In Part II we will be discussing options for studying in South Africa. In the last decade South African universities have seen more overseas students applying - many from the U.S. The appeal of these universities is three-fold.
Firstly, and perhaps chiefly, tuition costs in the U.S. and the U.K. can be prohibitive to many and stipends for doctoral work are no longer guaranteed and in many seminaries not available at all. The South African programs tend to be considerably less and allow most from western nations to pay outright without taking out education loans. In the realm of theological education this is attractive because many that enter this field end up working for churches or non-profits that are not near the high-end of the pay scale. For many of the universities, budgeting $2,000 a year would be sufficient. The programs are subsidized, which accounts for the pricing, but combined with them being considered equal to regionally accredited institutions in the U.S. makes them a good option for those that want to marketable in various regions.
The second draw for foreign students in South African universities is the choice of programs. If you want to study, odds are, they have it at one of the universities. The University of South Africa (UNISA) in particular has a massive amount of programs and many of the universities will have programs related to theology, church history, or biblical studies.
The third draw to these universities is the distance options. Being part of the British Commonwealth, South Africa has long followed the British model of higher education, which includes the research-based doctoral programs (and a large number of research-based masters options too). What this means for many students (depending on the school) is that if you have good research libraries near you, you can stay where you are and communicate with your sponsor/mentor through the various technological means we have available to us today. South Africa has been leading the charge in distance doctoral programs and now has several institutions that are able to offer quality programs that would be marketable where ever in the world you find yourself. Below is a list of institutions. I didn't include the estimated cost of attendance, because it is mostly the same for all of these. I'd recommend checking out the University of Cape Town and Stellenbosch University, as both are usually ranked high among international universities. South African Theological Seminary has a good introduction program that walks you through your research proposal, so that is often useful for those that haven't done that before. University of South Africa (UNISA) has ton of programs and is one of the largest universities in the world. Rhodes University and especially the University of Witwatersrand are both well respected, although the latter is a mouthfull.
South African Theological Seminary
University of Cape Town
University of South Africa
University of Witwatersrand
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)
For those working on your thesis or dissertation, "social" is probably a word that you haven't heard in a while, unless it was prefaced by "anti-." I wanted to show you some ways to connect with others that are going through some of the same struggles and frustrations you are. Here is a short list of some sites that may help you connect with others and get some great insight on the process of research and writing.
Thesis Whisperer: This site states that it's "just like the horse whisperer, but with more pages." It's a great mix of writing helps, navigating the process as a doctoral student, and career advice. There's also the occasional "airing of the grievances" that can be healthy to explore.
Literature Review HQ: For me, the literature review is one of the easier pieces to write. However, I've known plenty of clever folk that have had real difficulty with this section. No doubt much of it depends on your overall subject matter. For those that are having trouble you can check out this site. This is a bit commercialized, as the author sells a number of products, but there are some helpful posts on the blog and the products themselves might be worth it if you're getting stuck with your writing process.
The Three Month Thesis: Particularly helpful for those of us in UK-style doctoral programs, this blog is also out to sell you some products that will no doubt help your writing process. There are some great posts for free, though, on the blog portion of the website too.
The Grad Cafe: This website is a great forum that has sub-forums based on area of study as well as sub-forums that deal with finances, the application process, and other important aspects of graduate school. While not specifically for doctoral students, it will be very helpful. It's also a very active forum, which is what you always like to see.
PhinisheD: This forum is also active and can be really helpful for those needing encouragement or to talk an idea out with people that actually know what they're talking about. This is one of my favorite stops when I need to discuss something with others. Since my dissertation deals with theology, literature, history, and archaeology it really helps to get input from people that are experts (or at least more so than I) in each of those fields.
Popular Social Media Sites: Twitter is great at connecting you with those that share similar interests. I have never found Facebook to be as helpful with professional associations and interactions. However, if you just want to jump off into the deep end of the pool of academic social media, check out Academia.edu. I've connected with some great international scholars through that and can read papers from organizations and individuals that I follow. It's also interesting to see who follows you and where they're from. Currently, I'm like the David Hasselhoff of Croatia.
While social media is very convenient and can be very encouraging, it can also be very time consuming. If you're going to delve into some of these sites, set a time limit or limit yourself to only check it once or twice a day. The only other caution I have is to not let social media replace actual, face-to-face social interaction. You're not helping yourself if you spend three to five years of your life having mostly online interactions with colleagues. Being socially awkward isn't a trait employers search for. Go to symposiums, scholarly forums, and professional meetings of academic societies that you're a member of. More than all of this, though, don't neglect your friends and family. Obtaining an advanced degree will cost you time, money, and some freedom, but it shouldn't cost you relationships - especially with your spouse and kids.
One of the most frequent questions I get is, "What degree do I need to teach in a Christian college or seminary?" Well, let's get to the point and look at some options:
Undergraduate Degree - If you just have a bachelors degree, you likely won't get a faculty position in any college or university. However, most will have remedial teachers that teach basic English or basic Math courses. By most accreditation standards these instructors do not have to have a graduate degree because they are technically teaching high school level courses. Because of this you just have to have a grasp of the subject matter, although no doubt employers would prefer a at least a minor in whatever remedial subject you're planning on teaching. Sometimes, teaching something is better than teaching nothing.
Uncompleted Masters - Aside from Teaching Assistant positions, you can often be considered for a (usually adjunct) professorship if you have began work on your masters. To teach on an undergraduate level you need at least 18 hours in a particular area.
Complete Masters - Once you have completed your masters you greatly increase your chances of getting hired as an adjunct or perhaps a full-time undergraduate professor. Even if you don't have 18 hours in an area, if your masters is in that area, then its a moot point. For example, if you have a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies which required twelve hours of actual Bible courses you can still teach Bible courses because that is what your masters is in. It's a bit complicated, I know, but that's how it works.
Master of Theology (Th.M.) - If you missed the description in the Degrees section, I'll summarize: A Th.M. is usually a post-masters degree that generally takes a solid year or year and a half to complete. Because it basically gives you a concentration in a particular area, Th.M. graduates are great candidates for undergraduate teaching and having a Th.M. will often help you transition into a Ph.D. or Th.D.
Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) - If you have a Doctor of Ministry degree you can teach undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral courses in ministry. Depending on the school, they may ask you to cover a Biblical Studies course, but they will often have Ph.D.'s or Th.D.'s to do that.
Doctor of Philosophy / Doctor of Theology (Ph.D./Th.D.) - Having either of these doctorates is the ideal degree for teaching in most fields on the undergraduate, graduate, or doctoral level. Things that can affect your hiring once you have this degree are things like: your dissertation topic, the place you received the degree, how well you've connected with others in your field and how well you've connected with those at the place you're applying (yes, unfortunately it's still usually about who you know and who knows you).
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.
Mark Stevens is a former seminary student himself and currently researches and teaches in the area of theological studies.