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Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion


St John’s College normally admits a small number of undergraduates (usually two or three) to study Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion each year. The subject also regularly attracts undergraduates after their first or second years. In addition, the College also has a number of postgraduates, an active Theological society and a well-stocked section in its Library. There are two teaching Fellows in the subject, but the College also makes much use of the considerable resources of the other colleges in Cambridge.

Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion is one of the most wide-ranging of the subjects that can be studied at Cambridge with papers in history, philosophy, languages, biblical studies and religion and the human sciences. Students can study all the major faiths and there are a number of innovative and interdisciplinary papers which reflect the particular strengths of the Cambridge Divinity Faculty including: Christians and Muslims before and after Muhammed, Self and Salvation in Indian and Western Thought, Theology and Science, Christianity and Society in Africa and its Diaspora.

Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion is taught ‘from scratch’ and there is no requirement that candidates have studied the subject at A-level. Interest in the subject is the only factor of importance and candidates are not required to adopt any confessional position. Graduates in Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion have been successful in many careers, including the Civil Service, the legal profession, accountancy, teaching etc.

One year’s study of a language (Greek, Hebrew, Arabic or Sanskrit) during the course is required by the Divinity Faculty.  For some students an interest is sparked which can then be developed over the course of the degree.  Some linguistic ability is regarded as a favourable indication (a good GCSE grade in a language might be taken as evidence).

The Faculty is small and friendly and located in a well-designed and much admired contemporary building on the large Arts complex on the Sidgwick site.

Directors of Studies

Dr Hilary Marlow - Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion

UCAS Code: V600

Entry Requirements

Typical offer levels are: A-Level A*AA and IB 40-42, with 776 at Higher Level. No specific subject requirements, though the study of humanities is a useful preparation.

Application / interview procedure: 

Those who are invited to attend for interview will have two interviews at St John's. Your first interview will be with the Tutor for the subject, and the second with two of the Fellows in Theology. There is usually a further interview at another College to ensure that, if your application is pooled, there is the best possible chance of being taken by another College. 

The aim of these interviews, which last up to 30 minutes each, is to find out from you at first hand about your motivation and aptitude for the course you have chosen. We conduct our interviews in a friendly and informal manner, and you should not feel daunted by the prospect of them. Although the Director of Studies will naturally want to discuss subject-related questions with you, no special preparation is necessary, or indeed desirable. You should expect to be asked questions relevant to the topics you have covered in your A-level modules – or equivalent, but in addition there will be questions and discussion exploring a wide range of issues such as the arguments for the existence of God, the relationship between religion and science, or the nature of fundamentalism. There is no attempt to catch candidates out, nor is the interview a test of memory or of detailed factual knowledge, it is more concerned with exploring your ability to think through a particular issue, explore all dimensions, and produce a coherent and well-founded answer.

In order that we can see for ourselves what sort of work you have been doing on your present course and take this into account in our overall assessment of your application, we ask you to send us two pieces of written work that you have done recently. These may be items written either under controlled conditions or in your own time, but you should send us the work you most enjoyed writing, the material which in your view shows your skills and potential to best advantage. If there is time within the 30 minutes allowed for each interview, there may be questions relating to the written work you have submitted.

At-Interview Assessment

Applicants for Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion will sit an admissions assessment at interview, more information is available here. 

I studied Theology at St John's from 2008-2011. I found the course to be interesting, varied (you can choose from a wide variety of modules) and intellectually stimulating, which is exactly what you want from a degree-level course. Many of the skills that I gained studying Theology, including, analysing and summarising dense texts, have proved to be vital for my role as a commercial lawyer...
I applied to study theology at St John's after studying philosophy and ethics at AS/A-level and finding it really engaging. Coming from a state school, I initially (and naively) felt daunted by the impressive history and beautiful grounds at St John's. Everyone was really friendly from the get-go though, and there's a welcoming atmosphere as soon as you start, helped by your DoS and Tutor(s), who...

Further Information

The Rev'd Duncan Dormor, Director of Studies (djd28@cam.ac.uk) is happy to respond to individual enquiries about studying Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion at St John's. He is also happy to speak to any schools or potential applicants. 

Further details about the Tripos can be found on the Faculty website and details of the Faculty's Open Day can be obtained from The Divinity School, West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9BS, tel: (01223) 763002 or by email.

Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion Course Video, courtesy of the University of Cambridge