Theology and Religious Studies: Research

Exploring our most deeply held beliefs!

Are you fascinated by research and you enjoy studying? Have you also achieved excellent results for your Bachelor’s degree? Then this Master’s programme is perfect for you! 

Enrolling for a research masters at this faculty, you will be studying a specialized area within either theology or religious studies and get more in-depth knowledge in these fields. Read more below to learn about the uniqueness of this programme at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.  Unique to the Research Master at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam:

  • Your religious convictions are the starting point of a journey in which you learn to critically develop your own worldview in dialogue with others.
  • Specialization in Biblical studies and Digital Humanities
  • Specialization in Bible Translation
  • Specialization in the History of Religious Exile
  • Specialization in Reformed and Evangelical Systematic Theology
  • Specialization in comparative approaches to religious diversity
  • Specialization in the study of religion, peace and trauma. 

During the programme, you will enroll in a number of specialized courses in your field and area of interest. You will also pursue research by participating in faculty research projects, or you will explore new approaches to your specialization with a period of studying abroad. Throughout the Master’s programme, you will be part of a community of researchers in a graduate seminar, dedicated to your
area of study. Tutorials with a mentor will enable you to keep track of your
development as a researcher. After two years of doing a lot of interesting research and gaining new in-depth skills and knowledge by training, you will be ready to enter the PhD programme offered by the Graduate School of Theology and Religious Studies at VU Amsterdam.

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More information:
Information days

The research masters is a two year programme (120 credits). The programme consists of in-depth training in specialized research and allows advanced studies in all major subdomains in theology and religious studies. 

Specializations offered 
Thematic Specializations are directly linked to research centeres that are part of the faculty:  
•    Biblical Studies and Digital Humanities, linked to the Eep Talstra Center for Bible and Computer
•    Innovation of Traditions in Early Christianity, linked to the Amsterdam Center for New Testament Studies
•    Bible Translation, linked to both abovementioned centers
•    History of Religious Migration, linked to the project on Religious Exiles
•    Reformed and Evangelical Theology in Contemporary Society, linked to the Herman Bavinck Center for Reformed and Evangelical Theology
•    Building Interreligious Relations, linked to the Amsterdam Center for Cultural and Religious Diversity
•    Peace, Trauma and Religion, linked to the Amsterdam Center for the Study of Lived Religion and the Amsterdam Center for Religio and Peace & Justice Studies

First year 
The year will start with a course in Hermeneutics where the specific hermeneutical approach to theology and religious studies, which is unique to VU Amsterdam, will be taught and exercised. You will also take two courses within your chosen specialization and do a research internship that provides insight to the chosen field of study. In addition, you will read two classical (theological) works together with students from other specializations. 

Second year 
In the second year, you will follow two courses in their chosen specialization and one course of your own choice, further deepening and broadening your academic expertise. Furthermore, you will design a proposal for a PhD dissertation.

More information

Theology & Religious Studies: Research courses in the study guide.

A gateway to doctorate research

The Theology & Religious Studies (research) masters degree is the gateway to writing a doctoral dissertation at VU Amsterdam. Students who want to pursue their theological studies at a doctorate level are strongly advised to complete this masters programme. If you graduate from this programme with consistently outstanding grades (an average of at least 8 out of 10), you will be eligible for acceptance into the doctoral programme at the University’s Graduate School of Theology.

After having completed this programme, many students start a PhD project at our university and elsewhere. Others have used the programme to specialize in a profound way so as to make themselves better prepared for research intensive jobs in in professional fields such as the media, NGOs, or government at local, regional and national level. 

History and Identity 
Since its founding in 1880 by the statesman and theologian Abraham Kuyper, Vrije Universitieit Amsterdam has been committed to first-rate scholarship and learning from a particular point of view. Kuyper was convinced that one’s own worldview plays a key role in academic scholarship. In line with this, we are proud that within our faculty of theology, theology or religious studies are not practiced from a seemingly neutral point of view, but take their starting point in one’s own worldview, scrutinizing and developing it in terms of its history, its authoritative texts and through dialogue with others. This is also what makes this programme so unique to the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. 

Dialogue and diversity 
VU  Amsterdam is located in The Netherlands and has deep bonds with the Reformed Protestant tradition. In recent years, however, the scope of the faculty has broadened along the lines of contemporary Western society, creating a place for mutual enrichment and dialogue, while at the same time fully respecting the identity of the various confessional and religious traditions. Your education will be enriched by fellow students who come from various denominations; from Pentecostal to Mennonite to Islamic to Evangelical to Buddhist. Students from other countries bring new and different perspectives on life and faith, which makes this programme even more interactive. 

The Faculty of Theology is housed in a modern building in Amsterdam with a first-rate theological library on site. The building is equipped with the latest technology and study facilities. As a student you will have access to these facilities. 

Amsterdam is one of the most beautiful cities of the world and the cultural capital of The Netherlands. You will be able to live in Amsterdam and benefit from all activities and cultural aspects this bubbly city has to offer. For students in theology or religious studies, Amsterdam is a perfect context to study, because of the multi-religious identity of the city. 

Namju Chae

Student MA Theology & Religious Studies (research)


"Following the Biblical Studies specialisation, I am very satisfied with the academically, student-focused atmosphere. All different religious backgrounds and interests are respected, and students are encouraged to pursue their own tradition. Professors are open to any challenging questions, and help students to achieve their own academic goals. If someone is eager to study, this is the place where you can get the most of out of it."

Overview Theology & Religious Studies: Research




2 years



1 June for Dutch students. 1 April for EU and non-EU students. EU students with an international degree who do not need housing services through VU Amsterdam can still apply until 1 June.


1 September





Johan Smits



"The research master provides the possibility to explore various tools and methodologies for scientific research in theology. What I liked most about it was the opportunity to pursue in-depth study of my subject, nineteenth-century liberal theology, for two years."

The programme of the Master of Theology and Religious Studies (research) is offered both full time and part time. There are no special teaching hours for part time students. Following the programme on a part time basis means that you follow the programme half time. If full time students have two courses at the same time, a part time students follows one course. Fees are the same in both cases.

Full- time students of the Master’s programme Theology and Religious Studies (research) are very much encouraged to study part of their programme abroad. Preparations should be started as early as possible through conversations with the programme director. Students may benefit from one of our Erasmus+ contracts with universities in Europe or from one of our Memoranda of Unverstanding with universities outside Europe. More information about opportunities for study abroad can be found at VUNet (for students). 

Students may study abroad in the second semester of the first year, or the first semester of the second year. The Master thesis must be written under the supervision of a VU staff member.

Jolien van Braak



"It was a great opportunity to study abroad during my RM at VU Amsterdam at the University of St Andrews, one of the top universities in the UK. This was a great addition to the Research Master programme, since I gained knowledge and skills on my specific field of interest in theology and the arts. Next to academic profits, I expanded my international network and grew socially and personally. Because it entails so much more than just doing some modules at a university abroad, I recommend studying abroad to all Research Master students."

Dutch students

Students holding a Bachelor’s degree in Theology or Religious studies (the average grade has to be 7.5 or higher) from a Dutch University are directly eligible for admittance in this Master’s programme.

You need to apply before June 1st in Studielink. The registration has to be completed before August 31.

A pre-master programme is not available since applicants must have a university degree to apply for admission to the Master of Arts in Religion and Theology (research).

Coordinator of the Master of Theology and Religious Studies (research) 
dr. Katya Tolstaya

VU Public Relations Office 
Please phone us at +31 (0)20 598 5000 (Monday - Friday, 9:00 to 17:00). You may also e-mail us at:

International students

Admission is based on a strict selection procedure. 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 

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. Your grade average needs to be equivalent to (or higher than) a 7.5 in the Dutch grading system. 

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 refer to the language requirement page for the general requirements regarding the English language test. 

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. You can find an explanation of each document on the application page. All documents should be provided in English. 

  • Copy of your valid passport or ID (ID only for EU residents) 
  • Curriculum Vitae
  • Motivation Letter
  • Two Letters 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 you have taken during your previous higher education 
  • A list of all the main 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 about; 
Tuition fees

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

Detailed information about scholarships and deadlines can be found on or

Additional Scholarship offered by the faculty: Mijntje Pruissen Scholarship

Mijntje Pruissen Scholarship is a Merit scholarship programme for strongly motivated international students with excellent study results. Eligible candidates must be able to prove their academic excellence, and they must be admitted to the Master’s programme in Theology and Religious Studies (all specializations, and both the one- and the two-year Master’s programme). This concerns English taught Master’s programmes only.

Students eligible for this scholarship are students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) who are applying for an English taught Master’s programme in Theology and Religious Studies at the Faculty of Theology. Students with the Dutch nationality and/or a Dutch degree (if the Dutch degree is used for admission) are not eligible for admission.

The scholarship amounts to €5,000. Application deadline: 1 April

For more information or questions about the procedure please send an e-mail to:

Mr. Stipo Jelec

Coordinator of the Master of Theology and Religious Studies (research) 
dr. Katya Tolstaya

For detailed questions about the Master’s programmes or the application procedure contact your International Student Advisor at the International Office: 

Stipo Jeleč          
Tel + 31 (0)20 598 8920 

VU Public Relations Office 
Please phone us at +31 (0)20 598 5000 (Monday - Friday, 9:00 to 17:00). You may also e-mail us at: