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Course EC Semester 1 Semester 2

First Semester

Tools and Theories in the Study of Religion: Historical, Cognitive, and Social-Scientific Approaches 10
Religion on the Move: From Local Origins to Global Networks 10

Choose a specialized pathway and one elective per semester in the chosen pathway.

Please note: electives are according to available places

Religion, Politics and Governance

Religion and Law 10
Democratizing Histories (10 EC) 10
Philosophy of International Law: Globalization and Democracy 10

The two below mentioned courses count as one elective of 10 EC:

Religion, Philosophy of Life and Citizenship in Education 5
Religious studies-based methods for religious education 5

Religion, History and Society

Pilgrimage and Holy Places 10
Democratizing Histories (10 EC) 10
New Approaches to the Holocaust in Central and Eastern Europe 10
Culture and Society in the Medieval Muslim World 10

Religion and Area Studies

Pilgrimage and Holy Places 10
Religious Syncretism and the Study of Southeast Asian Cultures (10 EC) 10
Economic Development and Social Change in Southeast Asia 10
Material Culture, Memory and Commemoration along the Silk Roads in Central Asia 10
Topics in Chinese Art History, Things and Paths: Approaches to Chinese Art and Material Culture 10
Culture and Society in the Medieval Muslim World 10

Second Semester

Thesis Seminar and Job Market Orientation (Religious Studies) 5
MA Thesis Religious Studies 15

Continue a specialized path by choosing an elective or opt for an Internship or independent Project.

Please note: electives are according to available places

Internship Religious Studies 10
Independent Project Religious Studies 10

Religion, Politics and Governance

China and Global Cyberspace 10
Politics of Culture in Southeast Asia (10 EC) 10
The Politics of Destruction: Targeting World Heritage 10
Esotericism, Politics, and Global South Asia 10

Religion, History and Society

From Inkwell to Internet: Text and Transmission in the Muslim World 10
Diaspora Communities in the Persian Period 10
Buddhism seminar 10

Religion and Area Studies

Word and Image in Premodern Japanese Culture: Reworking the Classics 10
Approaches to East Asian Cinema (10 EC) 10
Hands-on Museum Research Experience (10 EC) 10
Culture and Conquest: the Impact of the Mongols and their Descendants 10
Buddhism seminar 10

More info

The MA Religious Studies at Leiden University is designed to equip students with the tools and knowledge required for studying, interpreting, and analysing religion as a diverse (human) phenomenon. With its world-class scholars and access to exceptional research collections, the programme offers the opportunity to explore a broad spectrum of religions and their manifestations from a comparative, multidisciplinary perspective.


The aim of the MA Religious Studies is to familiarise you with:

  • the most important current debates on method and theory in the academic study of religion – amongst others the literary, historical, cognitive, and social scientific approaches;

  • the mutual impact of globalisation, modernisation, migration, and religion, including the revision and transformation of (self-) understandings of religions and their practices, and the development of (new) religions due to global contacts, colonialism, religious superdiversity, and secularisation;

  • in the specialised pathway Religion, History, and Society: a knowledge and understanding of religion in historical context and the development of religion across time, including contemporary forms of religiosity;

  • in the specialised pathway Religion, Politics, and Governance: a knowledge and understanding of religion in relation to at least one of the following fields: politics, law, political-legal systems, international relations, or education;

  • in the specialised pathway Religion and Area Studies: a knowledge and understanding of religion in an area studies perspective and the movement of ideas and peoples across places, spaces, and contexts.

The acquisition of advanced academic skills in the interpretation of texts, the analysis and solution of conceptual problems, the ability to conduct scientific research and the effective communication of ideas are other key goals of the programme. Opportunities are provided for students to gain professional experience by participating in an internship at an organisation or a research internship with a staff member.

For a more detailed overview of the programme's objectives see the Course and Exam Regulations of the Programme.

The objectives regarding general academic skills can be found in the Course and Exam Regulations of the Faculty.


The master’s programme in Religious Studies consists of two semesters, each consisting of 30 EC. In the first semester, students follow two obligatory courses of 10 EC each. Alongside these courses, students are able to choose an elective (10 EC) in one of three specialised pathways: (1) Religion, History, and Society; (2) Religion, Politics, and Governance; or (3) Religion and Area Studies. In the second semester, students can continue with their specialised pathway by choosing an elective (10 EC) or choose to do an internship or independent project (10 EC). Alongside this elective, internship or independent project, all students take the MA Thesis Seminar and Job Market Orientation course (5 EC) and write their MA Thesis (15 EC).

Mode of Study
Full-time and part-time

Master thesis and requirements for graduation
In order to graduate, students must successfully complete the 60 EC programme, including their MA Thesis as a component of that programme. The thesis carries 15 EC, and as a rule should not exceed a maximum of 15,000 words, excluding notes, bibliography, and appendices. More details on the procedures regarding the MA Thesis can be found in the course description.

Career Preparation

Career Preparation in the master Religious Studies

The programme

How can you use this knowledge and the skills that you acquire? What skills do you already have, and what further skills do you still want to learn? How do you translate the courses that you choose into something that you’d like to do after graduation?
These questions and more will be discussed at various times during your study programme. You may already have spoken about them with your study coordinator, the Humanities Career Service or other students, or made use of the Leiden University Career Zone. Many different activities are organised to help you reflect on your own wishes and options, and give you the chance to explore the job market. All these activities are focused on the questions: ‘What can I do?’, ‘What do I want?’ and ‘How do I achieve my goals?’.


You will be notified via the Faculty website, your study programme website and email about further activities in the area of job market preparation. The following activities will help you to thoroughly explore your options, so we advise you to take careful note of them:

Transferable skills

Future employers are interested not only in the subject-related knowledge that you acquired during your study programme, but also in the ‘transferable skills’. These include cognitive skills, such as critical thinking, reasoning and argumentation and innovation; intrapersonal skills, such as flexibility, initiative, appreciating diversity and metacognition; and interpersonal skills, such as communication, accountability and conflict resolution. In short, they are skills that all professionals need in order to perform well.
It is therefore important that during your study programme you not only acquire as much knowledge as possible about your subject, but also are aware of the skills you have gained and the further skills you still want to learn. The course descriptions in the e-Prospectus of Religious Studies include, in addition to the courses’ learning objectives, a list of the skills that they aim to develop.
The skills you may encounter in the various courses are:

  • Research

  • Self-directed learning

  • Creative thinking

  • Collaboration

  • Persuasion

Courses of Religious Studies

Courses of the study programme obviously help to prepare you for the job market. As a study programme, we aim to cover this topic either directly or less directly in each semester. Within Religious Studies, this takes place within the following course:

  • Thesis Seminar and Job Market Orientation


If you have any questions about career choices, whether in your studies or on the job market, you are welcome to make an appointment with the career adviser of the the Humanities Career Service.