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Religious Studies: Asian Religions Pathway (MA)

Course Aims

The study of Asian religions at Cardiff University provides a unique opportunity for students to acquire expertise in South Asian and/or Chinese religious literature and culture. The degree programme offers a firm grounding in the classical Indian language of Sanskrit for those interested in this option, and the opportunity to work with some of the leading scholars in the field. Particular strengths include study of the Mahabharata (Cardiff has the largest single concentration of Mahabharata scholars in the UK), the history of Chinese Buddhism, Sanskrit Drama in Performance, and the study of the ancient Indian religious tradition of Jainism.

Course Description

Students taking the MA in Religious Studies: Asian Religions Pathway will complete modules comprising a total of 180 credits, including:

  • 40 credits worth of core study skills: a 20-credit module that offers generic postgraduate research and study skills training in the Humanities,  and a further 20-credit module that offers subject-specific training in the field of Asian religious studies.
  • 80 credits from a range of 20-credit language/text and thematic module options. 
  • 60 credit dissertation module, on a topic agreed between the student and tutors.

Part 1 consists of a generic postgraduate skills module, a core Religious Studies (Asian Religions) skills module, optional Sanskrit study, and optional modules focusing on the history of Asian religions.

Current options include:

  • Sanskrit Language and Literature
  • Jainism
  • Aspects of the Mahabharata
  • Hinduism
  • Pali Literature
  • South Asian Religion and Performance
  • Buddhism
  • Chinese Pilgrims’ Accounts of Indian Buddhism

Assessment is via written assignments of approximately up to 4,000 words, and language exams for those who have specialised in language study.

Part 2 consists of a dissertation of up to 20,000 words on a topic of the student’s choice.


Core Modules

HST900: Skills and Methods for Postgraduate Study

RTT502: Themes and Approaches in Asian Religions (20 credits)

This module offers an individually tailored introduction to the methods and approaches required to conduct postgraduate research in Asian Religions.  Students are introduced to Asian religions in their historical context, and to contemporary scholarship in the field of academic Asian Studies.


Optional Modules

RTT504: Postgraduate Sanskrit 1 (20 credits)

This module is designed to introduce the student to the general structure and style of this classical Indian language, as well as to its script, syntax and grammar.  It will also introduce students to the translation of texts in Sanskrit and guide them in the interpretation of those texts.


RTT506: Postgraduate Sanskrit 2 (20 credits)

This module is for students already familiar with the basic Sanskrit grammar. It is designed to provide an introduction to the form, style and content of one or more important religious texts in the original language, and familiarise students with some of the technical vocabulary used in the relevant religious and/or philosophical discourse.  Successful completion of this course will enable students to translate textual sources without the aid of a dictionary.


RTT507: Asian Religions (20 credits)

Asian Religions (such as Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism) have been a source of fascination to scholars for centuries. Their study necessitates interdisciplinary work and encompasses a broad range of methodologies (e.g. linguistic, historical, sociological and anthropological).  It also provides an excellent opportunity to consider the impact of academic work in the field in the light of the major critical intellectual movements of the late twentieth century (such as post-colonialism and gender theory). These modules (Asian Religions 1 and 2) will allow students to engage critically and in depth with two or more of these diverse debates and methodologies in the academic study of Asian religions, past and present. Particular attention will be paid to the close reading of primary sources in translation. The precise nature and focus of each topic will be negotiated between the student and the module tutors.

Examples of options:

  • exploration of a theme (e.g. communal conflict, politics and religion in South Asia or gender) within Asian Religions or within a specific South Asian religious tradition (e.g. Jainism, Sikhism etc.)
  • examination of a specific issue in contemporary Indological scholarship
  • analysis of contemporary approaches to the study of Asian religions
  • exploration of  the role of narrative and performance in the transmission and adaptation of religious knowledge in South Asia

The flexibility within the MA in Religious Studies at Cardiff means that students enrolled on the Asian Religions Pathway can also choose to take up to 40 credits of modules from the Myth, Narrative and Theory Pathway.  Here, optional modules include:

RTT509: Myth and Film (20 credits)

RTT510: Myth and Sacrifice (20 credits)

RTT511: Myth and Narrative (20 credits)

RTT512: Myth, Religion and Culture (20 credits)

Special Features

The MA in Religious Studies: Asian Religions Pathway draws on the scholarship of internationally-recognised experts in Indic religions. It offers a flexible programme of study geared towards the individual student, with delivery via small student-focused tutorials rather than formal lectures. In addition, the programme offers a thorough, subject-specific introduction to postgraduate study skills in the arts and humanities.

Skills Acquired

On completion of this programme students will have acquired high level cultural and conceptual skills that will enable them to pursue further research and/or teaching using a variety of sources, including Sanskrit religious literature. Specific skills include:

  • cultural and linguistic translation skills
  • language learning
  • the ability to analyse historically and philosophically important primary sources in the field of Asian religions with clarity and precision
  • critical engagement with the beliefs and behaviour of others.


"Undertaking the MA in Religious Studies (Asian Religions) at Cardiff University was a truly rewarding and fulfilling experience. I was able to learn there from renowned scholars in the field, who were at the same time so encouraging and supportive. Every tutor was always very willing to exchange knowledge and ideas and this was one of the most gratifying things about the course, one that has inspired me to continue my studies further. Up to this day I still find support and encouragement from the people in the Religious Studies Department."

Paloma Muñoz, 2009-2010

I don't think that I have developed so much in a single year as I have on this course, and am certain that it has put me in good stead for the future.”

Craig McEwan, 2011-12

Entry Requirements

1st or upper 2nd class UK Honours degree in an appropriate subject.

The course is suitable for graduates in Religious Studies as well as a wide variety of Humanities and Social Sciences subjects.

Students whose first language is not English will be required to pass an IELTS test (minimum 6.5) or equivalent.

Note: International students pursuing part-time programmes of study are not eligible for Tier 4 (General Student) visas and must have alternative leave to remain in the UK if they intend to study at the University in person.

Contact Information

Dr Will Johnson

Position:Reader in Indian Religions and Admissions Tutor
Photo of Dr Will Johnson
Telephone: +44 (0)29 208 74240Extension: 74240

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