Introduction

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.

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Key Programme Information

At a Glance

Degree Qualification
PhD

Our Research

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.

To get a feel for the breadth of the opportunities we offer, browse our current family of Divinity research postgraduates and Religous Studies research postgraduates.

Research Interests

Systematic Theology

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.

Specialists: Professor Tom Greggs, Professor Paul Nimmo, Professor Philip Ziegler, and Dr Donald Wood.

Church History

Research in Church History concentrates on female spirituality in the medieval period, and the interactions between literacy, perceptions of monastic space and religious practices.

Contact Dr Marie-Luise Ehrenschwendtner

Old Testament and Hebrew Bible

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.

Specialists: Professor Joachim Schaper and Dr Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer

New Testament

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.

Specialists: Professor Grant Macaskill, Dr Tomas Bokedal, and Dr Jutta Leonhardt-Balzer

Research Projects

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.

Find out more

Aberdeen University Centre for Ministry Studies

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.

Find out more

Kairos Forum

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.

Find out more

Christ's College

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.

Our Experts

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.

Other Experts
Dr Tomas Bokedal
Dr Brian Brock
Dr Marie-Luise Ehrenschwendtner
Professor Tom Greggs
Dr Michael Laffin
Dr Jutta Leonhardt-Balzer
Dr Kenneth Jeffrey
Professor Grant Macaskill
Dr Michael Mawson
Dr Sam Newington
Professor Paul Nimmo
Professor Joachim Schaper
Professor John Swinton
Dr Lena-Sofia Tiemeyer
Dr Leon van Ommen
Dr Donald Wood
Professor Philip Ziegler

Entry Requirements

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.
  • Your research proposal
  • 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.

Fees and Funding

All four years (for full time study) or six years (for part time study) will be charged at normal fee rate.

Funding Opportunities

You may be eligible to receive support with the costs of your PhD study.

Scholarships are available from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for students researching arts and humanities in Scotland who meet the eligibility criteria.

There is also a range of scholarships available specifically for research in divinity and religious studies.

You will find more information, including how to apply, on the link below.

Our Funding Database

View all funding options in our Funding Database.

500 Years of Divinity and Theology

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.

Careers

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.

Contact Dr Ken Jeffrey to find out more.

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.

Career Opportunities

  • Healthcare Professional
  • Minister
  • Social Care Professional

Features

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

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.

Find out more

Karl Barth

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.

Find out more

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).

Get in Touch

Contact Details

Address
School of Divinity, History and Philosophy
University of Aberdeen
50-52 College Bounds
Aberdeen
AB24 3DS