Theology and Religious Studies: Exploring a Discipline

A combination of guidance and freedom
Specialization of:Theology & Religious Studies
Title:MA Theology & Religious Studies

The MA specialization Exploring a Discipline is unique in its combination of guidance and freedom. Studying in the inspiring environment of the city of Amsterdam and the diverse Faculty of Theology of the Vrije Universiteit, the program allows you to pursue your own area of interest in theology and the study of religion.

This one-year programme is best for you if you:

  • want to deepen your expertise in and knowledge of a particular discipline or topic in theology or religious studies
  • are already a professional in the field of theology or religious studies (minister, teacher, chaplain, etc.) and want to deepen your knowledge.

You can either create a fully personalized programme, or follow one of the specializations. These are offered through the centers and chairs of the Faculty of Theology and the institutions affiliated with it.

Beyond these specializations, the programme coordinator is always happy to engage in dialogue concerning a tailored programme. The programme can also serve as the first year of the two-year Research MA in Theology and Religious Studies.

Structure and Electives 
The curriculum of Exploring a discipline consists of 2 required modules, Hermeneutics and Research Skills. These will provide the theoretical basis for research in theology and religious studies.

Besides these 2 modules, you are free to choose 3 modules from the list of master courses in the first semester. You can choose specialization courses in Dogmatics, Biblical Studies, Church History, Practical Theology, Philosophy and Religion and Islamic Theology and courses from the other 4 specializations (Leadership, Media, Spiritual Care and Teaching Religious Diversity).

The various tracks, thematic tracks and tracks within a theological tradition, offer particular sets of modules for this part of the programme, information can be obtained from the contact persons of the track you are interested in.

Core Modules 
In the module on hermeneutics you will be taught philosophical hermeneutics, which is one of pillars in the methodology of theology and religious studies. ‘Research Skills’ will deepen your understanding of methodology. In this course you will also be trained in the philosophy of science, scholarly argumentation, and in writing your thesis proposal.

The ‘master seminar’ is an integral part of the whole second semester. During your internship and writing your thesis, you will be coached and supervised within the ‘master seminar’.

Internship and Thesis 
In the second semester you will do a (research) internship, write your thesis and take part in the ‘master seminar’ (n.b.: this last course will have initial meetings during the first term!).

The thesis and internship topics are chosen in consultation with the coordinator of the programme. The internship can be an internship in an organization or company, but you can also do a research internship within the faculty of theology itself. Your MA thesis is an independent research project under the supervision of one of the members of the faculty, it will connect to your own focus and interest.

Theology & Religious Studies: Exploring a Discipline courses in the study guide.

Disciplinary Specializations
Disciplinary specializations are developed in cooperation with representatives of the disciplines present in the Faculty of Theology, such as biblical studies (Old and New Testaments), church history, practical theology, comparative religion, systematic theology, and ethics. A specialization consists of modules taught by scholars of the chosen discipline.

Thematic Specializations

Specializations in a Theological Tradition

Theology & Religious Studies: Exploring a Discipline courses in study guide.

The specialization ‘Exploring a Discipline’ first of all turns the student into a specialist in the chosen discipline, theme, or theological tradition. This qualifies a graduate for a range of professions, such as:

  • policy advisor on religion in governmental and NGO contexts (think of a police force that has to come to terms with religious radicalism);
  • editor in the field of religious publishing (imagine doing an internship in such publishing and making a career out of it);
  • specialist in the field of religion and law (needed when religious and secular law collide);
  • advisor or manager of educational programs in the field of religion and society (increasingly in demand, given widely spread ‘religious illiteracy’);
  • theological advisor to institutions with a religious background (for instance, schools and hospitals).

Furthermore, if you complete your masters with a grade average of 8 out of 10, you can enter the second year of our Theology & Religion Research Master. In this year you will be trained further in research skills and be prepared for your PhD. This can be the gateway to an academic career.

  • Study in the beautiful and multicultural city of Amsterdam.
  • Participate in a diverse, multi-religious community of learners.
  • Enjoy a unique combination of structure and flexibility in your programme.
  • Take advantage from personal interaction with and individual supervision from professors.
  • Benefit from top-level research and high-quality research-based teaching.
  • Profit from the strong bonds between the faculty and various societal organisations and initiatives.
  • In 2018 the Faculty of Religion and Theology was ranked number 5 in the world by the QS World University Rankings.

William Harding



"The Exploring a Discipline program has helped me find what I am truly passionate about! The flexibility of the program allows you to find your individuality within the confines of rigorous academics, bountiful seminars, and first rate faculty members. It was perfect for me, as I did not have a specific research interest (but now I do!)." 

Annemarie Foppen



"By choosing 'exploring a discipline' I was able to create my master exactly as I liked. I am now combining my passion for theology with social psychology."

Dutch students

Students holding a Bachelor’s degree from a Dutch University (WO) are directly eligible for admittance in this Master’s programme.

Students with a suitable HBO degree can apply for a premaster’s programme (this programme is taught in Dutch). Our Admission Board will have to approve your request for admission. 

You need to apply before July 15th in Studielink. The registration has to be completed before August 31.

For questions about the programme
Please contact the programme coordinator:

Prof. dr. Peter-Ben Smit

Information days
Meet us at the next Master's Event!

International students

The Faculty’s Admission Board will decide upon your admission after having evaluated your complete online application. 

In order to gain admission to one of our Master’s programmes, you will need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited research university including at least three full years of academic study amounting to a minimum of 180 ECTS or equivalent.

Specific admission requirements for the Master’s Programme Theology and Religious Studies, specialization in Exploring a Discipline:
Students with a Bachelor’s Degree in Theology or Religious Studies from a university abroad will only be admitted following an assessment of their degree by the admissions board. 

Students with Bachelor’s degrees in other disciplines are also welcome to apply, provided that the degree obtained is from a research-oriented university. Before the start of the academic year the student needs to have an intake with the coordinator of the specialization. The aim of this intake is to discuss possible deficiency in theological knowledge of the student.

You must always present official test results proving your proficiency in English. Only students who have completed a full high school or bachelor’s degree in Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, New Zealand, or Australia may be exempted. We require a TOEFL score (score 580 paper based, score 237 computer based or score 92 internet based) or an IELTS score of 6.5 overall band score. Cambridge English: Cambridge Proficiency Exam A, B, C, or Cambridge Advanced Exam A, B, C. 

Please check out the Admission page for the general requirements.

If you have read the admission criteria and feel you are eligible for admission, please take the following steps to submit your application. Note that the initial application procedure is fully online and that scans of your relevant documents are required.

Step 1: Meet admission criteria

Step 2: Prepare documents and apply online
Please prepare the following documents. All documents should be provided in English.

  • Copy of your valid passport or ID (ID only for EU residents)
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Motivation Letter
  • Letter of Recommendation
  • Transcript of records
  • Thesis (or another sample of academic writing, at least 5 pages plus a list of used literature)
  • A description of the relevant courses followed and literature used during your previous higher education.

After having prepared the required documents, please follow the online application procedure. After you have completed the application, our international student advisors will contact you via e-mail.

Step 3: Await decision on admission
The admission board will review your application as soon as it is complete. Normally this takes about four weeks, but it might take longer in busy periods so be sure to apply as soon as possible. If you gain admission, you will receive a letter of conditional admission by email. You can start planning your move to Amsterdam!

Step 4: Finalize your registration and move to Amsterdam!
Make sure to finalize your registration as a student before the start of the programme. Here you will find an explanation what to do after admission. When all conditions are met you will be ready to start your programme at VU Amsterdam!

Further information:
Tuition fees

As an international student planning to study at VU Amsterdam, you can apply for a variety of grants and bursaries.

Detailed information about scholarships and deadlines can be found on or

For questions about the programme
Please contact the programme coordinator:

Prof. dr. Peter-Ben Smit

For practical questions regarding your application
Please contact our International Student Advisor:

Stipo Jeleč
T: + 31 (0)20 598 8920

Information days
Meet us at the next Master's Event!

Eva van Urk



"The specialization Exploring a Discipline enables me to follow my own research interests. At the same time there is a good interplay with other theological disciplines. Very inspiring." 

Overview Theology & Religious Studies: Exploring a Discipline




1 year (full-time) / 2 years (part-time)



1 June for Dutch and EU-students. 1 April for non-EU-students.


1 September




Specialization of Theology & Religious Studies (1 year)