Postgraduate study
You will engage with the meaning and implications of historic and contemporary Christian teaching.
MA Systematic and Philosophical Theology (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 requirements
Other candidates will be considered at the discretion of the Department. Students entering the programme from a humanities discipline other than theology may be required to take the module 'Systematic and Philosophical Theology for Newcomers'.
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.



The field of systematic and philosophical theology deals with the meaning and implications of Christian doctrine or teaching. This includes claims relating to God, creation, salvation, the nature of the Church, human identity and ethics.  Consequently this course is concerned with a field at the heart of Christian theology, and therefore at the heart of human intellectual endeavour. 

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 the 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

Students may pursue an interest in theologies of many kinds, although always critically and rigorously. The course is particularly concerned with:

  • the Christian theological tradition from the early church to the present
  • its engagement with philosophy
  • the relationship between faith and reason
  • the task of theology in the twenty-first century. 

You will take a total of 120 credits of taught modules, based on a wide choice of options. 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. Depending on your academic background, most students start with the 20 credit module ‘Systematic and Philosophical Theology for Newcomers’, which provides an excellent orientation in the field. The ‘Research Methods’ module is also recommended, especially for students planning to do further research work in theology. Beyond this, the choice of modules is up to you.

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 future research.



Systematic and Philosophical theology for Newcomers: The Doctrine of God 

This module is particularly intended for those who are entering the programme from disciplines other than theology and/ or philosophy. It may be a requirement of your admission that you take this module.  Systematic and Philosophical Theology for Newcomers will introduce you to the language and method of systematic theology and philosophical theology through a study of key themes and texts. These will include portions of Plato’s ‘Republic’, Aristotle’s ‘Metaphysics’, St. Thomas Aquinas on theological language and Karl Barth on revelation and the Trinity.

Research Methods and Resources

This module introduces the skills and resources you will need for academic research, writing and oral presentation at postgraduate level, and introduces you to methodological and theoretical issues which arise in many areas of theology and philosophy. Topics to be covered may include IT skills, library resources, use of the web, the development of arguments, academic style and sensitivity to language, formatting and referencing, presentation skills, and the relationship between academic research and religious commitment. The primary assessment task for this module is an essay examining the development of a field of research over the last thirty years (for example, Christology). This module is optional and is particularly suitable for those wishing to hone their research skills, or whose academic background is in a discipline other than theology.

Christian theology naturally focuses on the person and work of Christ, otherwise known as Christology. You will study the development of the doctrine of Christ in the first six centuries of Christianity in some detail. This will involve reading a number of primary texts in translation, studying the ways in which Christian theologians developed a language which enabled Christians speak more clearly and coherently about Christ. You will then examine medieval, Reformation and modern understandings of Christ.
Aquinas and Thomisms
This module concerns the thought of St. Thomas Aquinas (c.1225-1274) and the associated theological and philosophical school known as Thomism. Through a close reading of a range of primary texts, we will examine some key themes in Aquinas's work including the relationship between theology and philosophy, the doctrine of creation, theological ethics and the Trinity. This will lead to an examination of the most significant moments in the history of the interpretation of Aquinas, from Suárez (1548-1617) to the present day.
La Nouvelle Théologie
The New Theology’ is a pejorative term coined by the French Dominican theologian Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange (1877-1964) to describe a new wave of twentieth century Catholic theology which offered a fresh interpretation of Aquinas and called for a return to the Church’s patristic and high mediaeval resources. This movement, which was a reaction against nineteenth century neoscholasticism, is also known as ‘ resourcement ’ theology – a theology which looks to the depths of the Church’s traditional theological resources to meet the intellectual and cultural challenges of late modernity. You will study the new theologians’ understanding of the Church, scriptural exegesis and the key issue in the debate concerning resourcement theology: relationship between nature and grace.
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.’

Earliest Christian Writings (Outside the Canonical Collection)  to the Mid-second Century
The module will be a close reading of four or six of the earliest Christian documents of various lengths in their entirety. The concerns of each text 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 the earliest churches, 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 .
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 V ita 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.
Faith and Reason
This module provides an opportunity to engage with key questions about the relationship between faith and reason in the modern world.The Department’s specialists in systematic and philosophical theology contribute to the module. Each unit addresses the issue of faith and reason in a very different way, for example through phenomenology, the thought of Aquinas or the understanding of philosophy as a spiritual exercise.
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 Church History. 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

This programme develops skills of research, analysis and critical thinking which are relevant to a broad range of careers. Many students pursue this course as preparation for a research degree (MPhil or PhD). Others pursue the course as part of their development within the teaching profession, Church ministry, or purely for personal interest.

Average starting salary and career progression

The University of Nottingham is consistently named as one of the most targeted universities by Britain’s leading graduate employers* and can offer you a head-start when it comes to your career.

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.

The Graduate Market 2013-2016, High Fliers Research.


Related courses and downloads


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 Simeon Zahl
Department of Theology and Religious Studies
University of Nottingham
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