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1 year full-time, 2 or 3 years part-time



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Course details

The MA in Catholic Theology (DL) is an academically rigorous Masters programme which allows students to go deeply into individual figures, periods, themes and areas in Catholic Theology. It is led by Durham's renowned Centre for Catholic Studies (CCS) and Department of Theology and Religion. The MA is appropriate for students whose undergraduate education is in Theology, Religious Studies, or a related discipline. It is suitable as preparation for doctoral work, and also for those pursuing ongoing personal and professional development.

Students can choose to study for a PG Certificate in Catholic Theology, a PG Diploma in Catholic Theology, or complete the Core Module, Catholic Theology: a Preliminary Tour (DL) as a stand alone module, with the option of continuing further at a later stage.

There will be a 2-3 day Residential in Durham each year, but otherwise the MA will be taught at Distance. All modules will be asynchronous, allowing students to work through the course in different time zones and at times suiting their work, caring and other obligations. We are committed to making high quality academic study of Catholic theology available to students in different parts of the world and in a wide variety of life situations.

All students will undertake a core module, three optional modules, and a dissertation. The core module enables students to acquire the skills necessary for theological study at PG Diploma, PG Certificate and MA level and online, while offering a ‘preliminary tour’ of the field of Catholic theology. It will also in various ways enable students to get to know their cohort of fellow students. The optional modules allow students to approach Catholic theology historically, philosophically, systematic/constructively, and through the lens of ethics and politics. The dissertation provides the opportunity to pursue a specialist subject of your own choosing in depth, under the guidance of a supervisor.

Distance learners are full, valued and engaged members of the CCS and of the Department of Theology and Religion student body. All PG Diploma, PG Certificate and MA students, whether residential or distance, are involved in study of the same high academic levels of rigour and quality, with the same admissions criteria and standards of assessment. The teachers for the residential and distance MA programmes are drawn from the same pool of outstanding Durham staff.

Course structure

The core module, Catholic Theology: A Preliminary Tour (DL) introduces students to the course intellectually and practically, helping build relationships among the students, and offering an orientation to both Catholic theology and to appropriate study skills and research methods. It is designed to be clear enough to be accessible to those with no prior theological study, and challenging and distinctive enough to be of interest to those who have already undertaken an undergraduate theology degree. Woven into the content of this module will be some introduction to themes of the optional modules, so that students have an informed basis on which to make choices.

The optional modules on offer include:

  • Catholic Social Thought (DL)
  • The Thought of Thomas Aquinas in Context (DL
  • High Medieval Franciscan Theology (DL)
  • Conceiving Change in Contemporary Catholicism (DL)
  • Faith and Reason (DL)
  • Twentieth Century Catholic Theology (DL)*

* First available in 2024-25.

The topic for the 12,000-15,000 word dissertation will be determined by the end of Epiphany term of the final year of study (which may be either the second or the third year), on the basis of tutorials with the Course Director, the supervisor and other appropriate academic staff.

At the annual 2-3 day Residential in Durham, students will have a chance to meet their teachers and peers in person, and to extend their studies through a range of lectures and seminars on aspects of Catholic theology. Attendance at the Residential is an important part of the overall experience of the MA.

A limited CCS Bursary Fund specifically for this programme in Catholic Theology by Distance Learning is now available. For full details see Funding - Durham University


The MA is delivered through a combination of written material, recorded material, asynchronous online discussion, optional synchronous webinars, and occasional tutorials. Students will, as they work through modules at their own pace, be in contact with module convenors and peers. At a minimum, all convenors will be available during university term time to answer questions as they arise, will give feedback on written work in tutorials, and will lead optional webinars (a minimum of three in each module). You will also receive one-to-one supervision through focusing in detail on a particular topic in your dissertation.

All resources needed by students, including all reading materials, will be available online. All video and audio-recorded material will be accompanied by a transcript.

Timetabling of optional seminars and office hours will take into account varying time zones, and all other components of MA modules will be asynchronous or (as with tutorials) organised individually. This will help ensure accessibility of the course to international students, including from the Global South, and to students with caring commitments or other constraints on their timetable.

Students will have access to the Academic Development for Students hub which is delivered by the Durham Centre for Academic Development.

Students will be encouraged to participate in the Department’s research seminars and in those of other departments where they are of interest. They will also be invited to attend events organised by the Centre for Catholic Studies, including such things as Research Conversations for staff and students, an annual Early Career Conference in Catholic Studies (online in alternate years), an occasional ‘Lived Catholicism’ Conference, and other online events.

Entry requirements

  • A 2:1 undergraduate degree in Theology, or Religious Studies or a related discipline.
  • The three principle exceptions to this rule are
    • Graduates of other disciplines who have studied at an undergraduate or equivalent level in one or more of the areas in which they hope to work, through their first degrees, through training for the ministry of the churches, and so on.
    • Students from overseas universities who have successfully reached a point in their theological, religious studies or studies in a related discipline comparable with completion of an English BA.
    • Students who have already passed the module ‘Catholic Theology: A Preliminary Tour’ with a score of 60 or higher.

A 500-word personal statement should include the following:

  • An outline of your interest in the MA in Catholic Theology (DL)
  • What skills and knowledge you would bring to the course
  • What skills and knowledge you would hope to acquire
  • A preliminary indication of the area in which you might like to write your dissertation.

Two professional and/or academic references from people who are familiar with your work, commenting on your suitability for the programme.

A brief one-on-one interview with a programme convenor.

English language requirements

Fees and funding

Full Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £11,800 per year
EU students £24,750 per year
Island students £11,800 per year
International students £24,750 per year

Part Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £6,500 per year
EU students £13,700 per year
Island students £6,500 per year
International students £13,700 per year

The tuition fees shown are for one complete academic year of study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and Bursaries

We are committed to supporting the best students irrespective of financial circumstances and are delighted to offer a range of funding opportunities. 

Find out more about Scholarships and Bursaries

Career opportunities

Theology and Religion

Graduates enter a wide range of career areas, including law, government, marketing, business and finance, industry, charity work, teaching, media, the clergy and journalism. Employers include: Linklaters, Kirkland and Ellis, Coltraco Ultrasonics, the Home Office, Durham Police and Jaguar Land Rover.

Department information

Theology and Religion

The Department of Theology and Religion is where ‘belief’ and ‘beliefs’ are taken seriously, respected and studied, whether those beliefs are atheistic, humanistic or religious. Our home, Abbey House (pictured right), is next door to Durham Cathedral, and is a beautiful and inspiring place to pursue research in theology and religion.

For more information see our department pages.


  • World Top 10 in the QS World University Subject Rankings 2022
  • 3rd in The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2023
  • 3rd in The Complete University Guide 2023
  • 3rd in The Guardian University Guide 2023


For a current list of staff, please see the Theology & Religion Department pages.

Research Excellence Framework

  • 4th in the UK for Research Power (REF 2021)
  • 91% research graded world-leading or internationally excellent (REF 2021)


Library facilities for Theology and Religion in Durham are extensive, and the holdings at the Bill Bryson Library are only the beginning.

Our next-door neighbour, Durham Cathedral, houses another theological library: The Sharp Library, which focuses on modern and pastoral theology. Additionally, the Meissen Library, located on level 3 of the Bill Bryson Library, is the largest collection of German-language theological materials in Britain.

Some of the College libraries (notably St. Chad's College and St. John's College) hold extensive theological collections and the Department has some library resources of its own, in particular in Hebrew and Jewish studies.


Find out more:

Apply for a postgraduate course (including PGCE International) via our online portal.  

Visit Us

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Join a Postgraduate Open Day
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 17:00
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Self-Guided Tours
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 16:00
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