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Master Practical and Contextual Theology

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  • Entry requirements
    Students will normally be expected to hold an upper second class degree in theology or a cognate discipline. Applicants with backgrounds in religious studies, religious education or with professional theological training are welcome.
  • Academic Title
    MA / PGDip / PGCert Practical and Contextual Theology
  • Course description
     MA / PGDip / PGCert

    The MA in Practical and Contextual Theology has been designed to enable you to reflect theologically on your own area of practice and interest. Learning to draw on, examine, and critique your own context at this advanced level will foster and strengthen your theological abilities. The programme team is committed to working with you to develop ideas that have a lasting relevance to your context, both now and in the future.

    The MA seeks to enable you to understand and critique practice by setting it in its social, cultural and theological contexts. You will gain from the programme:

        * An ability to use a variety of theological methods in Practical and Contextual Theology
        * An ability to bring theological and other theories into critical discussion with selected practices
        * An ability to research into theory and practice, and write up a substantial dissertation
        * An ability to be an independent and life-long learner, who can take a realistic view of how your learning is developing and how it might be improved.

    Recognising the needs of adult learners, there is considerable flexibility built into the overall structure. Enrolment can be at any time and assignments are submitted at any of nine assessment points spread throughout the year. Payment is on a module-by-module basis and module deadlines can be extended on payment of a modest supplementary fee. The entire programme must be completed within five years.

    The programme has a long history originating with the former Westminster College, now Westminster Institute of Education and part of Oxford Brookes University. The Institute runs theological courses, building upon the University's considerable expertise in distance learning, which, with the support of the theology, religious studies and philosophy staff, ensures it remains at the cutting edge in its field.

    This MA attracts students from a wide variety of backgrounds. Many, but not all, will bring some faith commitment to their studies, and are seeking to understand and reflect critically upon their own practice. There are also students who are keen to explore the potential of theology as a critical resource, and its potency within modern society and culture. This diversity enriches the programme, which is as inclusive as possible. The resources of theology and of other disciplines such as sociology, philosophy and religious studies are explored in relation to students' own experiences.
    Course content

    The structure of the MA in Practical and Contextual Theology has been made as simple and flexible as possible, and is designed to be completed in a minimum of three years and a maximum of five years. The programme is divided into three stages: Stage 1 (taught), which leads to the postgraduate certificate; Stage 2 (taught), leading to the postgraduate diploma; and Stage 3 (the research and dissertation stage), which leads to the MA. While engaging with this programme you will gain a wide range of academic and practical skills, and will acquire the habits of independent study and thought required for lifelong learning. The programme curriculum has been designed around compulsory and free choice modules. The first modules in Stages 1 and 2 are compulsory, as is the Research Methods module at the beginning of Stage 3. However, research methods training is provided progressively from the beginning of the programme. The dedicated Research Methods module in Stage 3 is designed to give you the range and depth of appreciation of research methods needed for the dissertation.

    Compulsory modules:

        * Practical and Contextual Theology (20 credits)

        * Social and Pastoral Theology (20 credits)

        * Research Methods (10 credits)

        * Dissertation in Practical and Contextual Theology (50 credits).

    Optional modules (subject to availability)

        * Sociological Studies for Theology (20 credits)

        * Organisational Studies for Theology (20 credits)

        * Church, Mission and Contemporary Society (20 credits)

        * Women, Church and Society (20 credits)

        * Faith and Learning (20 credits)

        * Spirituality and Learning (20 credits)

        * Theology, Religion and the Plurality of Faiths (20 credits)

        * Gender Studies and Contextual Theology (20 credits)

        * Theological Ethics (20 credits)

        * Spirituality in a Plural Society (20 credits)

        * Liturgy in Contemporary Practice (20 credits)

    Teaching, learning and assessment
    The programme is delivered by distance learning and you will be supported with high-quality paper-based and electronic materials. A dedicated virtual learning environment provides you with discussion boards, resources and study skills advice. There are opportunities for you to meet tutors and fellow students in Oxford at the optional residential schools held for distance learning students in Theology and Religion. Modules generally involve approximately 200 hours of student input, and assessment normally consists of one or two assignments per module, totalling 3,000 words. Significant student support is offered.

    The degree has consistently received high levels of endorsement and approval from its external examiners, and is at the forefront of developments in practical theology by distance learning. Academic staff teaching on the programme are active researchers in the areas of philosophy, theology and religious studies. As well as specialisations in spirituality, gender, philosophy of religion and ecclesiastical history, staff have considerable experience in the distance learning environment.

    Personal and Professional Development
    The MA  enables students to be more critically aware practitioners; to be more able to allow new thinking to challenge existing practice; to be more able to test theory in the light of application; to be more able to engage in constructive dialogue between thought and practice in their own situations. We thus seek to enable students to see their situation more completely, to perceive more options and to discriminate more effectively between them. The MA deliberately brings together Christian theology and other disciplines because these can fruitfully illuminate theory and practice.

    As one former student attests, the MA can have an impact not just on one's own development, but on that of one's area of practice.

    ‘At least 8 members of the Scripture Union have completed this programme, which not only has benefited us personally but has impacted widely on our thinking here. For example, one person’s work on 11-14s and the Bible is being used all over the world; another on dialogue between Christian & Muslim young people has resulted in membership of the Christian Muslim Forum; another on the spirituality of children and musical engagement has led to significant further involvement in that area.’

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