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The University of Aberdeen is home to innovative and high-impact research in Divinity, much of which is developed by our postgraduate community.
Whether you want to pursue an academic career, enrich your current vocation, or simply pursue a personal interest, the Aberdeen research experience brings all the benefits of quality, reputation, flexibility, and opportunity.
A PhD or MTh by research in Divinity at Aberdeen gives you all the benefits of quality, reputation and 500 years of tradition from the founding of the UK’s fifth-oldest University. Today we are a dynamic research centre, highly-ranked in the UK and with a strong international profile.
We attract students of all ages, backgrounds, interests and aspirations from around the world to join our friendly and supportive international community, working closely with world-leading academics.
Research opportunities encompass all the major sub-disciplines of theology, including Systematic Theology, Theological Ethics, Church History, Practical Theology, and Old and New Testament. There are also exciting opportunities to work with leading experts in other world religions.
There are 36 and 48 month full-time options for the PhD programme: the 48 month option allows you to take 12 months of classes before commencing on the 36 months of research that will lead to the production of your dissertation (“thesis”). If you are unable to commit to full-time study on campus there are also part-time and distance-learning opportunities.
Research is supported by regular seminars in each discipline and by a vibrant programme of interdisciplinary seminars. There are frequent opportunities to hear prominent visiting speakers, including the annual Gifford Lectures.
Supervision and support are directly provided by faculty, who will work with you to develop your emergent research interests into a critical academic thesis. Applicants are strongly advised to correspond with potential supervisors about their interests and ideas prior to starting an application. For details of the specific research interests of faculty members please see below.
Aberdeen gives you the perfect combination of wide choice, environment, flexibility, world experts, and the very best support to grow your research skills and gain a top-quality degree and experience whatever your career goals.
The sources and norms of Christian doctrine and scripture, including creation, providence, soteriology and ecclesiology, public theology, patristic, Reformation and post-Reformation historical theology, and modern German Protestant thought, especially Barth, Bonhoeffer and Tillich.
Deuteronomistic history, exilic and post-exilic prophecy, and texts such as Leviticus, the minor prophets, the psalter, the Wisdom of Solomon and the Septuagint. We hold the Biesenthal Collection (one of the most complete Judaica collections in the UK), and the Daube collection of Roman and Ancient Jewish Law.
New Testament theology, Second Temple Judaism, Apocalyptic, Philo, the Johannine corpus, Pauline literature, and early Christian writing practices. The school is also home to serious theological interpretation of the New Testament, particularly in relation to pastoral theology.
Aberdeen Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability
The Centre for Spirituality, Health and Disability focuses on the relationship between spirituality, health and healing, and the significance of the spiritual dimension for contemporary healthcare practice.
Led by former mental health nurse Rev Professor John Swinton, the Centre helps academics, researchers, practitioners and educators to work together on innovative and creative research and teaching projects.
The Centre for Ministry Studies is a collaboration between the University, Christ’s College and the Church of Scotland. The Centre works closely with churches and organisations from all traditions to facilitate ministry education, research and training for lay and ordained people. The Centre provides education and training to support people in their ministry wherever they are, and make this as widely accessible as possible.
The Kairos Forum focuses on the spiritual and religious needs of people with cognitive or intellectual disabilities, facilitating the crafting and empowerment of ‘communities of belonging’, both within religious and secular settings. It also provides specialist services and resources to enable and empower people with disabilities to experience dignity, respect, care, access and participation within well-formed and empathic communities.
The principal role of Christ's College in Aberdeen is to oversee the preparation of ministerial candidates for the Church of Scotland. The College works with academic staff in Divinity to ensure candidates are well prepared for the ministry, and organises extramural lectures and seminars and an annual lecture. It also maintains the Divinity Library, and distributes bursaries and prizes to outstanding students.
At Aberdeen you join a vibrant international research community with world-leading expertise.
Today our experts cover the full range of speculative, textual, historical and practical inquiries in theology including systematic theology, theological ethics, Church history, practical theology, and Old and New Testament.
To our strength in Christian faith we add high-level expertise in all the world's great religions - creating a wide range of fascinating options for your PhD.
Normally, the minimum entrance requirement for admission to the PhD is a degree with Second Class Honours (Upper Division) in an appropriate field, or equivalent. It is preferable that you hold a Masters in the chosen area of study as well.
Alongside your application form, you will need to upload the following supporting documents online:
Copies of your undergraduate and graduate degree certificates
Academic transcripts for your undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Two academic references; either the details of your referees provided on your application form or uploaded online with your application.
If English is not your first language and you have not studied previously at an institution in the UK, you will need to demonstrate your proficiency in English by taking an IELTS, TOEFL or PTE academic test.
Bishop Elphinstone founded the University in 1495. The study of Divinity was a major subject innovation at that time. Aberdeen is now widely considered to be a world-leader in the study of Divinity.
One of the top-ranked departments in the world
We have recently been ranked among the top 30 schools in the world for Theology, Divinity, and Religious Studies (QS World University Rankings by subject).
Aberdeen graduates have the benefit of a wide choice of career, taking advantage of the transferable skills and personal growth gained during their student experience at Aberdeen. This may include ministry, teaching, academic research, nursing, social work, the armed forces, journalism, and law.
You may already be embarked on a profession, and are looking for a flexible, top-quality doctorate for professional and personal benefit? We have the answer! Our new PhD in Practical Theology is a part-time practice-based research degree particularly aimed at:
Ministers of religion working in parish, congregational or chaplaincy settings
Public sector professionals in business and finance, education, social services
Health and caring professionals working in nursing, psychotherapy and counselling, social work, chaplaincy and community development
People working for charities, non-governmental organisations or in cultural industries or the arts
People working in industry or business who wish to deepen their understanding of the ethical and theological dimensions of their professional and/or voluntary practice.
Since this is a part time programme, we can't unfortunately accept international students who require a Tier-4 visa to study in the UK.
Social Care Professional
At Aberdeen you'll be inspired, guided and supported by world-leading thinkers, authors and teachers, taking advantage of their unique expertise and deep knowledge in areas of interest which have great significance in our world today.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906-1945) is one of the most prominent voices in modern theology and at Aberdeen we have special expertise in his work, which continues to be at the centre of important theological developments and debates.
The theology of Karl Barth (1886-1968) continues to provoke vigorous discussion and engagement. Our library holds the David Lewis collection of Karl Barth literature and we have a unique concentration of Barth scholars.