‘It strengthens your convictions': How studying Divinity changed their lives
The University of London’s online Bachelor of Divinity programme examines some of life’s most fundamental questions and explores various ways in which beliefs influence individuals and communities. Every year, it attracts students from all walks of life. Here we hear from students about their experiences on the course - which was completely redeveloped between 2017 and 2021 and is hosted by the world-class Department of Theology and Religious Studies at King’s College.
Retired GP Alison Jackson has spent her career immersed in the medical sciences but now finds herself back in education on the Bachelor of Divinity programme.
While there is some overlap between the two fields, particularly around ethics, it has felt like a career change. “In some ways, I might have wanted to do humanities right at the start, but somehow or other I finished up doing medicine. It’s been nice to do something new,” she says.
She has enjoyed modules on Biblical Hebrew and Koine Greek which help inform her readings of biblical texts in their original tongue. “It’s quite difficult to teach yourself these languages, so you need some input to learn, but once you’ve got that basis, it makes studying the texts a whole lot easier.”
And the degree has helped her contribute even further to her local church, where she is a volunteer, and keep active in retirement.
Alison enjoys the “intellectual stretch” of learning how to write about the humanities, a new skill which differs from scientific writing, and she appreciates the breadth of the material. “What is valuable about this course is that you look at lots of other perspectives, so you're not actually being taught in a confessional based setting,” she says. “It strengthens what your own convictions are.”
The flexible online format allows her to fit her studies around her life and family and volunteering commitments, and through it all, her teachers have been supportive. “The team at the office are very nice. They're very professional and they go out of their way to help. I'm now on my fourth year and they are developing the course, so you can see that they're working on it and thinking about it, which is great.”
Going forward, she expects the degree could open some doors for her. “I can see that it would give me the opportunity to go further in various ways, but I'm just taking it one step at a time.”
Now based in his native Finland, missionary Miika Kaunismaki spent a large part of his studies carrying out ministry work around the world.
"A big portion of my studies was done from Iceland and then parts of it were in Tanzania,” he says, recalling that he once wrote an essay in the back of a taxi. “There was a traffic jam so I just took my phone and wrote part of my essay in the taxi and finished it on the computer when we finally got into the hotel, which took quite a while because traffic can sometimes be pretty harsh.”
The online format enabled Miika to complete his studies from anywhere in the world without having to withdraw from other projects. “The University of London offered a full degree, which I could do completely remotely, so that was a win-win for me, so I could at the same time travel and work in different ministries, and advance my degree, which I wouldn't have been able to do otherwise.
I’ve been in six different countries while studying the programme, so it’s been very flexible for me and I’m very happy about it.
Miika was also drawn to the authoritative reading list and the help he got in discerning important texts. “The programme has an elegant classical take on many things. The texts that are offered are usually the most classical and most respected sources, and of course, along with some new modern takes on them. You really get a good overall picture of what is going on in theology, of key issues and top names in each field.”
He hopes the degree will give him even further credibility and knowledge should he decide to write about his missionary work or embark on further study.
Find out more about the programme on the Bachelor of Divinity course page.