Postgraduate study
For those who want to enhance and deepen their understanding of the Church's past.
MA Church History by Distance Learning
Normally part-time, over 2-4 years. Exceptionally full-time, over 12 months.
Entry requirements
2:1 or above (or its international equivalent) in theology and/or religious studies, or a related subject such as Philosophy or History. Other candidates will be considered at the discretion of the Department.
7.0 (no less than 6.0 in any element) If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses are available

If these grades are not met, English preparatory courses may be available
Start date
UK/EU fees
£7,290 - Terms apply
International fees
£17,910 - Terms apply
Distance learning



This course uses the vast richness of the historical resources of the Christian tradition to explore the interface between history, culture and theology. It is suitable for those who wish to prepare for a research degree and those who would like to enhance and deepen their understanding of the Church’s past.

The annual application deadline for this course is 1st September.

 Key Facts

  • We are one of the leading theological departments in the country, ranked 8th in th UK for ‘research power.’*
  • Every member of staff is active in research and works to the highest standards, disseminating work with major academic publishers.
  • In the latest postgraduate taught experience survey, 100% of respondents in the School of Humanities said, “The course is intellectually stimulating” and “The course has enhanced my academic ability.”
  • 97% of our research is of international quality*

*Research Excellence Framework 2014


Full course details

The course allows you to take a range of modules from earliest Christian history to the present, or to specialise in either the early and medieval periods, or the post-Reformation era.

All students take a 20 credit Research Methods module, and then you will do a further 100 credits from their choice of modules.

From 2018/19, most modules will be available in both 20 and 40 credit versions, providing maximum flexibility to focus the MA on your areas of interest.

The capstone of the MA is a 60 credit dissertation supervised by a member of staff. This offers the opportunity for independent research on a topic of your interest while also preparing you for further research work.



Research Methods and Resources

This module introduces the skills and resources you will need for academic work at postgraduate level, and introduces you to methodological and theoretical issues which arise in religious history. Topics to be covered include the critical use of sources, academic presentation, essay writing and research methods approaches. The assignment will require you to discuss developments in scholarship in one particular time period of church history over the last 30 years.

Earliest Christian Writings (Outside the Canonical Collection)  to the Mid-second Century

You will undertake a close reading of four or six of early documents from the followers of Jesus. These documents are of various lengths and you will read them in their entirety. The concerns of each text in the period when 'Judaism' and 'Christianity' were becoming distinct religions will be given priority rather than viewing them as sources for other thematic concerns. This will lead to an examination of how these documents bring before us the history of some early communities, and exhibit both their theological concerns and styles of theology. There will be close attention throughout the module to how these texts have been used in theology in the past and how they can be used in theological understanding today. 

The Emergence of the New Testament Canon

 This module will examine the factors in early Christianity which led to certain documents, such as the texts that go to make up the Hebrew Bible, being given special status within the community’s worship, memory, and theological perception. It will look at how this collection of documents expanded and evolved in theological significance until it became generally accepted to be a body of 'sacred scripture' - and how that concept was adopted from Judaism and modified within Christianity. The module will also explore the impact of the emergence of a Christian canon of theology, and its significance for Christianity as another 'lawful religion' within the Roman empire. 

Reading Medieval Theologians from Anselm to Ockham

This module will examine a range of primary texts, in translation, that extend in time from Anselm (c.1033-1109) to William of Ockham (c.1285-1347). Moreover, the texts will also vary in genre from formal academic works to liturgical texts composed in the period. Through a close reading of these texts students will come to understand how Anselm’s theological method marked a break with the past; how the rise of the university affected theology; how the recovery of Aristotle and reception of Islamic thought affected theology; and how will look at some texts exhibiting the characteristics of ‘scholasticism.’

The Virgin Mary in Christian Tradition: history and doctrine
This module seeks to develop core skills in historical and systematic theology with reference to a particular topic: namely, Christian doctrine and devotion concerning the Virgin Mary. The module will study the historical development of the Marian cult in Eastern and Western Christian traditions, with emphasis on its spiritual, doctrinal, and liturgical importance. It will show how Christian interest in the Virgin Mary increased in the course of the first five centuries of the Church, especially with regard to three main aspects: her central role in the incarnation of Christ, her status as a model of virginal asceticism, and her capacity to act as protector or intercessor for Christians.
Dante, Religion and Culture 
This module offers students the opportunity to read most of the important Italian poet and lay-theologian Dante Alighieri’s works in translation, as well as his sources in medieval theology, philosophy and mystical writings. The cultural background in music, art and politics of the period will also be addressed. Primary texts will include the Vita Nuova (his poetic autobiography) Convivio (invitation to a philosophic banquet), Commedia (his journey to hell, purgatory and heaven) and Monarchia (political theory), and writings by Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas, Hugh of St Victor, Bernard of Clairvaux, Mechtild, Aristotle and Dionysius the Areopagite, as well as contemporary scholarship.
Revivalism and Reform in Britain and America 1730–1850
This module investigates the twin themes of revivalism and institutional ecclesiastical reform in Britain and America, with some reference to European parallels. The period covered is from the outbreak of evangelical revival in the 1730s, to the last major transatlantic revival of 1859–60. Topics include: the roots of global evangelical revival; consolidation, development and renewal within the evangelical tradition; national variations of evangelicalism, with particular reference to England, America and Wales and Catholic revivalist movements. The final units of the module are concerned with the institutional reform of the established Churches in Britain from 1730 to 1860, with a consideration of the extent to which this can be viewed as a process of revival.

The Churches and the Social Question in Britain, 1815–1900

This module investigates differing Christian perspectives on social questions in Britain from the end of the Napoleonic Wars to the beginning of the 20th century. The structure is chronological, and topics include: the legacy of Malthus: Sumner, Chalmers and other political economy theologians; mid-nineteenth century crises and responses: Chartism, Irish Famine, early Christian Socialism and the Condition-of-England question; Jesus as a social reformer: nineteenth century perspectives; Christian social critique and action: Andrew Mearns, Charles Booth, William Booth;  Lux Mundi and its legacy;  Fin de siècle social Christianity: Cardinal Manning and the Nonconformist Conscience.

Christianity in 20th-century Britain

This module investigates mainland British Christianity over the course of the 20th century. The structure is chronological and topics include: the Edwardian era; the first World War; the Church and the interwar years; the Second World War and beyond – disruption and revival; the long 1960s; the millennium ends.

There is an emphasis on attempting to understand religion’s regional varieties in England, Scotland and Wales, but this module does not include Ireland.

Directed Reading

A student in conjunction with an appropriate supervisor will pursue a plan of guided reading. They will then write either one (20 credits) or two (40 credits) essays, on topic(s) agreed with the supervisor.

They will also submit a list of the works read as part of the Directed Reading programme. The area must normally be different from any of those covered by other Distance Learning MA modules, and also distinct from the area of the student's dissertation.


In consultation with members of staff, and with the approval of the MA course co-ordinator, students will select the subject area and title of the dissertation and submit a proposal for comment and approval.

A supervisor will then work with the student on completing a 12-15,000 word dissertation.


You may also opt to take some modules from the MA in Systematic and Philosophical Theology. The above is a sample of the typical modules that we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year.
Due to the passage of time between commencement of the course and subsequent years of the course, modules may change due to developments in the curriculum and information is provided for indicative purposes only.

The above is a sample of the typical modules that we offer but is not intended to be construed and/or relied upon as a definitive list of the modules that will be available in any given year. Due to the passage of time between commencement of the course and subsequent years of the course, modules may change due to developments in the curriculum and information is provided for indicative purposes only.


Fees and funding

UK/EU Students

Competitive scholarships available include:

  • MA scholarships
  • Department MA studentships

Please note: students need to be studying full-time to qualify for most types of scholarship funding.

For up-to-date information and application forms on these and other funding opportunities, please visit the  Department of Theology and Religious Studies  funding webpage.

The University’s  International Office has a wide range of scholarship opportunities for students with an EU fee status, including a fee reduction for alumni, and EU and Accession State Scholarships.

You may also search the University’s  funding database, designed to give you an indication of University scholarships for which you may be eligible to apply. The University's  Graduate School operates funding schemes of its own to help support current postgraduate research.

Government loans for masters courses

Masters student loans of up to £10,906 are available for taught and research masters courses. Applicants must ordinarily live in the UK or EU.

International and EU students

Masters scholarships are available for international and EU students from a wide variety of countries and areas of study. You must already have an offer to study at Nottingham to apply. Please note closing dates to ensure you apply for your course with enough time.

Information and advice on funding your degree, living costs and working while you study is available on our website, as well as country-specific resources.


Careers and professional development

The programme develops skills in research, analysis and critical thinking which are relevant for a broad range of careers. It also provides excellent preparation for further academic work for those who wish to pursue a research degree, and a career in scholarship and teaching. 

Many students are already established in their careers when they begin the MA in Church History, and undertake the programme for professional enhancement and enrichment. Others pursue it for reasons of personal interest. Current students include those in various types of Christian ministry, and several who work in the civil service, publishing and higher education.

Average starting salary and career progression

According to independent research, Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers* and over 2,000 employers approach the University every year with a view to recruiting our students.

In 2016, 96% of postgraduates from the School of Humanities who were available for employment had secured work or further study within six months of graduation. The average starting salary was £22,370 with the highest being £30,000.**

The Graduate Market 2013-2016, High Fliers Research.  
**Known destinations of full-time home postgraduates 2015/16. Salaries are calculated based on the median of those in full-time paid employment within the UK.

Career Prospects and Employability

Our Careers and Employability Service offers a range of services including advice sessions, employer events, recruitment fairs and skills workshops – and once you have graduated, you will have access to the service for life.

The acquisition of a masters degree demonstrates a high level of knowledge in a specific field. Whether you are using it to enhance your employability, as preparation for further academic research or as a means of vocational training, you may benefit from  careers advice as to how you can use your new found skills to their full potential. Our Careers  and  Employability Service will help you do this, working with you to explore your options and inviting you to attend recruitment events where you can meet potential employers, as well as suggesting further development opportunities, such as relevant work experience placements and skills workshops. 


This online prospectus has been drafted in advance of the academic year to which it applies. Every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate at the time of publishing, but changes (for example to course content) are likely to occur given the interval between publishing and commencement of the course. It is therefore very important to check this website for any updates before you apply for the course where there has been an interval between you reading this website and applying.

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Dr Frances Knight
Department of Theology and Religious Studies
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