Religious Studies

Religious Studies at the OU is committed to the non-confessional study of religion, and the analysis of historical and contemporary religions through the application of critical, historical and sociological methods. Our 2021 Research Excellence Framework (REF) result placed us high among religious studies departments nationally and recognised the international significance, reach and rigour of our research. Our expertise in a wide range of research methods and approaches to religions provides an invaluable context for postgraduate research about contemporary religion in historical perspective and vice versa. Our leadership in important scholarly associations, conferences and publications places us at the forefront of the discipline internationally and greatly benefits our research students.

Key facts

  • 83 per cent of our research output was rated 3* and 4* (2021 Research Excellence Framework).
  • 75% of our research environment was awarded 3* (2021 REF).
  • We currently have nine full- and part-time research students.
  • Staff and students attend regular research events.
  • The Arts and Humanities Research Council Open-Oxford-Cambridge Doctoral Training Partnership (DTP) and the Economic and Social Research Council Grand Union DTP offer studentships for doctoral research in the discipline.


Most of our full-time research students are based away from our Milton Keynes campus but are resident in the UK.  For details of residence requirements for different modes of study see Full-time study and Part-time study.

Career prospects

Religious Studies students are highly employable. More than 82% go on to employment or further study, and 29% go onto professional jobs, in the NHS; the civil service; youth and social work, advertising, investment and banking, law, politics, business, the creative industries, the charity sector and NGOs, publishing and journalism, and education.



Find your research topic

Explore specific areas of research, current and prospective projects, entry requirements, fees and funding, available supervisors, how to apply and contact details for advice.

Contemporary religion in historical perspective

Global challenges and religious change

Place, pilgrimage, culture and performance

The state, citizenships and identities


It felt like a real achievement to have followed those threads all the way from the initial idea, to planning the methods, conducting fieldwork, analysing the material.

Owen CogginsPhD Graduate, Religious Studies department at the OU

I loved doing my PhD despite the intellectual difficulty of the task! Above all, I’m grateful for the rigorous training I gained in skills relating to research, writing and presentation.

Sarah FlewPhD Graduate, Religious Studies department at the OU