Theology and Religious Studies

Deposition of Christ

Deposition of Christ by Girolamo Siciolante da Sermoneta in 1568-73. Founders Chapel.

Welcome to the Theology and Religious Studies (TRS) subject page at King’s. You will find information here about TRS at King’s, the structure of the Cambridge TRS degree course, and information about applying as an undergraduate.

Theology and Religious Studies at King's

Theology has been studied in some form almost continuously at King’s since the College was founded in 1441. But there is nothing old fashioned about TRS today. It offers opportunities to study subjects ranging from the sacred texts of the world’s major religious traditions to the most pressing questions in the philosophy of religion or the most recent developments in medical ethics. It explores the fundamental questions relating to good and evil, war and peace, religion and science. It examines the way in which human society has expressed and used its religious convictions.

To study TRS at King’s you do not need to be religious - undergraduates who study TRS come from all religious traditions and none. What you need to be is interested in asking basic questions about human existence, meaning, and truth.

Divinity Faculty on the Sidgwick Site

The Faculty of Divinity (you'll have University lectures with theologians from all Colleges here).
Credit: Notis Toufexis

King's College Library is well stocked for TRS, available 24/7, and provides many pleasant places to study (see the virtual tour). As well as having the advantages of being a central College on the river, with easy access to shops and other Colleges, King's is one of the closest to the Divinity Faculty, which is five minutes away on the Sidgwick Site (see map) and houses a specialist TRS library. The University Library is also just behind the Fellows' Garden.

Theology students come from many different backgrounds and go on to a wide variety of careers. Recent King’s graduates in the subject have gone on into business, law, journalism, the Civil Service, music, charity administration, publishing, and teaching in both schools and universities.

The Theology and Religious Studies Tripos

The Cambridge TRS Tripos is exceptionally open in the options it makes available to undergraduates. Apart from two compulsory elements in the first year, you can choose whatever you want to study from the very wide range of courses on offer. This enables you to either mix up subjects as you go or to carve out a specialist area of interest over the three years – you could for, example, choose to concentrate on Ethics and Philosophy of Religion, or on World Religions, or on Christian Theology, amongst other possibilities.

The first year (Part I) is designed to introduce you to the basic concepts and skills needed in the study of Theology and Religious Studies. There are two compulsory elements to Part I which are a) the study of a scriptural language (Hebrew, New Testament Greek, Qur’anic Arabic or Sanskrit) and, b) the study of Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament) or the New Testament. The other three papers in Part I can be chosen from the five options available, covering the other subject areas studied in the Faculty (Doctrine, Philosophy of Religion, Church History, World Religions and the Study of Religion). A sixth option, Logic, is likely to be offered in the near future.

In the second year (Part IIA) you build on the skills developed in Part I. You study four papers, out of a choice of sixteen covering all eight subject areas available. The wide variety of subjects available allows you to develop a course suited to your own interests within the discipline.

In the final year, Part IIB involves studying four papers at advanced level which, once again, are chosen from a wide range of options, including specialist and interdisciplinary papers. You can also choose to write a dissertation in the final year instead of one paper.

Assessment is mainly by three-hour written examinations, but in each year of the Tripos there are some papers which are assessed on the basis of two coursework essays.

The state-of-the-art Divinity Faculty building was opened in 2000, and the department is one of the largest and best-staffed centres of theological study in the UK. In addition to its own staff, it draws on the expertise of the Faculties of History, Philosophy and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, amongst others. This, coupled with the Cambridge supervision system, means that students of Theology interact on a daily basis with experts in all the subjects studied within the discipline.

Director of Studies in Theology and Religious Studies at King’s

Stephen Cherry

Revd Dr Stephen Cherry is the Dean of Chapel at King’s, and Director of Studies in Theology and Religious Studies. He is currently writing a book about sin, as a follow-up his to his book on forgiveness (Healing Agony, Continuum, 2012).

To apply to study Theology and Religious Studies

We welcome applications from students who look able to meet our entrance requirements from any kind of school, all over the world.

There are no subject requirements for Theology and Religious Studies applications. Although Religious Studies may be helpful to you once here, it is not necessary to have studied it at school, and not having done Religious Studies will certainly not impede your application in any way. Subjects such as English, History, Religious Studies, Classical Civilisation, Philosophy and Ethics, and languages can be helpful for the course, but so can any subjects which will develop your ability to think logically, analyse texts carefully, and write essays. Students who have studied the sciences or mathematics are also welcome to apply. General advice for choosing subjects is available in our Subject Matters leaflet.

The application process is explained on our how to apply page, which we advise you to read thoroughly. Once you have applied for Theology and Religious Studies, you will be asked to submit two recent essays or equivalent pieces of school work (further details will be available after you have applied).

If you are asked to come to Cambridge for interviews, you would normally have a King's interview with the Director of Studies in Theology and another academic in a related subject (e.g. Philosophy or Anthropology). You will also be asked to go to a second College to be interviewed by the Director of Studies there. This additional interview allows the other College to assess you so that, should King’s be unable to make an offer, the second college will be able to consider doing so.

Introductory reading, resources and events

There is no required reading material for Theology and Religious Studies applications. Candidates should feel free to follow their own interests. If you are not sure where to start, the King's Director of Studies recommends the following books in particular:

  • Aldridge,A., Religion in the Contemporary World (Polity Press, 2000)
  • Davies,B., An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (Oxford University Press, new edition, 2004)
  • Ford, David F., Theology: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford University Press, 2000)
  • Mickelthwait, J., & Wooldridge, A., God is Back: How the Global Revival of Faith is Changing the World (Allen Lane, 2009)
  • Rogerson, J.W., An Introduction to the Bible (Allen Lane, 1999)

We also provide further preparation advice and reading suggestions for TRS applications, a New Testament Greek website, and general advice about developing your interests. The subject resources page has a tag for posts on Humanities, which you might like to browse.

Events which may be of interest in the year before you apply (year 12 in the UK) include the TRS Open Day, Oxford and Cambridge Student Conferences, and King's Open Days. Students from backgrounds where there is little tradition of entry to Higher Education might like to think about applying for the Sutton Trust Summer Schools or the CUSU Shadowing Scheme.

Further Information

Subjects | Undergraduate study | Back to the top