reviewer, Theology and Religious Studies, Quality Assurance Agency, 2000 –2001
  • Chair, Religious Studies Section of the National Association of Teachers in Further and Higher Education (this was the main Professional Association for those teaching and researching in Religious Studies and/or Religious Education in the new university/college of HE sector) 1995-1998
  • Member of SEAC Religious Studies Committee (1989-1991)
  • Consultant for SEAC/SCAA/QCA scrutiny and comparability studies (procedures for maintaining quality and standards in national GCSE and A level examinations) (1989 -1991)
  • Co-opted Member of Avon SACRE (Standing Advisory Committee on Religious Education) 1987-1993
  • External Assessor, International Baccalaureate Organisation 2004-2007
  • Supervision of 17 Farmington Research Fellows
  • Deputy Editor for the British Journal of Religious Education from 2011-2018, plus membership of editorial boards, and regular referee for, several other journals, especially Journal of Beliefs and Values
  • External Examining UG/MA
    • Religion and Education, University of Huddersfield, 2011-2015
    • MA (distance learning) Religious Education, Warwick University 2004-2007
    • Religious Studies, Lancaster University 2002-2005
    • RS and RE, University of Hertfordshire 1998-2002
    • Religious Studies, Wolverhampton University 1990-1995
  • External Examiner PhD and MPhil
    • University of Lampeter in July 2003
    • University of Warwick 2008 (2) 2009-10 (2)
    • University of Birmingham (MPhil) 2005
    • University of Helsinki, 2014
    • University of Uppsala, 2019

Research activity

Since leaving BSU at the end of August 2015, I have continued involvement in a number of projects, published articles, book chapters and online resources, and given a number of conference papers and invited research seminars.

The main projects have been as follows

1. International adviser for four-year project (2015-2019) funded by Swedish Research Council Teaching Religion in Late Modern Sweden – professionalism on the borders between public and private PI Anders Sjöborg.


2. The National Commission on RE

I was one of 14 Commissioners on the Religious Education Council of England and Wales Commission on RE active 2016-2018. We published an Interim and Final Report.

CoRE (Commission on Religious Education) (2017). Interim Report: Religious Education for All. London: RE Council. Also available online.

3. The RE Council’s Worldviews Project 2019-2021

The work of the Commission has already had a major impact on the subject community and has led to several follow-up projects. I have been very much involved in the RE Council’s Worldviews Project building upon the Commission’s recommendation of changing the name of the subject to ‘Religion and Worldviews’, as one of the three professors on the steering group advising on the Literature Review and in the ‘Academic Conversations’ conference meetings and the resultant Discussion Papers. The project continues into further phases.

4. Big Ideas for Religious Education 2016-present

I was invited by Dr Barbara Wintersgill in 2016 to be one of 12 academics and RE professionals at a 3 day symposium to explore the possibilities of applying the educational theory behind ‘Big Ideas’ to English religious education. This resulted in the report Big Ideas for Religious Education (2017). Together with Dave Francis, I have continued to work with Barbara to develop the theory into classroom practice, resulting in Wintersgill, B. with Cush, D. and and Francis, D., (2019) Putting Big Ideas into Practice in Religious Education. We are now working with a team of 14 teachers/advisers to develop units of work for all ages, early years to 18, which will be made available via a website due to be launched later in 2022.


Research and academic outputs

Go to ResearchSPAce

Celebrating planet Earth, a Pagan/Christian conversation: first steps in interfaith dialogue
book

Cush, D, ed. (2015) Celebrating planet Earth, a Pagan/Christian conversation: first steps in interfaith dialogue. Moon Books. ISBN 9781782798309


Encyclopedia of Hinduism
book

Cush, D, Robinson, C and York, M, eds. (2007) Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Routledge, Abingdon. ISBN 9780700712670


Buddhism
book

Cush, D (1994) Buddhism. A student's approach to world religions . Hodder Education, London. ISBN 0340546913


Christians in Britain today
book

Cush, D, Miles, C and Stylianides, M (1991) Christians in Britain today. Hodder & Stoughton, London. ISBN 0340519479


Buddhists in Britain today
book

Cush, D (1990) Buddhists in Britain today. Hodder & Stoughton, London. ISBN 0340519487


Where next? Suggestions for practical ways of going forward
book_section

Cush, D (2015) 'Where next? Suggestions for practical ways of going forward.' In: Cush, D, ed. Celebrating planet Earth, a Pagan/Christian conversation: first steps in interfaith dialogue. Moon Books, pp. 162-167. ISBN 9781782798293


Introduction: setting the scene, issues and challenges
book_section

Cush, D (2015) 'Introduction: setting the scene, issues and challenges.' In: Cush, D, ed. Celebrating planet Earth, a Pagan/Christian conversation: first steps in interfaith dialogue. Moon Books, pp. 1-12. ISBN 9781782798293


Without Fear or Favour: forty years of non-confessional and multi-faith RE in Scandinavia and the UK
book_section

Cush, D (2011) 'Without Fear or Favour: forty years of non-confessional and multi-faith RE in Scandinavia and the UK.' In: Franken, L and Loobuyck, P, eds. Religious Education in a Plural, Secularised Society: a paradigm shift. Waxmann, Munster. ISBN 9783830925439


Teenage Witchcraft in Britain
book_section

Cush, D (2010) 'Teenage Witchcraft in Britain.' In: Collins-Mayo, S and Dandelion, P, eds. Religion and Youth. Ashgate, Farnham. ISBN 9780754667643


Religious Studies versus Theology: why I’m still glad that I 'converted' from theology to religious studies
book_section

Cush, D (2009) 'Religious Studies versus Theology: why I’m still glad that I 'converted' from theology to religious studies.' In: Bird, D and Smith, S, eds. Theology and Religious Studies in Higher Education: global perspectives. Continuum Advances in Religious Studies . Continuum, London. ISBN 9781847063113


Buddhism within the English State School System
book_section

Cush, D (2008) 'Buddhism within the English State School System.' In: Deegalle, M, ed. Dharma to the UK: a centennial celebration of Buddhist legacy. World Buddhist Foundation, London. ISBN 0951895729


Religious and Cultural Plurality in Education
book_section

Cush, D (2008) 'Religious and Cultural Plurality in Education.' In: Ward, S, ed. A Student's Guide to Education Studies (2nd Edn). Routledge, London and New York. ISBN 9780415465373


'Arthavada' - 'Punya' - Papa' - 'Svarga' -'Vidhi'
book_section

Robinson, C and Cush, D (2007) ''Arthavada' - 'Punya' - Papa' - 'Svarga' -'Vidhi'.' In: Cush, D, Robinson, C and York, M, eds. Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Routledge, London. ISBN 9780700712670


'Bhagavad-Gita' - 'Subhadra' - 'Savitri'
book_section

Robinson, C (2007) ''Bhagavad-Gita' - 'Subhadra' - 'Savitri'.' In: Cush, D, Robinson, C and York, M, eds. Encyclopedia of Hinduism. Routledge, London. ISBN 9780700712670


Wise Young Women: Beliefs, Values and Influences in the Adoption of Witchcraft by Teenage Girls in England
book_section

Cush, D (2007) 'Wise Young Women: Beliefs, Values and Influences in the Adoption of Witchcraft by Teenage Girls in England.' In: Johnston, Hannah E and Aloi, Peg, eds. The New Generation Witches: Teenage Witchcraft in Contemporary Culture. Ashgate, pp. 139-160. ISBN 978-0754657842


Developments in religious studies: towards a dialogue with religious education
article

Cush, D and Robinson, C (2014) 'Developments in religious studies: towards a dialogue with religious education.' British Journal of Religious Education, 36 (1). pp. 4-17. ISSN 1740-7931


Religions, philosophies and ethics: curriculum change in the marketised academy
article

Robinson, C and Cush, D (2013) 'Religions, philosophies and ethics: curriculum change in the marketised academy.' DISKUS: the Journal of the British Association for the Study of Religions (BASR), 14. ISSN 0967-8948


Does religious studies work? Employability and experiential learning
article

Robinson, C and Cush, D (2011) 'Does religious studies work? Employability and experiential learning.' Discourse: Learning and Teaching in Philosophical and Religious Studies, 10 (3). ISSN 1741-4164


When the twain meet: redefining 'British' religions through student encounters with religious communities
article

Robinson, C and Cush, D (2011) 'When the twain meet: redefining 'British' religions through student encounters with religious communities.' Discourse: Learning and Teaching in Philosophical and Religious Studies, 10 (2). pp. 15-30. ISSN 1741-4164


‘Do they really believe that?’: Experiential learning outside the theology and religious studies classroom
article

Robinson, C and Cush, D (2010) '‘Do they really believe that?’: Experiential learning outside the theology and religious studies classroom.' Discourse: Learning and Teaching in Philosophical and Religious Studies, 10 (1). pp. 55-72. ISSN 1741-4164


Should Religious Studies be part of the state school curriculum?
article

Cush, D (2007) 'Should Religious Studies be part of the state school curriculum?' British Journal of Religious Education, 29 (3). pp. 217-227. ISSN 17407931


Consumer witchcraft: are teenage witches a creation of commercial interests?
article

Cush, D (2007) 'Consumer witchcraft: are teenage witches a creation of commercial interests?' Journal of Beliefs & Values, 28 (1). pp. 45-53. ISSN 1361-7672


The faith schools debate
article

Cush, D (2005) 'The faith schools debate.' British Journal of Sociology of Education, 26 (3). pp. 435-442. ISSN 0142-5692


Religion in education where there is no religious education: some reflections on a study visit to Mexico, the USA and Canada
article

Cush, D and Francis, D (2005) 'Religion in education where there is no religious education: some reflections on a study visit to Mexico, the USA and Canada.' Resource: the Journal of the Professional Council for Religious Education, 28 (1). ISSN 0143-2710


Engaged religious studies: some suggestions for the content, methods and aims of learning and teaching in the future study of religions
article

Cush, D (2005) 'Engaged religious studies: some suggestions for the content, methods and aims of learning and teaching in the future study of religions.' Discourse: Learning and Teaching in Philosophical and Religious Studies, 4 (2). pp. 83-103. ISSN 1741-4164


Should the State fund schools with a religious character? The recent debate about faith schools in England
article

Cush, D (2003) 'Should the State fund schools with a religious character? The recent debate about faith schools in England.' Resource: the Journal of the Professional Council for Religious Education, 25 (2). pp. 10-15. ISSN 0143-2710


'Positive pluralism' to awareness, mystery and value: a case study in RE curriculum development
article

Cush, D and Francis, D (2001) ''Positive pluralism' to awareness, mystery and value: a case study in RE curriculum development.' British Journal of Religious Education, 24 (1). pp. 52-67. ISSN 1740-7931


Paganism in the classroom
article

Cush, D (1997) 'Paganism in the classroom.' British Journal of Religious Education, 19 (2). pp. 83-94. ISSN 1740-7931


The sacred cow: Hinduism and ecology
article

Robinson, C and Cush, D (1997) 'The sacred cow: Hinduism and ecology.' Journal of Beliefs & Values, 18 (1). pp. 25-37. ISSN 1361-7672


British Buddhism and the New Age
article

Cush, D (1996) 'British Buddhism and the New Age.' Journal of Contemporary Religion, 11 (2). pp. 195-208. ISSN 1353-7903


Forest church or Anglican Druids? Developments at the interface of Christianity and Paganism
conference_item

Cush, D (2015) Forest church or Anglican Druids? Developments at the interface of Christianity and Paganism. In: Foundations and Futures: British Sociological Association Sociology of Religion Study Group Annual Conference 2015, 7-9 July 2015, Kingston University, UK.


Encountering the new religious landscape
conference_item

Cush, D (2015) Encountering the new religious landscape. In: Challenges for Religious Education, 3 June 2015, Uppsala Religion and Society Research Centre, Uppsala University, Sweden.


What works for religious education: issues, challenges and successes
conference_item

Cush, D (2015) What works for religious education: issues, challenges and successes. In: Meeting the Challenge: NASACRE (National Association for Standing Advisory Councils for Religious Education) AGM & Conference 2015, 21 May 2015, Council House, Birmingham, UK.


Combatting sexism, homophobia, religionism and subjectism: equality and diversity in religious studies and religious education
conference_item

Cush, D (2014) Combatting sexism, homophobia, religionism and subjectism: equality and diversity in religious studies and religious education. In: The Nineteenth Session of the International Seminar on Religious Education and Values, 27 July-1 August 2014, York St John University, York.


Equality and diversity in the treatment of religions and beliefs in religious education in England
conference_item

Cush, D (2012) Equality and diversity in the treatment of religions and beliefs in religious education in England. In: Religion and (In)Equalities BSA Sociology of Religion Study Group Annual Conference, 28-30 March 2012, University of Chester.


What have we learned from forty years of non-confessional, multifaith RE in the UK?
conference_item

Cush, D (2012) What have we learned from forty years of non-confessional, multifaith RE in the UK? In: Lincolnshire SACRE Conference: Opening the Door: Raising Awareness of Faith and Cultures, 12 March 2012, The EPIC Centre, Lincolnshire Showground, Lincoln.


Children of the Goddess: Pagan theology, the spirituality of young Pagans and the implications for religious education
conference_item

Cush, D (2008) Children of the Goddess: Pagan theology, the spirituality of young Pagans and the implications for religious education. In: International Seminar on Religious Education and Values (ISREV) 2008, 27 July - 1 August 2008, University of Ankara, Turkey.


Why teenage witchcraft? What can we learn about young people's spirituality from their interest in witchcraft and Paganism?
conference_item

Cush, D (2008) Why teenage witchcraft? What can we learn about young people's spirituality from their interest in witchcraft and Paganism? In: British Sociological Association Sociology of Religion Study Group Conference: Religion and Youth, 8 -10 April 2008, Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre, Selly Oak, Birmingham.


Beyond the Big Six: using a broader range of religions and spiritualities (Jainism, Baha'i, Paganism and Humanism)
conference_item

Cush, D (2008) Beyond the Big Six: using a broader range of religions and spiritualities (Jainism, Baha'i, Paganism and Humanism). In: 2020 Vision: Inspiring the New Generation: Staffordshire Annual Religious Education Conference 2008.


Engaged religious studies: teaching and learning in RS in higher education
conference_item

Cush, D (2004) Engaged religious studies: teaching and learning in RS in higher education. In: The 50th Anniversary conference of the British Association for the Study of Religions (BASR), September 2004, Harris Manchester College, Oxford.


Teenage witches: empowerment or exploitation?
conference_item

Cush, D (2004) Teenage witches: empowerment or exploitation? In: The Fourteenth Session of the International Seminar on Religious Education and Values (ISREV), 25-30 July 2004, Villanova University near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


'Seldom heard strategy': engagement with faith groups
commissioned_report

Cush, D (2010) 'Seldom heard strategy': engagement with faith groups.


Religious education teaching and training in England: current provision and future improvement
commissioned_report

Cush, D and Francis, D (2007) Religious education teaching and training in England: current provision and future improvement.


Living religion [website]
other

Robinson, C, Cush, D and Wilshen, G (2011) Living religion [website].


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