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EducationMaster's and PhD degree programmesTheology & Religious Studies - Research
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Theology & Religious Studies

How can we interpret the influence of religion on local and global developments? What are the relationships between religion and other cultural domains such as science, philosophy and politics?

In this Research Master's Programme you will study how religion is embedded in present-day and in historical cultural contexts. You will explore the impact of local and global socio-economic and political developments on religion, and how religion contributes to such developments. A staff member whose research interests in religion matches yours best, will act as your supervisor throughout the programme.

You will acquire an overview of central debates in the study of religion and develop key research skills by following three compulsory core modules. We offer four specialization routes within which you can develop your individual research profile and skills. Your individual, tailor made route within the programme consists of a combination of optional modules from one of the one-year master specializations, research traineeships, (individual) tutorials and writing a thesis and a research proposal. The modules, traineeships and tutorials are designed to equip you with in-depth knowledge of specialized subjects, together with subject-specific methodological skills. The final specialisation occurs in the Research Master's thesis, which forms the basis of a PhD thesis proposal or an application for research funding.

Facts & Figures
MA in Theology & Religious Studies (research)
Course type
Research master
24 months (120 ECTS)
Croho code
Language of instruction
Theology and Religious Studies
Why study this programme in Groningen?
  • Best Research Master's programme in Theology and Religious Studies in The Netherlands
  • Taught by leading experts with a world-class reputation
  • Small classes with intensive supervision.
  • Students can follow their own research interests
  • Focus on the dynamic relationships between religion, culture and society

In the first year the programme consists of the three compulsory core modules (30 EC), three specialization modules (15 EC), a tailor-made (individual) tutorial (5 EC); a research traineeship (5 EC), and a specialization elective (extra module, tutorial or research traineeship) (5 EC).

CoursesCourse Catalog >1234
Theories of Religion and Culture (10 EC)

You will encounter important ideas that have influenced the development of the study of religion, and become acquainted with the key figures who shaped these ideas, analyze influential texts, and discuss issues posed by the introduction of new concepts and methods.

Specialization modules (15 EC, optional)

Three course units from the 1-year Master's tracks.

Field specific research skills (5 EC, optional)

Methodology elective from one of 1-year Master's tracks.

Philosophy of Science in the Study of Religion and Culture (10 EC)

This course offers a critical understanding of what today is called 'science' and 'scientific method.'

Elective (5 EC, optional)

Extra course unit from 1-year track, or tutorial, or traineeship

Generic academic skills (5 EC)

Including Writing in English

Research Trainee-ship (5 EC)

A research activity, such as writing a book review, doing an archive search, making a field trip, holding interviews, giving presentation, or participating in summer school.

Tutorial (5 EC, optional)

The first semester of the second year you preferably go abroad to take extra courses, tutorials and research traineeships. Alternatively, you do your specialization course units, tutorials and research traineeships in the Netherlands. The programme will be completed with a master's thesis (25 EC) and a research proposal (5 EC).

N.B.: Presentational skills, and skills to write a research proposal are trained throughout the two years programme in a series of workshops and in monthly meetings with PhD members of the Graduate School.

CoursesCourse Catalog >1234
Elective (5 EC, optional)

Extra course from 1-year track, or tutorial, or traineeship

Research Traineeships (15 EC)

Three trainee-ships

Specialization Module (5 EC, optional)

One course unit from one of the 1-year Master's tracks.

Tutorial (5 EC)
Thesis (25 EC)

Final thesis of your research.

Writing Research Proposal (5 EC)

Research Proposal for PhD-position

Study load

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


Two core modules (20 EC); Research classes, tutorial. and traineeships in all fields of Theology and Religious Studies (40 EC); Thesis/Research Proposal (25/5 EC), and six optional modules (30 EC) from our Master's programmes in Religion, Conflict and Globalization; Religion and Cultural Heritage; Religion and Pluralism, Ancient & Modern; Religion, Health and Wellbeing

Programme options
Religion, Conflict and Globalization (specialization)

What is the role of religion in modern society? How does globalisation affect local religious traditions? When does religion appear to inspire both violence and peace?

Looking around the world today, it is clear that religion plays a role in many of the major conflicts going on at various levels. Furthermore religion plays an important role in people's lives worldwide, and has become one of the major ways people connect with each other across the globe. However, the persistence and prominence of the role of religion in contemporary societies is still not sufficiently understood in academic research and in the work of policy-makers, NGO's and journalists.

This degree programme addresses the pivotal place of religion in the dynamics of globalization that shape present-day societies. The programme is interdisciplinary, examining political, social, psychological and cultural dimensions. You will learn to:

  • investigate the consequences of globalization for religious practices and individual, ethnic and national identities
  • examine how secular frames and identities are implicated in conflicts involving religion
  • understand the relationship between religion, conflict and peace-building
  • analyse national and international conflicts, and learn how they are interwoven with religious interests and opinions

More information about this option

Religion and Cultural Heritage (specialization)

Are you fascinated by history and culture? Want to help shape today's cultural landscape? Find out what defines “heritage”? Learn how museums plan exhibitions or how heritage policies are created?

Memory produces identity. That is why heritage is crucial for our sense of continuity in rapidly changing societies.Governments, national and international organizations need to make sense of the past as they make policies for and invest in heritage. The aim of this master's degree is to give you the theoretical and practical education necessary to take an active role in this exciting and growing field.

Why study heritage at a faculty of Theology and Religious Studies? Because most of the heritage around us stems, one way or another, from religious practices and ideas. If you want to understand heritage in all its facets, you want to study with experts who know the full story behind material and intangible heritages both locally and abroad.

The track Religion and Cultural Heritage in the Master's Programme in Theology and Religious Studies combines broad cultural competence with a high-level academic research training and the practical skills relevant for today's job market. Through concrete projects and internships, you can gain hands-on experience in the field.

More information about this option

Religion and Pluralism, Ancient & Modern (specialization)

How did the Romans view religious-political differences? How did ancient Jewish, Christian, and Muslim authorities use authoritative texts?

Tension between group solidarity and productive relations with ' others' has been part of human history for as long as evidence exists. In Europe it has played out most enduringly in relations among the monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Today, in the face of mass migration from Muslim regions, questions of political identity and belonging remain bound up with religious affiliation. This one-year degree programme focuses on relations between Jews, Christians and Muslims in the antique world and how these relations have formed our modern society. We will explore concepts as religious pluralism, politics, and their many interfaces globally in particular.

In this track you will:

  • examine the literary sources of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in a historically informed way in order to bring critical perspectives to modern interpretations;
  • identify continuing issues in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic self-definition, toleration of difference, and exclusionary or conversionist tendencies;
  • map a range of ancient possibilities for coexistence or conviviality and their opposites under changing conditions.

More information about this option

Religion, Health and Wellbeing (specialization)

What role does religion and spirituality play in our experience of health and wellbeing? How does the biomedical focus of current healthcare practice affect us?

This interdisciplinary degree programme will examine what it means to be ill or healthy in diverse, individualized and highly technological societies, from psychological, cultural, ethical, and political perspectives. Not only do religious, cultural, political, physical, and technological diversity influence how we try to recover or maintain our health, they also influence what we think 'health' is in the first place.

More information about this option

Master's Honours Programme: "Leadership: making the difference' (honours program)

Honours programme of the University (15 EC).

For students who have a Bachelor Honours degree and who have attended a University College or were actively involved in (student)organizations besides the regular master programme.

Study abroad

  • Study abroad is recommended
  • 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:

Entry requirements

Admission requirements

Specific requirementsMore information
assessment interview

After selection based on the motivation letter, the grade list and other information, an interview with the student is part of the procedure.

entry testNo further information
grade average

On average, grades for Bachelor-2 and Bachelor-3 courses should be 7.5 or higher (on a scale of 1 to 10). The quality of the bachelor's (or master's) thesis is very important.

grade list

Certified transcripts should testify to the candidate's competences.

language test

Sufficient knowledge of English: a TOEFL score of at least 600 (paper), 250 (computer) or 100 (internet), or a minimum score of 7.0 in IELTS (International English Language Testing System; overall; 6.5. on parts) is required. Native speakers of the English language, as well as Dutch applicants with a VWO certificate, are exempt from this requirement.

previous education

BA in Theology or Religious studies or BA in a related area in Humanities, Philosophy or Social Sciences.

reference letter

Two letters of recommendation by professors who are well acquainted with your work as a student; these letters may be sent to us separately before March 1 (non-EU) and May 1 (EU);

written request

A covering letter outlining your interest in the programme, including your motivation and expectations.

other admission requirements

For other aspects of the admissions procedure (CV, study plan proposal, certified copy of your bachelor or master thesis, other documents that may highlight your eligibility for the programme, a photocopy of your valid passport, copies of your higher education diplomas and grade transcripts) see

Transfer options

Study programmeOrganizationTransition
Interdisciplinary Social ScienceAll Research universitiesAdditional requirements
Arabic Language and CultureAll Research universitiesAdditional requirements
Cultural Anthropology and Development SociologyAll Research universitiesAdditional requirements
Arts and CultureAll Research universitiesAdditional requirements
History (part-time)All Research universitiesAdditional requirements
GodgeleerdheidAll Research universitiesAdditional requirements
GodsdienstwetenschapAll Research universitiesAdditional requirements
Hebreeuwse en Joodse StudiesAll Research universitiesAdditional requirements
HumanistiekAll Research universitiesAdditional requirements
Islam en ArabischAll Research universitiesAdditional requirements
SociologyAll Research universitiesAdditional requirements
Theology (part-time)All Research universitiesAdditional requirements
Theologie KlassiekAll Research universitiesAdditional requirements
Theologie PlusAll Research universitiesAdditional requirements
WereldgodsdienstenAll Research universitiesAdditional requirements
Study programmeOrganizationTransition
Religious StudiesUniversity of GroningenAdditional requirements
Liberal Arts and SciencesUniversity of Groningen

Additional requirements

More information:

Required: letter of motivation, overview of results of your bachelor program, CV, writing sample of academic paper. Depending on your former study and courses a reading package will be provided. We assume that you are aware of the concepts and theoretical discussions outlined in this literature.

Admission requirements

Specific requirementsMore information
assessment interview

After selection based on the motivation letter, the grade list and other information, an interview with the student is part of the procedure.

grade average

On average, grades for Bachelor-2 and Bachelor-3 courses should be 7.5 or higher (on a scale of 1 to 10). The quality of the bachelor's (or master's) thesis is very important.

grade list

Certified transcripts should testify to the candidate's competences.

language test

Sufficient knowledge of English: a TOEFL score of at least 600 (paper), 250 (computer) or 100 (internet), or a minimum score of 7.0 in IELTS (International English Language Testing System; overall; 6.5. on parts) is required. Native speakers of the English language, as well as Dutch applicants with a VWO certificate, are exempt from this requirement.

previous education

BA in Theology or Religious studies or BA in a related area in Humanities, Philosophy or Social Sciences.

written request

Students have to apply for admittance to the programme by a admission form and a motivation letter.

other admission requirements

Language requirements

ExamMinimum score
IELTS overall band7
IELTS listening6.5
IELTS reading6.5
IELTS writing6.5
IELTS speaking6.5
TOEFL paper based600
TOEFL computer based250
TOEFL internet based100

Application deadlines

Type of studentDeadlineStart course
Dutch students01 May 202001 September 2020
EU/EEA students01 May 202001 September 2020
non-EU/EEA students01 March 202001 September 2020
Tuition fees
NationalityYearFeeProgramme form
EU/EEA2019-2020€ 2083full-time
non-EU/EEA2019-2020€ 12500full-time

For the most recent information on tuition fees, see:

Practical information for:

After your studies

Job prospects

A degree in Theology and Religious Studies (research) provides a perfect background for:

  • admission to PhD programmes at national and international institutes and universities;
  • positions outside academia for which academic research skills are required;
  • positions as civil servant, advisor or policymaker with local and national government;
  • teaching positions.

Job examples

  • PhD position
  • Independent scholar
  • Secondary education teacher
  • Civil servant or policy advisor at national or local government
  • Position in publishing


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 organise events where students, PhD students and staff engage in lively discussions.

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Master's WeekBroerstraat 5More information


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

						Testimonial of Laura Vollmer (USA)

    The Research Master accommodates diverse interests

    – Laura Vollmer (USA)
    Read more

    As someone interested in a variety of subjects that do not clearly belong to a particular discipline, I found the Research Master's in Theology and Religious Studies in Groningen to be an excellent fit. The programme's interdisciplinary nature and the diverse opportunities for research traineeships provide students with the flexibility to develop a unique course of study.

    While working towards my first MA in East Asian studies, I found myself increasingly drawn to topics that challenged the very analytical categories we use to define disciplinary boundaries, such as 'Eastern' and 'Western' cultures, or even 'religion' and 'science.' Understanding how these boundaries are constructed and deconstructed is essential for a reflective and accurate analysis.

    Now as a Research Master's student, I have the opportunity and support to explore largely uncharted territory, such as the public role of 'privatized' spirituality, the religiosity of science, and the scientification of religion, and to compare systems of knowledge across cultures. These topics often give rise to metaphysical and epistemological matters, such as the clash between the often physicalist worldview of science and the dualist view of many religious philosophies. The traineeships allow me to explore these topics that lie outside traditional disciplinary lines uninhibited.

    This programme is providing me with the training I need to become a distinctive and innovative scholar.

						Testimonial of Erik Meinema

    The programme helps me to understand social tensions and look for ways to resolve them

    – Erik Meinema
    Read more

    Since the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York on 9/11, Islam has been at the center of many debates. In many European countries the presence of Islamic symbols and rituals in the public domain is disputed. Samuel Huntington's book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, which predicts an inevitable clash between 'Islam' and 'the West', receives support in parts of the academic world.

    During my BA Religious Studies, I was already very motivated to understand these debates, as I believe that it is both worthwhile and necessary for academics to look for ways to resolve the social tensions related to these debates. To further my understanding on these matters, I decided to focus on the role religion plays in international relations, conflicts and peace building during my Research Master's programme in Theology and Religious Studies. Therefore I did four months of anthropological fieldwork on the fight of Religious NGOs against HIV/Aids in Kenya and Uganda. Furthermore, I am planning a research trip to Ambon, Indonesia, for my MA-thesis to learn from the peace building process there.

    This is exactly what I like about the Research Master's programme in Groningen. It offers possibilities to be involved in subjects of your interest that are socially relevant in many different ways. What makes the master's programme even better is the fact that you receive excellent supervision and guidance from your personal mentor. My mentor, Dr. Marjo Buitelaar, proved to be an excellent coach by advising me about practical, personal and academic choices related to the activities I undertake.

						Testimonial of Dr. Christoph Jedan

    The most demanding and rewarding degree programme that we offer

    – Dr. Christoph Jedan
    Read more

    The Research Master in Theology and Religious Studies is in many ways the most demanding and rewarding degree programme that we offer. In addition to specializing in a specific research area, you receive intensive 'generalist' academic training. This combination will be an important string to your bow; you are trained to connect your core expertise with different research traditions — a valuable asset wherever you choose to apply your talents.

    In the Research Master programme, I co-teach the course 'Religion, Ethics, Pluralism' with Kim Knibbe. It is one of the three course units that provide the 'generalist' training. You learn to analyse responses to religious diversity from different angles: historical, anthropological, sociological and philosophical. We explore how you can use your own research expertise to make a fruitful connection to the topic and the theories you have analysed in the classes.

    My own research interests lie in the historical and philosophical part of the curriculum. I am interested in the role of religion in ethics and political thinking, and more broadly in the history of ideas. For instance, I have worked on the changing face of virtue ethics, from Ancient Greek and Roman philosophy to its use in today's political election programmes.

    At the moment I am intrigued by the changing attitudes towards consolation in Western culture. While philosophers and theologians in the past wrote letters of consolation and treatises about how to offer comfort to the bereaved, the culture of a highly argumentative approach to death and dying has increasingly come under pressure. What can this development tell us about the role of religion, about changing views about the self, reason, emotion and human fulfilment? To cut a long story short, consolation is an understudied but fascinating and highly significant cultural 'marker' for the development of Western culture.

    Are you interested in such questions yourself? Come and have a chat.  

						Testimonial of Birgit van der Lans

    The Research Master improves your chances of being accepted for a PhD

    – Birgit van der Lans
    Read more

    When I started my Bachelor's degree programme in Religious Studies I already knew that I wanted to do research, and that it should be about 'something old'. In the end, the world and writings of Jews and Christians in the Greco-Roman period captured my interest most, partly thanks to the great expertise of the teaching and research staff in the Department of Jewish, Christian and Islamic Origins.

    I am now writing my PhD thesis and also teaching several course units at the Faculty. Doing a Research Master's programme improves your chances of being accepted for a PhD programme – my PhD project on Jewish and Christian self-definitions in the cultural and political context of first-century Rome even evolved out of a paper I wrote for one of the Research Master's course units. It also helps you find out if research is really what you want to do, and whether you have the motivation, the perseverance and the analytical and writing skills needed to complete a PhD programme.

    There are several reasons why I chose to stay in Groningen for the Research Master. There is a good balance between core course units on the one hand, in which you work with peers on the same subject, and the freedom to design a tailor-made programme on the other hand. I spent part of my programme at the University of Oxford and took course units at the Department of Ancient History in Groningen. Another reason is that the Faculty is a very open environment, well connected with interdisciplinary networks across the University, which really broadened my horizons. Collaboration with Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology in the CRASIS institute still helps me in my present research studying Jews, Christians and their writings not in cultural isolation, but as part of the ancient world.

Student profile

The two-year research programme is offered to highly qualified and motivated students, who have a wide-ranging interest in religion and who wish to study in a challenging academic environment that stimulates personal ambition and development. You will be prepared to carry out postgraduate academic research.

Study support

Master's students are expected to show a large degree of independence. If necessary you can make use of various forms of study supervision and study support. For example, you can contact a mentor or your study advisor. While writing your thesis, you will receive personal supervision from one of the lecturers.

Immediately after arrival, students who gained their Bachelor's degree at a different faculty or university as well as international students will be allocated a mentor who will help them get to know the Faculty. You can also go to the study advisor if you have doubts about your abilities or for whatever reason run the risk of study delay. You will receive intensive supervision while writing your thesis. The Master's programme includes a thesis seminar, where attention is paid to how to tackle writing a Master's thesis, and where the progress of the process is monitored closely. You will also receive structural supervision from the lecturer who is the specialist in the field of your thesis.