Research degrees in Divinity

The School's main research degree is the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), a three- or four-year degree focused on the completion of a PhD thesis of no more than 80,000 words.

The School also offers a two-year Master's degree (MPhil), and a one-year research Master's degree (MSt (Res)). The MPhil comprises the taught components of an MLitt in its first year, and a dissertation of about 40,000 words in the second. Find out more about the MPhil on its degree page. The MSt (Res) is a full-time research project to write a dissertation of up to 30,000 words. It is an excellent opportunity to spend a shorter time in a research environment either for a standalone degree or as preparation for a PhD.

The School welcomes applications for the PhD from qualified candidates from around the world in a wide range of theological and biblical disciplines.

Admission to the PhD is normally on the basis of a good Master’s degree in the applicant’s discipline (that is, an upper second-class degree or one with a minimum grade point average of B+ or the equivalent).

For the MPhil, completion of the first year of course work to a sufficient standard counts as the requisite Master’s degree.

In principle, the precondition of a good Master’s degree applies for admission to the MSt (Res). But if applicants to the MSt (Res) do not have a good Master’s degree and are not currently working towards one, the School of Divinity will consider admission if they have any of the following:

  • a first-class undergraduate degree (or one with an A-range grade point average or the equivalent) in the relevant discipline;
  • a writing sample and research proposal that the admissions committee judges to be equivalent to Master’s-level work;
  • other substantial evidence that convinces the application committee that the applicant is capable of research at the Master’s level.

As the thought of undertaking doctoral work can seem daunting and sometimes complex, the School staff invite you to contact them with preliminary queries. Your questions may be about the School, or you may be unsure about the practical arrangements involved in re-locating for a research degree. Whatever the case, secretaries, staff and current students are usually happy to help. 

Supervisors and subject areas

Each PhD student works with one or two supervisors. See a list of potential research supervisors for information about their supervisory topics and how to contact them.

Most PhD students also belong to one (or sometimes two) specific institutes or subject groups within the School. You can learn more about these institutes and subject groups, including their staff and students, on their individual web pages:

All these groups and institutes also run regular research seminars and other events.

The Institute for Bible, Theology and Hermeneutics offers additional opportunities for graduate students in Biblical Studies and Theology.

Research community

St Mary's College is a close-knit research community of senior and junior scholars. 

Its life centres on weekly seminars in five subject areas, at which staff and postgraduates discuss seminal texts or papers presented by speakers.

PhD students are involved in all areas of the School's research, including research projects, networks, conferences, and publications. Other research students may sometimes be involved as well.

There are many opportunities for professional development, including teaching opportunities, subject-specific and cross-disciplinary workshops, and conference funding. 

The Roundel is the dedicated study centre for research postgraduate students in Divinity. A historic, A-listed 16th-century building close to St Mary’s Quadrangle, it has shared offices for up to 50 postgraduates, a common room, a kitchen, and a walled garden. You can read more about the School's facilities on the facilities page.

How to apply

At the University's PhD application portal, you will find information about deadlines, fees, and funding.

For initial enquiries, use the contact information on this page, and the School's postgraduate administrator will be happy to help you. 

Applicants for PhD degrees are encouraged, but not required, to contact potential supervisors before applying. In the process of selection, the School's postgraduate committee will select a prospective supervisor for each applicant, taking into account previous discussion, subject fit, and availability. The staff’s areas of supervision can be found on the list of potential research supervisors page

The deadline for first consideration of research degree applications is Friday 3 November 2023. Complete applications must be received by this date. Late applications will be considered only if places in the relevant programme remain.

Please note that research degree applications will not be considered complete, or circulated for review, until all the required documents, including references, have been submitted. The School takes no responsibility for delays in the application process due to missing references.

If you wish for your application to be considered in the first round of applications, or for funding opportunities such as the SGSAH (see below), or Douglas and Gordon Bonnyman scholarships, then please alert your referee to the deadline and ensure that you have submitted all your documents by Friday 3 November 2023. Registry does not issue referees a deadline, so it is important that you make yours aware of it. 

How to apply

Scottish Graduate School funding 

Anyone who wishes to be considered for Scottish Graduate School for Arts and Humanities (SGSAH) funding through the SGSAH AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership, must first complete their online application for a place on the PhD programme, and then email a draft SGSAH application form to the Director of Postgraduate Research Studies ( at the School of Divinity by Friday 3 November 2023 at the very latest.

Since the SGSAH application process is very time consuming, you should apply as early as possible. Candidates who contact potential supervisors in October, or even before, will be at an advantage because the School will have more time to help them refine their applications. SGSAH applications must be approved for nomination by the School and then by a University panel before they can be submitted on the SGSAH website.

Full details concerning SGSAH funding can be found on their website. The School is particularly keen to support applications linked to their cluster of research expertise in Theology and the Arts, Religion and Politics, the Bible and its Theology, or Analytical and Exegetical Theology, or to any other area of individual staff expertise.