Divinity and Religious Studies

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The Department is attractively situated at the heart of the Old Aberdeen campus. It maintains a tradition of teaching and learning which dates back to the university's foundation over 500 years ago. It is the only school which is now based in King's College quadrangle, and occupies accommodation beside the ancient chapel and the King's Conference Centre.

University LibraryOur undergraduate students enjoy the facilities of the Divinity Library. The School is also two minutes walk from the main University Library. Postgraduate students are normally allocated accommodation in study rooms by the College of Arts and Social Sciences. 

Sports VillageFor those seeking to balance study with sport, the Aberdeen Sports Village is a 5 minute walk from King's College. Old Aberdeen itself has a variety of shops and restaurants. There is a supportive and thriving graduate student community which has regular social events, lunches and other meetings. Many students and family members are involved with the Aberdeen Women's Fellowship, which organizes a regular Bible Study. A number of staff and students also attend morning prayer at the King's College Chapel.

At present, over 230 students study in the School. This number includes around 60 postgraduate students. Our students come from all over the British Isles and from overseas. The countries currently represented include Canada, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hong Kong, Ireland, Korea, Nigeria, Taiwan, Uganda and the USA. Our graduates go on to practise a wider range of professions than ever before. These include ministry, teaching, nursing, social work, the armed forces, journalism, and law.

Theological study and learning go back to the foundation of this university, which is the third oldest university in Scotland. The Foundation Bull, granted by Pope Alexander VI in 1495, states that one of the main purposes of the newly founded university was to provide well-educated clergy for the northern part of the Kingdom of Scotland.

From past to present

The present Department of Divinity and Religious Studies is derived from three institutions: the original University situated at King's College in Old Aberdeen and founded by William Elphinstone, Bishop of Aberdeen; Marischal College, the Presbyterian University, founded after the Reformation by George Keith, Earl Marischal, in 1593; and Christ's College, the modern name for the College founded after the Disruption of 1843 by the Free Church of Scotland for the training of its ministers.

The two ancient universities of King's College and Marischal College were united to form the University of Aberdeen in 1860. Christ's College was linked with the Faculty of Divinity after the Union of the Church of Scotland and the United Free Church of Scotland in 1929. Thus the university was in the unique situation of being able to celebrate its 400th anniversary in 1993 and its 500th in 1995!

From the foundation of King's College, the Principal was required to teach theological subjects. The oldest separate Chair of Divinity was founded in Marischal College in 1616, to be followed closely by a similar foundation in King's College in 1620; these Chairs are now assigned to Church History and Systematic Theology, respectively. The Chair of Hebrew and Semitic Languages was founded in King's College in 1673, while the Chair of Biblical Criticism (now New Testament) was founded after the union of 1860, and lately renamed the Kirby Laing Chair in New Testament Exegesis in honour of its major benefactor. A Chair of Practical Theology was established in Christ's College in 1934. The School has also expanded through the establishment of a number of lectureships in all the major areas of study and secured a 6th-Century Chair in Religious Studies.  More recently, a Chair in Theological Ethics has been established.

Each of the various traditions has produced notable scholars and theologians, such as John Forbes, George Campbell, William Milligan, William Robertson Smith, David S. Cairns and G.D. Henderson.

Christ's College

The principal role of Christ's College is to oversee the preparation and formation of ministerial candidates for the Church of Scotland. The College collaborates closely with the Department of Divinity and Religious Studies to ensure candidates receive appropriate academic training for the ministry, funding a lectureship in Practical Theology, organizing extramural lectures and seminars, and hosting an annual lecture at the beginning of each academic year. In addition, the College maintains the Divinity Library, which serves all undergraduates within the department. It also contributes to the spiritual life of the university, organising a weekly Chapter Service during each academic term.

Working with the Master and administrative staff of the College, the Financial Board administers the various bequests, legacies and funds held by the College, providing financial support to the University in its provision of appropriate courses and library resources; to candidates, especially in emergency situations; and to ministers of the Church studying for the joint Aberdeen-Pittsburgh Theological Seminary Doctor of Ministry degree (for information about financial support for this degree contact the Master at christs-college@abdn.ac.uk). The Board also distributes bursaries and prizes to outstanding students through the department's exam board.