One of the major trends we've seen at this website in the last several years has been the increase in questions about distance education, specifically doctoral degrees (Ph.D./D.Phil, Th.D., D.Min., etc.). There are actually some good options out there. This post will cover some basic information about UK schools that offer distance options and what they would entail. This list isn't exhaustive, but should help you start your search.
The first thing you should know about doctoral programs in the U.K. concerns the format of the degree. The U.K. usually offers research-based doctorate programs. This means that there is no classwork, like in the U.S., and you undertake your dissertation after the completion of a research proposal. Because of this, you should have an idea of what you want to research topic to be and, because of this, you should have one or two professors in mind at the institution you're applying at that would be suitable mentors during this process. That's what they're supposed to be - mentors. They are helping you through these hoops you have to jump through. A professor/adviser that is distant, too busy, and/or a jerk will not aide you in your quest for a doctoral degree, so, if possible, meet with your potential adviser before or during the application process or, at the least, schedule a time to call them and discuss your possible research.
The other thing you need to be aware of is the cost. In the next two parts we'll discuss doctoral programs in the U.S. and in other parts of the world. Some UK universities will be much more expensive than many of those other programs that we'll discuss. That being said, The British Council has information for U.S. citizens on financial aid options (as well as some great top-notch information on studying in the UK in general). I've included an estimated cost for each of the UK universities listed below. The estimate is based on figures in The Complete University Guide and at the university websites. Always contact the university directly for the most up-to-date figures and keep in mind that prices can be greatly reduced through financial aid options.
Concerning online or distance options, there are a number of universities that you can either fly to a couple of times a year (for research and to participate in seminars) or that you can do completely from where you are in the world. Whatever school you're looking into, make certain they still offer the option that you're looking for and if you don't see it on the website, call and ask someone about it. I've noticed several institutions that sometimes have a distance option or don't advertise that they have a distance option. Below are some key institutions that have theological education of one kind or another, along with an estimate of the cost per year.
Bristol Baptist College (UK/EU Students - £8000, unclear on their website) (Non-UK/EU Students - £8000)
Highland Theological College (UK/EU Students - £3900) (Non-UK/EU Students - £11042)
University of Aberdeen (UK/EU Students - £3400) (Non-UK/EU Students - £12000)
University of Birmingham (UK/EU Students - £5135) (Non-UK/EU Students - £13200)
University of Bristol (UK/EU Students - £7200) (Non-UK/EU Students - £14000)
University of Cambridge (UK/EU Students - £6065) (Non-UK/EU Students - £13662)
University of Durham (UK/EU Students - £5400) (Non-UK/EU Students - £13300)
University of Kent (UK/EU Students - £4950) (Non-UK/EU Students - £12030)
University of Leicester (UK/EU Students - £2078) (Non-UK/EU Students - £5083)
University of Oxford (UK/EU Students - £5900) (Non-UK/EU Students - £15900)
University of St. Andrews (UK/EU Students - £3900-8900) (Non-UK/EU Students - £14000)
University of Wales, Trinity Saint David (UK/EU Students - £3750) (Non-UK/EU Students - £11000)
Wales Evangelical School of Theology (UK/EU Students - £4900) (Non-UK/EU Students - £9455)
In Part I of this article I briefly discussed why it was important to both research online and talk to an actual person. I also gave some examples of how to do both. In Part II of this article I will discuss some of the differences in terminology between American and British Commonwealth Universities. As with most subjects, there are exceptions to these, with some schools using their own grading scales or terms, but what I present here should be applicable in nearly every case.
GPA Conversion: One of the most needed resources for students when applying cross-culturally between American and British universities is a reliable GPA conversion chart. Another common misunderstanding concerns degree terminology. Many American universities use the Latin terms summa cum laude, magna cum laude, and cum laude to denote exceptional graduates (usually based on their GPA). Summa cum laude is the highest and usually requires a near perfect GPA. The next down is magna cum laude and the last being cum laude. The actual GPA requirements for these honors conveyed upon graduation will change from institution to institution. In the British system, however, these designations are not generally used. Instead there are "classes" that your degree will fall into - 1st class, 2nd class (upper division), 2nd class (lower division), 3rd class, and Pass.
Well, I didn't invent this, but this is what World Education Services recommends for converting grades and degrees between the British and American education systems. Note that you only want to put this on an application when they ask you to convert it. If they don't ask you to, then usually it's best if you put "N/A"or something similar. You'll be wanting to go to a school that has experience with international students, so this really shouldn't be a problem for them. In any case, here is the standard conversion chart:
Degree Names and Study Method: After the GPA conversion questions, probably the next most asked question about international higher education is concerning the names/abbreviation of degrees and the study method used to obtain them. The Baptist Resource has a list of popular degrees in theological education that will help those looking for which program is right for them. However, there are some things that are particular to international education that can be tricky and isn't covered on that page. Here is a chart that will help decipher some of the terms you may be unfamiliar with:
Hopefully this two part article will provide you with at least some of the tools to navigate through cross-cultural, higher education. If any additional questions arise feel free to comment below.
Making the decision to study in another country will no doubt lead you down a sometimes frustrating, sometimes expensive road. To help bridge the gap between how your country does education and how your university's country operates you have to do a bit of translation. This is especially true for those traversing between a British model of higher education and the American model. Here are three things to consider when looking into overseas education.
1. Research Online: You will waste a lot of time getting on the internet and randomly searching websites to help you. To better focus your search, consider these things:
2. Talk to a Person: It sounds so simple and yet so many just sit and research for days or weeks online and never reach out to any real person. This is your education we're talking about! Choosing where you will learn and who you will learn from is going to affect the rest of your life. If I'm considering buying a used Honda Accord, I would want to see which of my friends drive one and ask them about the car. Most people would do the same and yet many wouldn't seek out a student or impartial representative to ask about a masters program in London or a doctoral program in Aberdeen. One reason may be that it is just hard to connect with current students overseas or you may not know where to go to find impartial advice. Ok - here are a couple of spots:
Mark Stevens is a former seminary student himself and currently researches and teaches in the area of theological studies.