Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion

What is meaning? What is truth? What is time? What is matter?
The Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion Tripos at Cambridge offers a unique opportunity to study a most fundamental and wide-ranging subject, suitable for anyone wishing to ask big questions, and to gain the best possible grounding in the humanities.

The shape of the degree is radically interdisciplinary, providing courses in philosophy (classical, modern, and post-modern), cultural theory, literature, anthropology, Biblical studies, Biblical and other sacred languages, Church history, history of religions, comparative religions, gender studies, history and philosophy of science, theories of embodiment and selfhood, Christian, Jewish, Indian and Islamic theology, mysticism, and theories of ritual.

The structure of the course is based on the premise that the study of theology, philosophy and religion is the most crucial of all enquiries and must be undertaken in as comprehensive a manner as possible. The theology tripos is divided into two parts with papers taken over the course of three years. Already in the first year, undergraduates can select from a wide range of subjects, or specialise in a number of areas (e.g. New Testament, Philosophical Theology, Christian Theology, Islam, Indian Religions, Anthropology of Religion). In their third year, students may choose a distinctive route through their course by substituting a dissertation in a chosen area for one of their papers, or borrowing papers from other courses (e.g. Philosophy and English). It is also possible to apply for travel grants to conduct field work during the summer vacation. The faculty hosts a number of seminars, reading groups and public lectures which are open to undergraduates as well as graduates.

The Divinity Faculty holds an Annual Open Day to which all are welcome; for details, visit the Faculty website.

At Emmanuel your Director of Studies will ensure that specialist teaching is available in whichever area of the tripos you are studying. Small group teaching is a strong feature of the educational experience, here as in other colleges. Emmanuel has a long tradition of intense interest in theology, stretching back to the seventeenth century Puritans, the Cambridge Platonists, and their successors. Accordingly, the College has a well-stocked and ever-expanding library with an excellent collection, including some precious early manuscripts.

Ralph Cudworth (1617-1688) was a Fellow of Emmanuel College, together with several other Cambridge Platonists The group also included Benjamin Whichcote (1609–1683), Peter Sterry (1613–1672), John Smith (1618–1652), Nathaniel Culverwell (1619–1651), John Worthington (1618–1671), all one-time fellows of Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

Emmanuel theologians (students and fellows) run their own interdisciplinary Reading Group for Theology (the Whichcote Society). The group meets fortnightly to read primary sources together and to discuss topics relating to theology and philosophy.

Emmanuel has several fellows in Theology:

  • Professor Catherine Pickstock, Director of Studies, who is currently completing two books, Studies in Platonic Poetics and Aspects of Truth
  • The Revd Jeremy Caddick, Dean of Chapel, co-edited Anglicanism: The Answer to Modernity (Continuum 2003), a book of essays by Cambridge clergy.
  • The Revd Don Cupitt’s writings are extensive. He attempts to develop new thinking for a new epoch: a new philosophy, a new ethics, and a new religious thought. He is well known for his Sea of Faith television series.

Potential students should note that Emmanuel has several endowments available for supporting the particular needs of undergraduate and graduate theologians.

There is also a very active Chapel with distinguished visiting preachers every week during Full Term, a Chapel Choir, and several Christian groups within the college.

Career destinations for students are wide and varied, and reflect the fact that the degree provides an excellent grounding in the humanities as well as transferable skills. Recent career paths include journalism, politics, think tanks, further academic research, acting, film, photography, NGO work.

Finally, what do our current students think of studying at Emmanuel?

George Herring (3rd year) says: "Studying Theology at Emmanuel has allowed me to follow my academic interests flexibly in a remarkably friendly environment which encourages being busy and engaging in the community. I would wholeheartedly recommend applying!"

Admissions Information

Standard Offer: A*AA; IB - 776 at Higher Level, 42 points overall; Advanced Highers: A1A2A2; other exam systems.
Course Requirements: No specific subjects required. The course page on the university website gives details of what subjects Theology students have studied.
Course Outline: Further details are available on the Department's website.
Applying: For information on how to apply: University application process and Emmanuel application timeline.
Submitted Work:

Applicants will be asked – following receipt of their application – to submit two pieces of written work. These should be in essay format with a word limit of up to 2,000 words per sample. The work can be extracted from coursework or an EPQ. All work must be original and not re-written or corrected for Cambridge. The deadline for submission will be early November.

Admissions Assessment:

This College does not require applicants to take an assessment for this subject.


Candidates should normally expect two interviews. The interviews will take place during the period Monday 9 - Wednesday 18 December 2024. Specific subject dates will be emailed to applicants in November.

Applicants will be given a reading passage 20-30 minutes before both interviews. A discussion of the reading will form part of the interview. The readings may be extracts from sacred texts or other examples of theological writing.

Course Enquiries: Emmanuel Admissions Office