What does it mean to live a good life? Why am I here? Is religion dangerous?

 

The Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion course enables students to engage critically with the big questions of life both in the present and as they have been answered in the past.

Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion engages with a wide variety of disciplines from the perspective of the study of the history, practice and thought of the major world religions; Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism

Given this diversity, students can create for themselves a varied programme of study, but if they prefer to specialise in one area, they can follow a particular pathway throughout the Tripos.

In the first year students are required to take a language paper which introduces them to the study of the seminal texts of one of the major world religions in the original language, Hebrew, Greek, Qu’ranic Arabic or Sanskrit.

All languages courses are run by experienced teachers and are designed to accommodate those with no prior experience of language learning. There is a great deal of support for students, with both Faculty classes and supervisions provided.

We frequently find that once students have the opportunity to learn a well-taught structured language, they discover an unsuspected talent and choose to continue with it.

Professional opportunities after Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion

Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion, like any other humanities degree, gives students a number of significant transferable skills applicable to a wide range of professions. It is not surprising that our students go on to a variety of careers after graduation, including:

  • journalism
  • the Civil Service
  • law
  • work for charities and NGOs
  • teaching
  • business
  • working for religious institutions and agencies.
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Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion at Downing College

Downing College is a diverse and friendly community which provides a stimulating and supportive environment for the study of religious faith. Downing theologians are drawn from a wide variety of backgrounds and bring many different skills, interests and questions to the Tripos.

Some are active members of particular faith groups, while others are agnostics or atheists. The College provides a home within which theologians can compare notes with friends studying many other subjects.

In recent years, Downing usually has about two students each year reading Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion. However, there is no fixed target, so the number of offers made depends chiefly on the quality of those who apply.

In addition to the undergraduates on the BA course, there are usually two affiliated students from theological colleges studying for the BTh course in preparation for Christian ministry.

The Director of Studies

The Director of Studies is the College Chaplain and Fellow in Theology, the Revd Dr Keith Eyeons. He works in the College on six days a week during term and it is easy for students to come to see him at short notice.

His PhD was on Karl Barth’s use of John’s Gospel in the Church Dogmatics. His continuing research interests include the relationships between academic theology and the life of the church, and between theology and other subjects, especially the sciences.

Dr Eyeons organises one or two lunches each term for Downing theologians. He is also well known in the college for running the weekly Keith’s Café on the Chapel steps, serving free coffee and doughnuts to students on Thursday afternoons. As a keen amateur astronomer, he enjoys showing people how to use the college telescope.

The Chapel community is diverse and welcoming, providing discussions, bible studies and social events as well as traditional and informal styles of worship. Some Downing theologians take an active part in the life of the Chapel, while others prefer to take a break from the world of religion in their spare time.

Entry requirements

Religious Studies A-Level is not required. The course will be of interest to those who have studied History, English Literature, Classical Civilisation and especially Philosophy and Ethics at A-Level.

Many of those who enjoy Philosophy A-Level should be considering Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion and not just Philosophy at Cambridge. Students who have studied the sciences or mathematics are also welcome to apply. We are looking for students who have the potential to be excellent scholars, rather than people who have already acquired any particular forms of belief or knowledge about religion.

However, it is always helpful to the interviewers when candidates use the personal statements on their application forms to describe some of the ways in which they have already begun to explore their interest in this subject.

Interview process

At present, Theology applicants receive two half-hour interviews on the same day, each with two interviewers. Prior to interviews, we ask you to send to the Admissions Office two marked essays, preferably in two different subjects, which you have produced during the course of your studies. These essays may provide a starting point for part of the discussion, but the interview will also range more widely over the candidate’s interest and aptitude for the subject.

Applicants who are interviewed inj 2017 will take part in a 60 minute assessment exercise on the day of the interview, which involves watching a lecture and answering some questions.  All of the Cambridge colleges will be using this assessment in 2017, replacing the previous tests which were taken in schools by 2016 applicants.  Applicants to Downing may also be given a short passage just before one or more of the interviews to discuss during the interview.

An additional interview at another college is arranged for all those applying to read Theology at Cambridge. This is in order to reduce the possibility that a candidate who is placed in the Intercollegiate Pool will need to return to Cambridge for further interviews in January.

Further advice about entry requirements and interviews for all subjects can be found in the Applying to Downing section of this site.

Further details about the Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion can be found on the University website and on the Divinity Faculty website.