Steeped in history, the study of Divinity and Theology has been undertaken since the foundation of the University on 1495.
Classical, generous and world-leading, Divinity and Theology at Aberdeen focus on the study of Christian faith, life and doctrine in its historical, institutional and contemporary contexts.
A PhD in Divinity at Aberdeen gives you all the benefits of quality, reputation and 500 years of tradition.
Today, we are a dynamic research centre, highly ranked in the UK with a leading international profile. There are also exciting opportunities to work with leading experts in other world religions.
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.
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.
September and January start dates available
Research opportunities encompass all the major sub-disciplines of theology.
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.
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. The University of Aberdeen also hosts The Aberdeen Centre for Protestant Theology.
Specialists: Professor Tom Greggs, Professor Paul Nimmo, Professor Philip Ziegler and Professor David Clough.
Scripture and ethics, the ethics of the Lutheran tradition, political ethics, medical, social and economic ethics, ethical questions concerning disability, and animal and environmental ethics.
Specialists: Professor Brian Brock and Professor David Clough.
Church History and Historical Theology
Research in Church History concentrates on patristic history and theology, Augustine and Augustinianisms, Medieval church and theology, female spirituality, the Reformation, Scottish church history, the history of missions, and the interactions between literacy, perceptions of monastic space and religious practices.
Contact Professor John Behr, Dr Marie-Luise Ehrenschwendtner, Dr Kenneth Jeffrey
Disability studies, healthcare, liturgics, homiletics, Christian responses to historical traumas and the critical theory of religion. The University of Aberdeen also hosts the Centre for Spirituality, Disability and Health and the Centre for Ministry Studies.
Specialists: Professor Brian Brock, Dr Katie Cross, Dr Kenneth Jeffrey, Dr Leon van Ommen, Professor John Swinton.
Old Testament and Hebrew Bible
Deuteronomistic history, exilic and post-exilic prophecy, and texts such as Leviticus, the minor prophets, the psalter, monotheism, 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, Dr Nathaniel Greene, Dr Jakub Zbrzezny
New Testament theology, Second Temple Judaism, Apocalyptic, Philo, the Johannine corpus, Pauline literature, Christianity in the classical world, 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: Dr Tomas Bokedal, Dr Katherine Hockey, Professor Grant Macaskill, Dr Sam Newington, Dr J. Thomas Hewitt
Divinity research centres
Philosophical Theology and Religion
The study of philosophical sources and concepts that inform theological and religious discourse over the centuries, the study of theology and science, the study of key figures in the history of thought as it relates to theology and religion, including Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Seneca, Lucretius, Leibniz, Spinoza, German idealists, Kierkegaard, and 20th-century phenomenology.
Specialists: Prof. John Behr, Prof. Beth Lord, Prof. Phil Ziegler, Dr Sam Newington, Dr Daniel Pedersen
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.
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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.
Christian Ethics of Farmed Animal Welfare (CEFAW)
The CEFAW project is an AHRC-funded interdisciplinary research project exploring the implications of Christianity for the ethics of farmed animal welfare. The initial funded period ran from 2018–2021. The research team included three theologians, a veterinary animal welfare specialist, and a geographer. The project involved 13 institutional partners, including major UK churches. An AHRC follow-on project during the 2022 calendar year is working with teachers, schools, and staff at theological education institutions to develop educational resources based on the project’s findings.
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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.