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University of Otago
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Master of Arts (Coursework) (MA(Coursework)) in Religious Studies

This course is available

Online, On-Campus

Level of Study

Master's Degree


1 year

Next start date

Expected Jul 2024


University of Otago


The Master of Arts (Coursework) programme is designed to give students the skills sought-after by employers around the globe, with a balance of specific subject knowledge plus broad-based transferable skills – such as oral and written communication, and analytical skills.

The degree is also an possible qualification for the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD).

The MA(Coursework) normally requires either 12 months or three semesters of full-time, or equivalent part-time, study and entails completion of papers and a dissertation.

The dissertation is a major piece of supervised research of up to 20,000 words.

The primary aim of the MA(Coursework) is to provide candidates with a grounding in their chosen subject area within a wider disciplinary frame. The degree cultivates the skills needed to identify a significant topic, design and implement a significant piece of research, and present the findings in a form acceptable to an expert readership.

Why study Religion?

Religion is as old as humanity itself. Despite the rise of science and modern technology, the majority of people in the world today are religious, and current demographic trends reveal that – as a whole – the world is becoming more religious. In order to understand humans, human history, and the contemporary world, we need to understand the multifaceted nature of religion and its place in human societies.

Religion offers you the opportunity to become familiar with religious movements, their history and the influence they currently wield. By studying religion, you will learn to enter empathetically into a world of thought that may be very different from your own, without losing the ability to ask critical questions about it.

Career opportunities

Religious Studies graduates can be found in many walks of life, including MP, UN adviser, lecturer, analyst, archivist, development organiser, and even a TV show host.

Our graduates have particular qualities valued by employers in many fields including:

Excellent critical thinking and writing skills

The ability to find information, analyse it in a logical and systematic manner, and communicate it clearly

Wide-ranging knowledge of both human history, culture and contemporary affairs

The ability to enter with empathy into the minds and hearts of others, to understand what motivates and shapes their behaviour.

Further study

Postgraduate studies include master’s degrees by research or by coursework (either in Religion or in Buddhist Studies) and a PhD. Graduates in Religion who choose to go overseas have been accepted for postgraduate study at some of the world’s best universities.

Entry criteria

Admission to the programme shall be subject to the approval of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Humanities).

Every applicant must either

  • be a graduate, or
  • have alternative qualifications or experience acceptable to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Humanities).

In considering an applicant's qualifications, regard will be had to the detail of the course of study followed to gain the qualification, as well as the applicant's performance in the programme. Applicants must normally have achieved an average grade of at least B in the papers at the highest level in the programme.

English language requirements

  • IELTS (Academic module) (including IELTS Online) - Overall score of 6.5, no individual band below 6.0.
  • TOEFL iBT - Overall score of 90 and a writing score of 21.
  • C1 Advanced (previously Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)) or C2 Proficiency (previously Cambridge English Proficiency (CPE)) - Overall score of 176 (with no individual band below 169).
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic - Overall score of 58 with no communicative skills score below 50.
  • Language Cert - International ESOL: C1 Expert (LRWS) with a high pass overall and no less than a pass in each skill OR C2 Mastery (LRWS) with a pass overall and no less than a pass in each skill.
  • NZCEL - NZCEL 5 Academic endorsement
  • English New Zealand's Accredited Pathway Assessment - Assessment Level 3 (with no skill lower than Level 2).
  • APIEL Advanced Placement International English Language Examination - Grade 4 or higher.

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