Study With Us - Postgraduate Studies

Four Specialisms in Master of Arts - Catholic Applied Theology

The Master of Arts in Catholic Applied Theology

Recruitment is currently closed for this programme.

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

Listen to former 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, and at least two years' relevant experience. 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.

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).

Teaching and Learning Methods:

Students follow the course at home by accessing pre-recorded lectures which introduce each module, and then working through the online texts, exercises, designated readings, and assignments which constitute the module. Online seminars are provided throughout the academic year during which issues relating to particular modules or projects can be engaged with in a group setting. One-on-one tutorials using various online conferencing platforms are also provided, giving students the opportunity to discuss academic and pastoral issues with the Programme Director, and other members of staff. The online seminars 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 online seminars.


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. On two of the pathways, this is supplemented by an oral presentation that constitutes 30% of the assignment total for module 3 (and also for module 7 in the second year). The four module assignments each constitute 25% of the year’s total. In addition they are required to complete a short research assignment at the end of the first year, which constitutes 20% of module 8. The remaining 80% of module 8 is met by the dissertation proposal undertaken in the second year.

During the second year, students are required to write an assignment for each of the three modules studied that year, and to produce a dissertation proposal. The three module assignments and module 8 (Research Methods) 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).

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?

While we are unable to enrol new students at the moment, as HE provision is being phased out within the Archdiocese of Birmingham, the institute is currently in discussion with another institution to find a new academic home. In the meantime, we remain open to course enquiries and are happy to take declarations of interest from potential students. If you wish to register your interest, please get in touch with us through the contact button below and the Programme Director will reply to you.


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 ...


Comments from an external examiner

"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

Reflections from 2021 MA Year 1 Study Weekend 2

Students particularly appreciated:

  • “Loving every moment!"
  • “Firstly, I would like to say how impressed I was with [the academic’s] abilities as a lecturer. Not only his style of delivery, but his knowledge of and enthusiasm for the subject matter. His slides were excellent and the way the lectures were aligned with the Coursebook was particularly helpful in putting everything in context. I felt afterwards that I had been given a comprehensive overview of the module and was confident that there wouldn’t be any complete surprises to come regarding the learning objectives and assignment.”
  • “First, may I say that the course is excellent, and the module books and readers are well written and informative. [The administrator] is fantastic and extremely helpful, as is [the Librarian]. [The Programme Director] is very approachable and supportive.”
  • “Clarity and structure, insight and examples.”
  • “Easy going style and comprehensive explanatory approach to the topic in hand.”

Reflections from 2021 MA Year 1 Study Weekend 1

  • “I'm loving it!”
  • "This introduction and beginning of studies was all online - and not on location in Maryvale [due to COVID restrictions] - but it achieved a real sense of what Maryvale has to offer: a sense of community, ecclesial community, learning- coming together to pray and developing relationships with fellow students and tutors."
  • “[The lecturer] enabled everyone to be relaxed about the topic, his style of communication was clear and not complicated. He pointed to some key figures in apologetics and to important texts which helped me to target particular books for purchasing. I feel it was a reassuring set of lectures and was an excellent introduction to the topic.”
  • “The lecturer was clearly extremely knowledgable and was able to present the material at a level that was both stimulating and enlightening, without the listener being totally overwhelmed with new information.”
  • “It was good to meet everyone in the introductory session in a relaxed manner. The use of break out rooms was very good specially the use of random groups so that we were able to meet a wider range of people in the social times. It was good to have the spiritual "tone" of the course set by the inclusion of Night Prayer.”
  • “The session was really enjoyable and aimed at the right level. It was very interactive and [the lecturer] was open to questioning.”
  • “The interactive sessions are vital here and worked really well.”
  • “It was good to have the interactive sessions as a litmus test on whether we all grasped the main concepts and issues.”
  • It was all very well organised.”

Students particularly appreciated:

  • "The commitment of the Maryvale team in ensuring excellent service delivery. I also liked the diversity of the cohort especially in the variety of life experiences that individuals have brought into the program. I also like the fact that there is no ambiguity as to the Catholic identity of the program."
  • "Ethos of Maryvale. Staff support outstanding. Meeting the other students, hearing each other's back stories, aims and ambitions. Creating a WhatsApp study group."
  • "I liked that [the lectures] approached all the aspects: from the most basic things to more complex. There was a logical progression. The live session was very enjoyable - and all questions were valued or treated and answered with care."
  • "The discussive approach used."
  • "The interactions with the lecturers."
  • "The methodology of presentation and the diversity of the participants."
  • "Powerpoint Displays were clear and concise, adding to the narrative of the learning, rather than taking over from it."
  • "The friendliness of the tutor and the readiness to help with any question or issues with the module."
  • "I liked the interactive nature of the sessions and the efforts made by the tutor to attain a great level of clarity in the presentations."
  • "The lectures were clear and delivered at a pace than enabled me to follow. It harmonised well with the course content that I have read so far. Themes were returned to so that learning could be assimilated."
  • "It was clear and I felt I knew exactly what I needed to focus on. It was important for me to be reminded how to study!"

Reflections from 2021 MA Year 2 Study Weekend

  • “Keep up the great work. Adapting to major challenges such as we are all experiencing at present is not easy - I think Maryvale is doing really well.”
  • "I particularly like the availability of the [lecture] recordings - enabling access at my own speed / convenience."

Students particularly appreciated:

  • "I think the structure of the session was good - based on each person making a short presentation of his/her own research proposal, and then it being opened to the "floor" for comment and suggestions from others."
  • "I liked the fact that [follow-up sessions] were delivered live - allowing for interaction."
  • "The hospitality of the [Bridgettine] Sisters."

Reflections from 2020 MA Year 2 Study Weekend 2

  • “Excellent lectures as usual.”
  • “I felt very 'in tune' with the lecturer. Possibly because virtual learning requires me to concentrate and focus harder.”
  • "Sessions relating to the dissertation were extremely focused and fruitful. I feel I achieved a great deal [through the online sessions], possibly even more than had I been at the weekend."
  • "Lecturer was well prepared and knowledgeable on subject as usual."
  • "The lectures themselves allowed me to follow at my own pace followed by the live skype which enabled me to consolidate."

Reflections from 2020 MA Year 2 Study Weekend 1

  • "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 2020 MA Year 1 Study Weekend 3

  • "Lectures were very clear, informative and concise with plenty of opportunity for questions and discussion."
  • "Lectures were personable and knowledgeable."

Students particularly appreciated:

  • "The presentation was very clear to follow, with key words identified and explained."
  • "Both the historical and contemporary relevance [of the topic] was illuminated."
  • "The key themes from relevance source material was outlined and, as appropriate, expanded on in more detail. Thoroughly enjoyed the session"

Reflections from 2020 MA Year 1 Study Weekend 2

  • "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."

Students particularly appreciated:

  • "Systematic presentation of material, particularly by reference to CCC."
  • "Use of Scripture, particularly Jn and St Paul."
  • "Rich resourceson which to reflect for personal spiritiual development and how to enrich resources in catechetical programme or when praying in fraternity."
  • "The hospitality of the [Bridgettine] Sisters."
  • "The personal observations of the tutor, particularly nature of spiritual battle - acknowledgment of the battle but in the context of the overriding trust, hope and humility in which we can pray to the Father in the light of the Paschal Mystery."

Reflections from 2020 MA Year 1 Study Weekend 1

  • "Interesting, informative, well-structured. Beautiful material."
  • "[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."
  • "Everything was very appreciated – hospitality, sacraments, participation prayer/mass, meals."

Reflections from 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

Reflections from 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

Reflections from 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

Reflections from 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

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