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PhD (TEI Partnership)

Please read ALL of these notes before contacting the Department of Theology and Religion about this route.

This route is intended only for applicants associated with one of the participating Theological Education Institutions (TEIs) listed below.

We can only consider applicants who are already students or staff of one of these TEIs, or who the relevant TEI can confirm are about to become its students or staff.

The scheme allows for successful applicants to undertake the Durham PhD programme while based at their home TEI, co-supervised by a member of Durham’s Department of Theology of Religion and by a member of staff at the relevant TEI.

Please note that students on this route become students of Durham University, and can only enter the programme by applying to and being accepted by the University. Our TEI partners are not in a position to admit students to this programme, and applicants will hear directly from the University whether they have been admitted.

Participating TEIs

  • St Augustine’s College of Theology
  • The Cambridge Federation
  • Ripon College Cuddesdon
  • St Mellitus

Application Procedure

Potential applicants should not contact the University until they have undertaken the first three steps below. Please note that the process from initial contact to the university to confirmation of acceptance on the programme will normally take several months.

Please also note that this scheme is not part of the Common Awards scheme, and that the Common Awards team cannot provide advice about the application process.

Stage 1: Discussion with the TEI

(1) Before contacting the University, you should talk to your TEI. This conversation might be initiated by you or by the staff of your TEI.

(2) If, following that conversation, your TEI agrees that you are a suitable applicant, you must, in conversation with your TEI, identify a possible research topic. See the note below on ‘identifying a research topic’.

(3) You must also, in conversation with your TEI, identify a member of your TEI’s staff who can act as one of your supervisors. This must be a member of staff who has proven research expertise in an area related to your chosen research topic.

Stage 2: Initial contact with the Department of Theology and Religion

(4) Once you have identified a topic and a TEI supervisor, please complete the pre-application form. That form must be signed by your proposed TEI supervisor, and then sent to

(5) Staff in the Department of Theology and Religion will check whether your proposed TEI supervisor is on our list of approved supervisors for this scheme. Where a proposed supervisor is not already on the approved list, we will contact them to ask for further details.

(6) We will also check that your proposed TEI supervisor has appropriate expertise to act as a supervisor in the area you have identified for your project. We will not be able to consider an application for this scheme any further if an appropriate TEI supervisor has not been identified.

(7) On receipt of your form, the Department will seek to identify an appropriate Durham supervisor for your project. Please note that we cannot guarantee that a suitable Durham supervisor will be available, and that in cases where none is available we will be unable to proceed with the application.

(8) When we have identified a potential Durham supervisor, that person will be in touch with you and your TEI supervisor. Your potential Durham supervisor can advise you on putting together a formal research proposal.

Stage 3: Formal Application

(9) Once you have a formal research proposal ready, you should submit a PhD application to the Department in the normal way. You should use programme code V6A401 PhD – Theology (TEI Partners), and should name both your prospective TEI supervisor and your prospective Durham supervisor on the form.

(10) The Department will then consider your application. When making a decision, we take into account your academic qualifications, the quality of your research proposal, the quality of your writing samples, your references, the suitability of your prospective TEI supervisor, the availability of appropriate resources, and the availability of your prospective Durham supervisor.

(11) All decisions about admission to the programme are the responsibility of Durham University, and if you are accepted you will receive formal notification by the University.

(12) The standard start dates for the programme are 1st October, 1st January and 1st April.

Please note that we will not be able to consider applications via this route if applicants have not been through all three stages detailed above. In particular, we will not be able to consider a formal application if we have not previously received and approved your pre-application form.

Identifying a Research Topic

One of the most important aspects of your application is the identification of a suitable research topic, and the development of a suitable research proposal. You should expect to devote considerable time and energy to this process. Developing the detailed research proposal for your formal application will often take as much time and labour as might go in to writing a substantial essay at Masters level.

Your topic needs to meet various criteria.

  • You need to find a topic that enthuses you. You are going to spend several years of your life focusing on this topic, and that is all but impossible if it does not excite you.
  • You need to identify a topic where you might be able to make an original contribution to existing thinking. That is one of the reasons why it takes time and effort to put together a good research proposal: you will need to do some preliminary research to establish where the gaps or problems in existing thinking about your topic might be.
  • You need to find a topic that will allow you to draw on your existing academic training. You can pick up all kinds of skills as you pursue your PhD, but we will need to be convinced that you are already capable of working at an advanced academic level in the core discipline appropriate to your topic.
  • You need to find a topic that an appropriate member of staff in your TEI can supervise. That does not mean that they have to be an expert on the precise question you want to pursue – but they do need to have proven academic expertise in the relevant discipline, and a knowledge of the general literature surrounding your precise topic.
  • You need to find a topic that a member of staff in Durham can supervise. You may find, once you have reached the stage of contacting the Department, and have been put in touch with a potential supervisor, that your proposed topic needs to evolve so that it falls in an area in which we can provide appropriate supervision.
  • You need to find a topic that will not demand resources to which you are unlikely to be able to gain reasonable access. If your topic is going to demand, for instance, constant access to specialist library resources in an area not covered by Durham University's library or by libraries local to your TEI, you will probably need to think again.

Supervision Arrangements

If your application is successful, your Durham supervisor will arrange for a three-way conversation with you and your TEI supervisor in advance of your start date, to discuss induction and supervision arrangements, and to complete an Supervision Agreement form.

Your Durham supervisor will be the lead supervisor for administrative and quality assurance purposes. Your TEI supervisor is likely to have more regular contact with you, and provide more day-to-day guidance. Nevertheless, the arrangement should normally allow for the overall work of supervision to be shared 50/50 between the two supervisors, but it will be up to the supervisors, in consultation with you, to determine how best to arrange this. It is likely to involve some combination of face-to-face and videoconferencing or telephone meetings, meetings with both supervisors or with just one, and the provision of a variety of forms of feedback on your written work.

Full-time students should have a minimum of eight supervisions each year, and part-time students four. Full-time students will normally be expected to visit Durham at least twice per year, and part-time students once. If possible, your first visit should allow you to participate in Durham’s induction events for postgraduate students.


Students on the scheme will be charged Durham's standard PhD fees (whether home or overseas, full-time or part-time). One third of this fee will be retained by the TEI, to cover their provision of supervision and support for the student. The students' fees will be paid to the TEI; the TEI will pass the relevant portion on to Durham.


Applicants to this scheme are normally eligible to apply for AHRC Northern Bridge Doctoral Studentships and Durham Doctoral Studentships.


Since the University is not in a position to monitor adherence to residence requirements for students on this programme, we are unable to sponsor Tier 4 visas for overseas students. Students on other kinds of visas may be eligible to apply.

Further Queries

If you have any questions about the operation of this scheme that are not answered above, please contact the Professor of Theology and Ministry (Professor Mike Higton - .