‘It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done’: What studying Divinity means to them
The Bachelor of Divinity, one of the University of London’s oldest degrees, can be tailored to focus on Christian theology or religion more broadly, and offers fresh insights and perspectives to students from all religious backgrounds and none. Here we speak to a current student and a graduate about their online degrees, study experiences and their hopes for the future.
Religious literacy can help combat intolerance and foster greater appreciation of different faiths.
That is according to Alec Howells, a religious studies and computer science schoolteacher who enrolled on the University of London’s Bachelor of Divinity to deepen his understanding of religion.
Studying the subject can be rewarding whatever your beliefs, says Alec, who does not have a religious background. "There are people on the Bachelor of Divinity who do not have a faith or have different faiths, and studying religion, regardless of your faith, is meaningful, worthwhile and useful."
The Divinity degree led him down unexpected paths of study, with a module on Buddhism opening up new perspectives and in turn filtering into his lesson plans. “When we studied Buddhism, I created a short course on meditation and put that into our year nine syllabus. Similarly with early Christianity, I did a module on early church history, which I really enjoyed, and I was able to help redesign the year eight early Christian syllabus,” he says.
Alec enjoys the part-time, distance learning format, which gives him the flexibility he needs to juggle all his commitments.
And support is always on hand. “The programme team is always available. They run weekly drop-ins and are always happy to schedule individual meetings outside. They've been very, very supportive and each module has a specific tutor who you can contact through the Virtual Learning Environment and who is always very happy to engage with clarifications and generally facilitate discussion.”
Going forward, Alec is considering embarking on postgraduate study. “Just through the level of study and the variety of views that this course gets you to engage with, I feel very ready for postgraduate study in the area following this course.”
Would he recommend the course to prospective students? “Yes, absolutely, easily. It's one of the best things I've ever done.”
Programme alumnus Albert Chu works as an actuary during the day and volunteers in his local church as a bible teacher in his spare time.
He enrolled on the online Bachelor of Divinity in a bid to receive formal training on biblical languages and interpretation, having initially pursued his interests through self-study for a few years.
He was drawn to the course’s tailored structure which allows students to focus on either Christian theology or religion more broadly through a range of modules: “I think that’s a very unique proposition.”
And the programme helped broaden his horizons.
“The programme gives you a lot of different perspectives on religion, Christianity and biblical research that helped shape my own understanding and stance towards them, and they are important especially for me as I have a religious belief,” he says.
The flexible online format allowed Albert to juggle work and other responsibilities while studying remotely from Hong Kong and Japan."This is the only degree that offers distance learning of biblical languages that provides enough depth, without the need to attend lessons.
“I work in the finance sector, which does not permit me fixed hours for lessons, so the unique combination of flexibility and autonomy that this gave me, while offering something challenging enough, is the reason why I enrolled,” he explains.
Albert, who is a father-of-two, says self-discipline was challenging, particularly as he became a parent to young sons and worked towards his goal of receiving a first-class honours degree, which he achieved.
Just like in life, the most challenging part is usually the most rewarding. I feel very proud of being able to complete my course and write a dissertation on some of my favourite topics. It is something that still thrills me.
The University of London’s online Bachelor of Divinity is hosted by the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at King’s College and was completely redeveloped between 2017 and 2021. Find out more about the programme on the Bachelor of Divinity programme page.