Study With Us - Postgraduate Studies

Four Specialisms in Master of Arts - Catholic Applied Theology

The Master of Arts in Catholic Applied Theology

The MA in Catholic Applied Theology is a 30-month, distance-learning programme, with short residential schools, successful completion of which leads to the award of the degree of Master of Arts, validated by The Open University.

The Open University

Listen to Programme Director, Dr Stephen Yates, discuss the MA in Catholic Applied Theology programme during a recent interview with Radio Maria Ireland:

Who is the Programme aimed at?

This programme is suitable for professional workers in pastoral ministries, those involved in the fields of religious education, catechesis and leadership in schools, and, indeed, anyone wishing to deepen their knowledge of various aspects of Catholic Theology, Ethics and Spirituality

What are the entry requirements?

The programme is open to candidates with an honours degree (2:2, or above), or an equivalent professional qualification. The Institute welcomes students whether or not they are from the Catholic community.

How long is the programme?

This MA is a 30-month, part time, distance-learning programme.

When is the next enrolment?

The programme enrols new students each January.

Aims of the Programme

The Programme aims to:
  • Enable students to engage in an informed, systematic and critical manner with Catholic theology, philosophy and the human sciences.
  • Equip students to exercise responsibility and independence in their studies and research and to be able to apply the fruits of these critically and creatively.


In the first 12 months, students study four modules consecutively, working from home following specially designed course books and associated reading. Each of the four modules require at least 15 hours per week of coursework and study time spread over approximately 10 weeks i.e. 150 hours in all. They also complete a research methods assignment.

In the second year of the programme, three further modules are studied and a dissertation proposal produced. Each of these four items requires at least 15 hours per week of coursework and study time spread over approximately 10 weeks i.e. 150 hours in all.

The final 6 months of the course focus on the writing of a dissertation.

It is possible, within the structure of the MA Programme, to terminate with the award of a Postgraduate Certificate (after Year 1) or Postgraduate Diploma (after Year 2).


While the vast majority of study is undertaken at home, over the course of the 30-month MA programme there are also 7 residential study weekends, during which students participate in lectures, seminars and tutorials. These residentials are an integral part of the academic and pastoral support offered on Maryvale programmes. To be eligible for any awards associated with a programme, students must attend these residentials, which take place at Maryvale Institute (Birmingham, UK).

**In response to restrictions imposed and uncertainties raised by Covid-19, Maryvale Institute is currently conducting all residentials and study days online. The situation will be monitored and reviewed regularly for course delivery in the future.**

Optional Study Weeks:

Each year there is the opportunity to participate in an additional study week, usually mid-March, for private study and use of the library, as well as the opportunity to discuss your work with a tutor. For details on the accommodation charges for these weeks, please see the Accommodation Fees page, as these are not included in the yearly Programme fees.


The programme has 4 pathways or areas of specialism, each with its own particular content. Please see “Specialisms on the MA in Catholic Applied Theology” below for more details.


Students are required to write an assignment for each of the four modules studied in the first year. The four module assignments each constitute 25% of the year’s total.

During the second year, students are required to write an assignment for each of the three modules studied that year. The three module assignments and the dissertation proposal produced each constitute 25% of the year’s total.

Between January and June of the final year each student writes and submits a 20,000 word dissertation. The dissertation counts for one third of the total mark for the MA degree, the other two thirds coming from Years One and Two.


This programme leads to The Open University award of Master of Arts (OU).

For more on the MA in Catholic Applied Theology's validation by The Open University: OU Student's Guide.

Studying Single Modules:

Perhaps you are interested in only some of the modules on our MA programme, or maybe you like the idea of doing the MA, but would like to experience what it is like to study on the MA without signing up to the whole programme at the moment. If so, contact us about enrolling to study single modules of your choice from the MA programme. We will be happy to advise you, and to talk with you about the ways we can support you if you choose this mode of study with us.

Course Fees

The level of course fees payable depends on whether you are a UK/EU or a non-EU student. Please ensure that you refer to the appropriate section on the course fees page.

How do I apply?

A non-returnable application fee of £50 is required when making application for this course. Details of course fees can be found here, where you will also find a link to the Institute policy on the payment of fees.

Applications are welcome up to the first week of January. To apply, you will need to send us your completed application and supporting documents (references, 500-word statement etc.) as detailed in the application form. On receipt of these, and the references that you will have arranged to be sent to us, your application will be considered and you will be notified within a week of the outcome. (NB This applies to applications received during term-time; those received during the holidays will be responded to within a week of term commencing).


If you have a disability or any long-term condition that impacts on your day-to-day life, please download the Accessibility Form, open and edit it in Acrobat Reader, and email or post the completed document to the Accessibility Coordinator (address included on the form), to ensure we can give you the best possible support during your course of study. Disclosing a disability will not be a factor in Institute’s decision as to whether or not to offer you a place on the course. However, it is important that the Institute knows if you have any specialist needs in order to provide you with appropriate support and facilities. This information will remain strictly confidential. For further information, please contact the Accessibility Coordinator by using the contact button below:

Specialisms on the MA in Catholic Applied Theology:

Students can choose one of four distinct different specialisms, or ‘pathways’, offered on the MA programme. Click the links for more information on each.


This pathway is for anyone wishing to deepen their understanding of the rational foundations of the Catholic worldview in order to be able to engage effectively with the intellectual challenges posed by the secular culture of our time. It is of particular relevance to all involved in preaching and teaching the faith in schools, colleges and parishes.
More information ...

Marriage and Family

This programme teaches the beauty of the Catholic vision for marriage and family life and is informed by the teaching of St John Paul II and is suitable for those preparing for or living the vocation to marriage and family. It will also be of interest to people involved in marriage preparation, pastoral care of the family, counselling as well as those involved in education, pro-life work, law, medicine and government and public policy.
More information ...

Religious Education and Catechesis

This programme is particularly suitable for those in the teaching professions: existing teachers of RE value the opportunity of improving their theological and professional expertise, while qualified teachers in other disciplines can specialise in R.E. in Catholic schools. The degree is also for catechists, parents, clergy and religious.
More information ...


This programme is for anyone wishing to deepen their understanding of the principles of Catholic spirituality in order to apply these in their life and work. It is of particular relevance to those in pastoral ministries (clergy, catechists, youth workers, chaplaincy teams and religious), as well as those in the teaching professions, who value the opportunity of improving their theological and professional expertise in the foundational area of spirituality.
More information ...


"I have little doubt that students receive more contact with teachers than most UK universities are able to provide...the quality of feedback remains, as I have said before on numerous occasions, outstandingly good: far better than UK university students would expect. Again, I am also impressed by how intelligently and constructively the different markers deal with students from very different educational and cultural backgrounds."

MA in Catholic Applied Theology External Examiner - 2020

Reflections from the January 2020 MA Year 2 Study Weekend

  • "This was a wonderful session! [The lecturer] is excellent, what a blessing!"
  • "[The session] took us to the very root of Christian love."
  • "Excellent on so many levels."
  • "This has been for me one of the most fulfilling weekends to date. This is in no way a reflection on the quality of previous ones but rather, now a year down the line, I have been able to draw from past modules which has greatly enhanced my understanding and involvement in this weekend’s studies."
  • "To be able to study in a Catholic environment and be taught by lecturers who share my faith is a very great blessing."

Students particularly appreciated:

  • "Clarity of content – excellent subject knowledge. Receptive and able to handle and develop questions/answers. Introduced me to scholars/books and concepts I have not explored in relation to Vatican II."
  • "Clarity of objectives – detailed content and good summary at end of all that was covered. Enjoyed the depth of information on prayer – new insights!"
  • "The quality of teaching"
  • "The hospitality of the [Bridgettine] Sisters."
  • "The prayerful atmosphere."

Reflections from the January 2020 MA Year 1 Study Weekend

  • "Interesting, informative, well-structured. Beautiful material."
  • "Everything was very appreciated – hospitality, sacraments, participation prayer/Mass, meals."
  • "[The sessions were] depth-oriented and person-centred … and set me up really well to engage my subject with a reflective and deeply spiritual focus."
  • "[The lecturer’s] practical experience added so much to her theoretical knowledge; this was crucial.

Comments from an external examiner

"As with the work I have seen from other years, the quality of feedback to students is outstanding – significantly better than most UK universities provide. I am also impressed by how intelligently and reasonably the different markers deal with students from very different educational and cultural backgrounds. ... My sense is that the level of personal attention by supervisors and tutors is higher than in most UK universities. Feedback on submitted work is constructive and rigorous. I am highly impressed by what I have seen."

External Examiner - MA in Catholic Applied Theology - 2019

Reflections from the September 2019 MA Year 2 Study Weekend

  • "Very supportive weekend. Helped to clarify dissertation points and what is required."
  • "Terrific, supportive weekend."
  • "Just totally worthwhile."

Students particularly appreciated:

  • "The challenge of having to articulate our thoughts on our dissertation proposals..., the safety of sharing our plans [in a supportive environment]. Listening to the plans of others, supporting and challenging them, their articulations helping us in our challenge. The wisdom of our tutor keeping the whole thing in shape."
  • "1:1 tutor sessions – SO grateful for all the help and skill given. Returning home fired up."
  • "Camaraderie. Brilliance. Support."

MA in Catholic Applied Theology Students - September 2019

Reflections from the May 2019 MA Year 1 Study Weekend

  • "Lively and entertaining."
  • "Clear and informative."
  • "Very helpful."
  • "Encouraging!"
  • "Very engaging."
  • "A time of reunion and meeting of new friends in a learning environment."

Students particularly enjoyed:

  • "The summing up of all the modules into one and the challenge to live it out."
  • "Helpfulness of support staff and lecturers. Opportunity to network with other students."
  • "Solid teaching delivered with humour; interaction."

MA in Catholic Applied Theology Students - May 2019

Reflections from the May 2019 MA Year 2 Study Weekend

  • "Wonderful presentation – I thought [the lecturer] was amazing, inspiring and thought-provoking."
  • "Very inspiring. Going away very motivated and ready to tackle more assignments."
  • "Thank you for another lovely weekend full of stimulating, friendly and diverse conversation."
  • "Lectures very good. The session with Dr Tracy Cattell was very beneficial and also the guidance on dissertation questions."

Students particularly appreciated:

  • "Continual dialogue. The obvious care for our well-being and, at the same time, academic progress. The focus with which the sessions are conducted."
  • "Focus. Clarity. Clear presentation."
  • "Support, friendliness, inclusivity, enjoyment, lots of intellectual debate and stimulation."
  • "Spiritual aspect. Supportive environment. Lovely lecturers."
  • "The whole experience – loved the opportunity to engage with the material. Was given clarity and encouragement to explore more deeply."

MA in Catholic Applied Theology Students - May 2019

Reflections from the September 2018 MA Year 1 Study Weekend

  • "Enjoyed the interactive nature of the discussion. Very enjoyable weekend."
  • "Excellent lectures and peer interaction."
  • "[I] found especially positive [the] Study Skills session. Dr Tracy was superb."
  • "Lectures very good. The session with Dr Tracy Cattell was very beneficial and also the guidance on dissertation questions."
  • "A good overview of the stages of a research project: starting point & refinement; reasons for doing i.e. personal and professional; coming up with a hypothesis and the resources to serve this - helped me to realise that my (primary) sources need to have authority; how chronological approach wasn’t going to work, another approach would have to be taken - good to be reminded that methods may need rethinking. Good to hear how the definitive questions to be addressed came about."
  • "[I] found especially positive the stimulation received; the buzz; [I was] bowled over by the expertise of lecturers - the crème de la crème surely! Sharing our stories/experiences with fellow students; meals with students and staff, the 'easygoingness', friendliness."
  • "A joy to listen to Cyril [Chilson], so knowledgeable, so immersed in the tradition he describes. Also found [Professor] John [Loughlin]’s insights and personal perspective fascinating. Both excellent speakers."
  • "Always great to listen to such knowledgeable lecturers and tutors."
  • "Great sense of community, as always."

MA in Catholic Applied Theology Students - September 2018

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