Theology & Religious Studies: Research

Exploring our most deeply held beliefs!

Theology & Religious Studies: Research

The Master's programme Theology & Religious Studies: Research enables you to study a specialized area within theology or religious studies. Unique to this programme is that your religious convictions are the starting point of a journey, in which you will learn to critically develop your own worldview in dialogue with others. Next to compulsory courses, during your Research Master's programme you will enroll in a number of specializations in your field of interest. And, note, there is a lot of freedom in how you will finally organize your programme.

If God exists where is (S)he?
Does archaeology ‘support’ or ‘debunk’ the Bible?
Can a digital key to Hebrew grammar validate the Biblical narratives?
What are the historical roots of contemporary challenges such as the "migration crisis"?
What role do religions play in conflict and how can religion contribute to the overcoming of violence and help in reconciliation after conflict?

You want to get a scientifically justified answer to the questions like these? Are you fascinated by research and enjoy studying? Did you achieve excellent results for your Bachelor’s degree? Then this Research Master’s programme is perfect for you!


The Master's programme Theology & Religious Studies: Research offers specializations in a Thematic and in a Theological tradition, which are directly linked to research centers that are part of the faculty.

Thematic Specializations:

Biblical Studies and Digital Humanitiescontact person: prof. dr. Wido van Peursen
Innovation of Traditions in Early ChristianityAmsterdam Center for New Testament Studies
Bible Translationcontact person: prof. dr. Lourens J. de Vries
History of Religious MigrationProject on Religious Exiles
Interreligious Relationscontact person: prof. dr. Marianne Moyaert
Peace, Trauma and ReligionAmsterdam Center for Religion and Peace & Justice Studies

Download the schedule of the specializations in a Thematic tradition (pdf).

Specializations in a Theological Tradition:

Reformed and Evangelical Theologycontact person: prof. dr. Henk van den Belt
Buddhismcontact person: dr. Henk Blezer
Islamcontact person: dr. Yaser Ellethy

Why VU Amsterdam?

Jan Martijn

Alumnus Theology and Religious studies: Research

The Master's programme Theology & Religious Studies: Research is a two-year programme (120 EC). The classes are scheduled for Tuesdays and Thursdays.

The programme consists of in-depth training in specialized research and allows advanced studies in all major subdomains in theology and religious studies.

First year
The year starts with a course in Hermeneutics where this unique approach to theology and religious studies will be taught and exercised. You will also take two courses within your chosen specialization and do a research internship that provides insight into 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 your 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, or gain skills in writing an academic text relevant to your specific situation.

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

General opportunities
Many have used the programme to prepare themselves for research intensive jobs in professional fields such as:

  • researcher, policy advisor, and/or (speech) writer for research institutes, media, NGOs, or government at local, regional and national level;
  • education (at secondary as well as higher professional education level);
  • further specialization in coaching and spiritual care (for instance in health care and penitentiary system).

A gateway to doctorate research
The PhD programme, offered by the Graduate School of Religion and Theology at VU Amsterdam, could be the next logical step in your academic career.

After having completed this programme, many students start a PhD project at our university or elsewhere. Students who wish to pursue their theological or religious studies at a doctorate level are strongly advised to complete this Research Master's programme. If you graduate 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 Religion and Theology.

The Research Master's programme Theology & Religious Studies 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 Research Master's programme Theology & Religious Studies 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.

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 Research Master’s programme.

You need to apply before July 15th 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. E.V. (Katya) Tolstaya

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

Vrije Universiteit 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 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
  • 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 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 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 Religion and 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: April 1st.

For more information or questions about the procedure please send an e-mail to Stipo Jeleč,

Coordinator of the Master of Theology and Religious Studies (research)
If you have questions about the programme you may contact dr. E.V. (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
T: + 31 (0)20 598 8920

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

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:

Johan Smits


pro_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."

Jolien van Braak


pro_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."

Overview Theology & Religious Studies: Research




2 years



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


September 1st