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Header image Religious Studies

Religious Studies

How do religions come into being? How do they affect people and societies? What role does religion play in various cultures and conflicts?

You encounter religion in all cultures, all over the world. Worldwide, there are no fewer than 10,000 religious denominations. Religion can be the driving force behind people, influencing their behaviour economically, politically, socially and psychologically. Worldwide, but also in the Netherlands, there are many conflicts, sensitivities and political discussions in which religion plays a role. Religious Studies is thus a very topical social degree programme that touches on difficult issues. These issues are important to policymakers, to education and to journalists. Religious Studies experts are needed in a world in which religion is a permanent part of everyday life.

The central question you will learn to ask yourself is not to what extent religions are 'true', but how religion affects people's lives and what people do with it. The interaction between religion, culture, and society is the main focus of this bachelor's programme. During your studies you will deepen your knowledge of various aspects of the major religions in the world (Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Judaism). You will use different perspectives to analyse religious expressions – texts, rituals and visual art – and place them in their cultural context. Because there are so many important factors in studying religion in relation to people and society, Religious Studies experts are broadly trained social scientists, with experience in anthropology, sociology, psychology, political science, philosophy and ethics.

Facts & Figures
Degree
BA in Religious Studies
Course type
Bachelor
Duration
36 months (180 ECTS)
Croho code
50902
Language of instruction
English, Dutch
Start
September
Faculty
Theology and Religious Studies
Keuzegids TopopleidingStudie in Cijfers
Why study this programme in Groningen?
  • best BA Religious Studies programme in The Netherlands, at top 100 university;
  • interdisciplinary programme, taught entirely in English;
  • staff is internationally recognized for high quality of research;
  • international staff and international classroom;
  • small classes with intensive supervision;
  • programme relates latest research and theories to current developments;
  • taught at non-denominational university;
  • Groningen is a vibrant yet safe place to live.
Programme

In the first year you will study the great world religions (Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism). You will consider the historical origin of these religions and their modern-day manifestations. You will be introduced to various approaches to the study of religion, including psychology, sociology, anthropology, and philosophy. You will address questions such as: What is a religious experience? What are the claims to truth made by religions?

Periods
CoursesCourse Catalog >1234
Concepts and Methods 1 (7.5 EC)

An introduction to the history and the main disciplinary approaches and methods in the academic study of religion. You will get acquainted with key concepts in the study of religion, such as gender theory, postcolonialism, ritual, text, culture, discourse, materiality, etc.

Judaism (7.5 EC)

You will study series of historical and thematic incisions that reveal crucial aspects of Judaism as practiced, its ancient formation, and its historical development.

Anthropology of Religion (7.5 EC)

You will be introduced to the anthropology of religion, including the works and lives of key-figures in the field, and significant concepts and theories.

Hinduism and Buddhism (7.5 EC)

In this lecture series you will discover the historical origins and development of Hinduism and Buddhism. The class focusses on regional contexts and the relationship between religion, theory and practice.

Christianity (7.5 EC)

You will obtain knowledge and insight in the emergence of Christianity from the first century to present day.

Psychology and Sociology of Religion (7.5 EC)

You will discover which theories psychologists and sociologists have developed, and still are developing, to study religious and spiritual phenomena.

Islam (7.5 EC)

You will study the Islamic origins and thought from 600 until today, with an emphasis on daily practices and within various cultural contexts.

Religion and Philosophy (7.5 EC)

You will study fundemental concepts, theories and discussions within philosophy of religion and use these ideas to analyze religious doctrines.

In the second year you will learn to use different perspectives to analyse religious expressions – texts, rituals and visual art – and place them in their cultural context. In addition, you will follow lectures on the social impact of religion. What influence does religion have on a secular society? What media do religious groups use to promote their image? Is the role of religion in politics different in the West than in the East? What is the position of women in a migrant community?

Periods
CoursesCourse Catalog >1234
Concepts and Methods 2 (7.5 EC)

You will learn how to design scientific research and practice the required methodological skills.

Rituals in Theory and Practice (7.5 EC)

You will focus on different theoretical approaches to the study of ritual and learn how to apply these theories on your own case study.

The Sacred Image (7.5 EC)

The course introduces you to the study of visual art in religious history and practice through the lens of iconography, function, and use.

The Text Awakens (7.5 EC)

You will study recent theories and approaches to texts and authorship in literary studies in order to understand texts as active agents in social and cultural contexts.

Religion, Media and Popular Culture (7.5 EC)

You will analyse different levels of interaction between religion, media and popular culture, in Western and Asian contexts.

Religion and Politics (7.5 EC)

You will acquire knowledge of recent anthropological and sociological research in the fields of religion and politics, and gain insight into the debates within political sciences in relation to the role of religion in politics, conflict and peace building.

Ethics and Secularity (7.5 EC)

You will be introduced to the history of Western ethics and develop skills to analyse and interpret classical and contemporary texts and arguments in ethics.

Religion, Diversity and Identity (7.5 EC)

You will gain knowledge about new forms of religion and spirituality, their historical and current presence and their manifestations in present-day diverse societies.

In the third year you can follow course units from other degree programmes, study for six months abroad, or follow a placement. You will also conduct research within your chosen specialization, for example among immigrants: Do they experience their religion differently in their new homeland? You will report on your research in your Bachelor's thesis

Periods
CoursesCourse Catalog >1234
Optional module (7.5 EC, optional)

Part of University Minor, Educational Minor, Minor Spiritual Care or another optional module

Quranic Arabic 1 (7.5 EC, optional)

You will learn how to read selected short texts from the Quran in Arabic.

Spirituality and Secular Religion (7.5 EC, optional)

You will gain an understanding about the diverse forms of contemporary spirituality in Europe and North America and will be able to trace the historical lines of these spiritualities into the nineteenth century.

University Minor (15 EC, optional)

You can study at another Faculty, abroad, do an internship or follow the minor in Spiritual Care (Dutch only) or the Educational Minor (Dutch only)

Law and Religion (7.5 EC, optional)

You will become familiar with both historic and contemporary debates in the anthropology(ies) of law and religion and gain an understanding of the origin and growth of human rights activism.

Quranic Arabic 2 (7.5 EC, optional)

You will develop your basic knowledge of grammar and vocabulary and acquire skills in reading passages of the Quran in the Arabic language.

Religion, Space and Place (7.5 EC, optional)

You will learn how to analyse a sacred space through a combination of historical, sociological, and spatial science approaches, and be able to explain the religious, cultural and secular functions of a sacred space.

Specialization 1: Lived Religion (15 EC, optional)

Course units: Reading Case Studies; Academic Debates

Specialization 2: Cultural Impact of Religion (15 EC, optional)

Course units: Contested Humanity; Cultural Impact of Religion

Bachelor Thesis (10 EC)

You write a thesis about a subject of your choice.

Thesis Seminar (5 EC)

This course unit offers you the opportunity to work intensively on specific aspects of your BA thesis design, research and writing.

Study load

28 hours of class and self-study per week on average

Curriculum

In the first year you will study the great world religions and consider the historical origin of these religions and their modern-day manifestations. You will be introduced to various approaches to the study of religion. In the second year you will learn to use different perspectives to analyse religious expressions. In the third year, you can shape your own programme.

Programme options
University of Groningen Honours College (honours program)

The Honours College gives talented, motivated students the opportunity to challenge themselves even more.

The main aim of the Honours programme is to develop talent and initiative. In the Bachelor's Honours Programme, the emphasis is therefore on greater depth and breadth.

More information about this option

Study abroad

  • Study abroad is optional
  • For an average of 20 weeks
  • Maximum of 30 EC

We have various exchange contracts with universities both inside and outside Europe, enabling students to follow part of their degree programme at a foreign university. Another option is to take an internship or to do part of the research work abroad. For an overview of our exchange partners, see: http://www.rug.nl/ggw/education/prosstud/exchangeprogrammes/partneruniversities

Entry requirements

Admissible Dutch diploma profiles

  • Cultuur & Maatschappij
  • Economie & Maatschappij
  • Natuur & Gezondheid
  • Natuur & Techniek
  • HBO propedeuse

    HBO-propedeuse (met havo) geeft met ingang van 1 september 2015 aan de RUG niet meer automatisch toegang tot een studie; de opleiding kan aanvullende eisen stellen. In het geval van Religiewetenschappen zijn er geen aanvullende eisen en zijn studenten met een HBO-propedeuse direct toelaatbaar.

Admission requirements

Specific requirementsMore information
language test

IELTS: 6.0 (6.0 on each part); TOEFL iBT 80 (minimum 18 speaking, 21 writing) (not for native speakers)

previous education

Dutch VWO diploma, a German Abitur, an International Baccalaureate diploma, a European Baccalaureate or another diploma that is sufficient for acceptance to a Dutch university.

Choice of degree programme check

The degree programme will organize a matching procedure. Attendance is optional. The advice is not binding.

  • There is an online questionnaire.
  • A number of special matching days will be held. Attendance is optional.
    • Prepare the learning material at home in advance.
    • One or more introductory lectures.
    • Discussions with students.

Explanatory notes

If you apply before 1 May, our student adviser will contact you to set up a skype meeting to talk about your motivation for and expectations of the bachelor's programme in Religious Studies.

Registration procedure

International students and Dutch students with non-Dutch qualifications are not automatically admitted to a bachelor's degree programme at the University of Groningen. The full registration procedure will take longer than for Dutch students with regular Dutch qualifications and consists of three steps: application, admission and registration. For more information, see: https://www.rug.nl/education/bachelor/international-students/admission-and-application/

Choice of degree programme check

If you apply before 1 May, our student adviser will contact you to set up a skype meeting to talk about your motivation for and expectations of the bachelor's programme in Religious Studies.

Admission requirements

Specific requirementsMore information
language test

IELTS: 6.0 (6.0 on each part); TOEFL iBT 80 (minimum 18 speaking, 21 writing) (not for native speakers)

previous education

Dutch VWO diploma, a German Abitur, an International Baccalaureate diploma, a European Baccalaureate or another diploma that is sufficient for acceptance to a Dutch university.

Language requirements

ExamMinimum score
IELTS overall band6
IELTS listening6
IELTS reading6
IELTS writing6
IELTS speaking6
TOEFL internet based80

Registration procedure

International students and Dutch students with non-Dutch qualifications are not automatically admitted to a bachelor's degree programme at the University of Groningen. The full registration procedure will take longer than for Dutch students with regular Dutch qualifications and consists of three steps: application, admission and registration. For more information, see: https://www.rug.nl/education/bachelor/international-students/admission-and-application/

Application deadlines

Type of studentDeadlineStart course
Dutch students01 May 202001 September 2020
EU/EEA students01 May 202001 September 2020
non-EU/EEA students01 May 202001 September 2020
Tuition fees
NationalityYearFeeProgramme form
EU/EEA2019-2020€ 2083full-time
non-EU/EEA2019-2020€ 8900full-time
EU/EEA2020-2021€ 2143full-time
non-EU/EEA2020-2021€ 9500full-time

The Dutch government intends to halve the statutory tuition fees for specific groups of first year bachelor's students starting from the 2018/19 academic year.

https://www.rug.nl/education/tuition-fees-halved

Practical information for:

After your studies

Job prospects

If you complete a follow-on Master's degree after your Bachelor's degree, you increase your chances on the job market. If you choose a Master's programme at our Faculty, you will do a placement at an organization, institute or company that is involved in religion and culture. Most of our graduates end up in one of seven clear job profiles after gaining a Master's degree:

  • Care
  • Policy & Management
  • Education
  • Academia
  • Church
  • Culture
  • Media

Below you will find a list of the jobs held by our alumni.

  • Care: spiritual carer at a care institution, independent therapist.
  • Policy & Management: policy officer / advisor with a government institution, cultural institution or political party, staff member/advisor for an aid organization, embassy staff, security advisor to the military, etc.
  • Education: religious studies teacher, education officer.
  • Academia: researcher at a university or research institute.
  • Culture: employee at museum
  • Media: journalist, editor.

In addition, a significant number of our graduates are self-employed in one of these sectors.

Job examples

  • Religion and World-Views Teacher

    With a minor in education, you can start as a teacher in Religion and World-Views on secondary schools directly after gaining your BA-degree.

Research

Education and Research

The programme directly benefits from cutting-edge research carried out within the three departments of the faculty:

  • Jewish, Christian and Islamic Origins. The research and teaching carried out in this department focuses on the formative stages of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Your lecturers study their dynamic interrelationship in the context of ancient Near Eastern, Graeco-Roman and late antique cultures.
  • Comparative Study of Religion. In this department, religion is addressed in all its forms and appearances. Historians, anthropologists, sociologists and psychologists are working together to critically investigate religion as a cultural factor that is so influential in the modern world. Of particular importance for the research and teaching in this department is the critical analysis of constructions of “Eastern” and “Western” forms of religion.
  • Christianity and the History of Ideas. The scholars in this department focus on the impact of the Christian intellectual tradition in the past as well as the possibilities of a rapprochement of religion and the secular in our time.

The course units are taught by internationally recognized scholars. They will provide you with an up-to-date overview of the state of the art of the subjects you are studying, often drawing on their own research.

Research Centres and activities

Much of the research connects with the activities of:

These centres and research groups regularly invite speakers and organize events where students, PhD students and staff engage in lively discussions.

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Contact

If you want to know more about the programme Religious Studies, please contact:

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  • 
						Testimonial of Nienke de Graaf

    A highly challenging topic

    – Nienke de Graaf
    Read more

    After my final school exams, I took a year off to travel around India, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism play an important role in these countries. I am primarily interested in how religious beliefs in these countries relate to phenomena such as Hindu nationalism, development aid, the position of women, and anti-Muslim violence. That's why I decided to study Religious Studies and specialize in South Asia.

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  • 
						Testimonial of Maria Teresa Tabares Niño - Panama

    Re-thinking how religion works

    – Maria Teresa Tabares Niño - Panama
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    I was drawn to Groningen because of its reputation for being excellent for international students; the option to take my classes in English was also a big 'plus'. I am particularly interested in the scientific approach of studying religion, as well as studying religious practice and the significance of belief within communities; and the course here 100% meets my expectations.

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  • 
						Testimonial of Lisa Förster - Germany

    Many chances to get in contact with our professors

    – Lisa Förster - Germany
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    I have been lucky to have travelled and have always been interested in getting to know new people and cultures. In choosing a degree, I decided I would like to explore the influence religion has on people's daily lives- and Groningen is a World Top 100 University!

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  • 
						Testimonial of Jorrit Haarman

    Curious about how people give meaning to their lives

    – Jorrit Haarman
    Read more

    I chose Religious Studies because I am interested in various subjects such as anthropology, politics and philosophy, and because I was curious about how people give meaning to their lives. I became a Student Ambassador for the degree programme because I am really enthusiastic about it.

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  • 
						Testimonial of Prof. dr. Marjo Buitelaar

    You learn to look past the clichés about Muslims

    – Prof. dr. Marjo Buitelaar
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    I teach the course units 'Anthropology of Religion' and 'Islam'. The combination is a great way to learn about the link between the 'repertoire' of symbols, rituals and stories available to Islam as a historical tradition, and the divergent ways that individual Muslims and Muslim groups make use of that rich source to define guidelines for a good life, and derive comfort, strength and inspiration.

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  • 
						Testimonial of Erin Wilson

    to do something that makes a difference

    – Erin Wilson
    Read more

    Understanding the relationship between religion and politics is crucial. In the course Religion and Politics that I teach together with my colleague Joram Tarusarira, we're not just talking about electoral or parliamentary politics, but politics in everyday relationships, in the media, in grass-roots organisations - struggles over power, injustice, who is marginalised and excluded.

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  • 
						Testimonial of Charlotte Wassenaar

    Social contribution

    – Charlotte Wassenaar
    Read more

    After graduating I was able to immediately follow an internship at a municipality. I was one of three students selected from among two hundred applicants. I was chosen among other things for my background in religious studies; my employer believed that I would bring in an interesting new perspective. The internship consisted of a two-year track during which I switched to a different municipal department every six months.

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  • 
						Testimonial of Brenda Bartelink

    Suddenly, I'm the expert

    – Brenda Bartelink
    Read more

    After completing my Bachelor's and Master's, I did my PhD research on religion and development cooperation and sexuality, for which I conducted field work in East Africa. This helped me further develop my religious-scientific view on development cooperation.

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  • 
						Testimonial of Michaël Kruiper

    My students won't let me get away with nonsense

    – Michaël Kruiper
    Read more

    When I was rounding off my Master's degree programme, my former secondary school offered me a job as a teacher of Religious Education for a couple of hours a week. I started off with eight hours, completed my grade-one teaching qualification in Utrecht, and am currently teaching religion for four days and social studies for one day a week.

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Student profile

You are fascinated by religion, other cultures and societies, and you wish to better understand the world you live in. You want to know what impact various religions have on society and people and you are open to different world views. You enjoy reading and you are interested in history, sociology, psychology, philosophy, politics and cultural anthropology. Most of all, you want to know what drives people!

(Binding) study advice
  • A minimum of 45 EC in the first 12 months (binding)

You will be offered study advice after first year of study. You can expect a positive result if you have earned more than 45 ECTS credit points (out of a total of 60 ECTS). If you have earned fewer than 45 ECTS and are issued a negative result, you will not be allowed to continue with your degree programme.

You will receive preliminary study advice in December to make sure that you know where you stand. Please contact your study advisor as soon as possible if you have any questions about the BSA system. N.B. Some degree programmes use a tutoring system; please check with your study advisor.

Study support

To support you while studying, the Faculty ensures that the timetable is feasible, that mentors, lecturers, student assistants and the study advisor provide active study supervision, that exams are marked quickly and that lecturers and the study advisor are readily contactable. The teaching programme in the first year will also include a number of study skills course units which aim to teach you good study behaviour right from the start of your degree.

During the introduction, you will meet your mentors and the study advisor. The mentors are senior students who have received special training. Every mentor group will have a maximum of ten first-year students and two mentors. In a series of eight meetings, the mentors will familiarize you with the Faculty. They will also help you and provide advice about studying/learning to study. In addition, you will also have opportunities to ask the mentors questions or discuss issues that cannot be brought up during the group sessions. At the start of the academic year, the study adviser will hold introductory meetings with all of the first-year students. This is when you can discuss your expectations of your degree programme, and any unusual circumstances. At the end of the first semester, all first-year students will also be invited to a study progress meeting with the study adviser. If it looks like you will incur study delay, please contact the study adviser yourself. The study adviser can help you with your planning, and also advise you confidentially about study problems and/or personal problems.

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