Choosing a Divinity School in the UK

Matt has prompted me to try and answer a question a student of his had on how to choose a divinity school in the UK. There are many factors that one should consider; here are some that come to mind.

Masters or PhD?

I knew when I came to the UK that I wanted to do another masters degree. The education I received during my masters from Southeastern was outstanding, but it didn’t necessarily prepare me for the research that I would need to do at the PhD level. Not always, but usually, if you have not undergone any type of “real” research the universities you are applying to may want you to undergo a one-year masters degree before commencing towards doctoral work. I also considered that having two degrees from UK universities may open me up to opportunities that I may not necessarily have by only studying in the US. 

I am quite pleased that I did the masters degree. It has been a time of tremendous spiritual and academic growth. It has definitely prepared me for the research that will take place at the doctoral level and in some ways I feel a bit ahead of some of my friends who came straight from a seminary into the PhD.

Subject area and Supervision

Your subject area and supervision are pretty key to choosing a program. All faculties try and have a balance in what they can offer in their research but its interesting how each faculty also has a sense of identity and what they are known for and what kind of researchers they produce.

Because the UK PhD is all about the individual research you need to look for a program and or supervisor that suits what you want your research project to look like. This is why it is important to look at faculty bios and research. You should look for faculty members at the university that can provide supervision for the project you are wanting to do. More frankly, will the scholar want to supervise the project you are researching? Being able to find a supervisor you can work with will make your experience much more enjoyable. This looks different for each person. Some people may choose a supervisor because he or she is the best in the discipline. Others may choose supervisors who are not as prominent in the field right now but are brilliant at guiding the student through the thesis project. So also consider what type of supervisor you may need.

Residential or Distance?

There are options to do a PhD either residentially or at a distance. There are definite advantages and disadvantages to either. Most if not all of the major universities require all full-time PhD students to be residential. So, if you want a degree from any of the bigger named universities residential is probably what you’ll want to do.


This is not so much solely about the UK, but should be considered when pursuing doctoral studies. What kind of community is there at the university? Both academically and personally. New College has a wonderful sense of community among both faculty and researchers. Because I work in the Old Testament, several of us began putting together “gatherings” for Old Testament faculty/researchers and our families. We get together and just hang out. I can’t tell you how much we’ve enjoyed getting to know one another’s families. There is a real sense of community when you realise how many other families are doing exactly what you are doing and learn from others about living in the UK, traveling around Europe, and coping with being attached to such nerdy people.

Anybody else have any thoughts?

Cultural Blunder Numero Uno

This is a previous post from another blog but I thought would share it as a part of the details of my family and I moving to Edinburgh.

Several months ago I began the application process for New College. Completing an application at New College is extremely easy because with the online account, you just upload your documents and when everything is uploaded you can then send your application with total peace of mind that you have submitted all that is needed.

My blunder, however, came at the very beginning of the application process: setting up an online account with the university. To begin the process you must enter your name (as it appears on your passport–otherwise getting your visa could prove quite challenging) and then your date of birth. Unlike the US where we normally give our date of birth as: mm/dd/yyyy the UK ordering is dd/mm/yyyy. Now, my birthday is May 16 (for those desiring to send me good things on that day–cash is always nice) which means I was entering in that I was born during the 16th month which may only occur in Star Trek: The Next Generation. Seeing as the University has not made the switch the official trekkie calendar it kept rejecting my enrollment.

I cannot emphasize enough how many times I entered my birth month as the 16th month hoping for Edinburgh to get a clue from all those TNT reruns! My hope continued in vain (Error: Please enter valid information). After several days (it felt like weeks) I emailed the university to inform them that their online enrollment was suffering from glitches (I know, I’m such a good samaritan). After emailing back and forth with a very helpful individual at the university he started troubleshooting the problem immediately: was it the software update, no the software is fine. Maybe, I should try using a different browser, no, same error. Maybe, try using a pc rather than a mac (I know, it’s funny to think about the mac being at fault or using a pc as the solution). Finally, I emailed him the actual error message. “Oh!”, he said (wrote). “You are entering in your date of birth wrong. In the UK, we enter our DOB as dd/mm/yyyy not mm/dd/yyyy like you do in the states.” Surely, I could not have made such an easily avoidable mistake. I mean–I can read. I do have a masters degree after all. I looked at that opening page nearly 30 times. But the next time I looked there was something different–something had changed (it really had not), next to the empty field box I saw it–dd/mm/yyyy. Now, I knew that I was bound to make cultural miscues during our time abroad. I just had no idea that it would come at the very FIRST step in the process. I’m sure those of you who know me are not at all surprised that I would misstep so early. All I can do is shrug and smile at your assessment.