Here’s some stuff that I pulled together specifically about the Durham New Testament PhD and getting a theology PhD in the UK.

Where should you go: US or UK? Here are a few posts where I and others have explored this issue: UK or US?, UK or US? redivivus, Mark Goodacre’s thought’s, and an SBL forum discussion that has US only, UK only, and started US and finished UK.

So why Durham? I talk through the path I took to get to Durham.

Getting Accepted: Acceptance rates are much higher in the UK, but they present new issues. Here are a couple of posts I’ve done about it: PhD Acceptance Rates and MA vs PhD Acceptance.

Colleges at Durham: Why St. John’s? I give a brief overview of the college system and why I chose St. John’s.

Initial Thoughts on PhD Life in Durham: After a few weeks here, I give my initial perspectives.

Durham Tradtion: The Theology Department at Durham has quite a history. I give some info about who also hung around this place.

Durham has instituted a review process to help formalise regular feedback for students and staff. I will post as notes as I go through: 6 Month Review, 12 Month/Upgrade.

Writing Style: A brief discussion of required styles and British v. American English.

See also the PhD pointers page… that has stuff like how to craft a thesis proposal, choosing where to go, etc.


21 Responses to “PhD in Durham”

  1. John Says:

    One of the downsides about Durham, so I have heard, is that research students are neither assigned an office or a desk, where he/she may leave study materials throughout the day and even overnight. How do students manage to access all of their resources, and thus complete their work on time, if they are having to constantly pack and unpack all of their books, computers, etc every time they go to and from the library? The lack of a permanent office seems like it would waste lots of valuable time, slow the student down, and even inadvertently force him/her to spend most his/her time studying from home. What are your thoughts on the subject? How do research students manage to overcome this obstacle?

  2. Ben Says:

    I would say you’ve hit the weaker point about Durham’s program. However, I can’t say that it’s affected many people’s study habits. The Palace Green (PG) library, which doesn’t have any theology holdings, does have a post-grad only study room with lockers. So it’s just across from the theology department, and a decent place to study–wifi and study carrells (though not assigned)–and there is a large computer center in the next room. I have a locker there, and spend probably 50%-75% of my study time there. However, most people seem to study at home. The pack-up deal will be an issue anywhere here, b/c the main library is a 20 min walk from PG, and there may be study space there, but I don’t know anybody that does regular study there.

    I think you find your pattern and work with it. The current set-up is not ideal, but I wouldn’t say that I’ve been slowed down by it. The people that I know that work from home actually enjoy it b/c it cuts out commuting, you have time for lunch meals with your spouse, etc. I actually like having different study venues b/c it mixes things up so it doesn’t get as boring doing the same thing every day. But it would also be nice to have offices.

    Anyhow, everybody seems to have different study habits, so it may be a non-issue for some, and maybe more of one for others.

  3. Ben Says:

    As an update to the questions John posted about study space and library, there have been discussions within the department and with administration up the line to improve both. So things are moving in the right direction. Here’s the update as of late January 2008 on Durham PhD Study Space.

    1. Ben Says:

      As of October 2009, they have at least tripled the number of study spaces for postgrads. I think the way it will work out is that all returning students will definitely get a spot if they want one (but quite a few won’t because they like to study at home). Maybe half(?) of the first year students will then get one. We’ll see. But at any rate, I think this is a great improvement and a good sign the department is on the look out for student needs.

  4. Greg Says:

    Hi Ben,
    Thank you for your blog, its very helpful for me as I’m considering PhD studies in Britain. I currently teach in Croatia and am thinking about pursuing a part time PhD at Durham. Although not ideal from a study perspective, it would make life much easier on my family and our finances if we didn’t need to relocate. I’ve noticed they list fees for part time but a friend told me they discourage it. Does Durham still offer this option for international students? Do you know if there are any supervisors in NT particularly open for that kind of arrangement?

  5. Ben Says:

    Hey Greg, I’m not sure why your friend would discourage it. When I saw the list last year, about a quarter of PhD students were part-timers. I know Stuckenbruck and Barclay both have PT students, in particular, and I wouldn’t be surprised if more do, so I wouldn’t hesitate to apply. Hope that helps.

  6. Sabu Kalickal Oommen Says:

    I got admission at the Unviersity of Aberdeen to study towards Ph. D in Divinity, but no scholarship yet. do you know any person or organization who/which can atleast lend me funds, which I will reutern upon the completion of the course in installment?

    Hoping tohear from you!

    Best wihes for your resaerch at Durham

  7. Ben Says:

    Sabu. Congratulations. Unfortunately, I’m really only familiar with the US government loan program.

  8. Matt Crawford Says:


    Hi. I’ve heard more and more people on both sides of the pond say that a lot of people are having difficulty getting teaching jobs in the states with a UK PhD. Apparently a British PhD doesn’t have the ‘weight’ in the job market that a US PhD does. Have you noticed this trend during your time at Durham?



  9. Ben Says:

    Hi Matt,

    I’ve seen examples of those who got jobs right off and others that have a longer time searching. My sample size isn’t large enough to tell any larger trends. A complicating factor is the economy because several advertised jobs have dried up, so that makes it more difficult to know which factors affect things most. Another complicating issue is the denominational nature of theological jobs that limits potential applicants in a way that other fields don’t experience. From my limited experience, job hunting seems very personalised since it depends so much on networking.

    Now that does bring up a potential problem for UK students. If they only interact with others at UK conferences, they can easily lose/lack networking resources. I’ve intentionally gone to SBL each November to build these and have found this quite helpful.

    So, I don’t really know whether the US or UK phd is better for job hunting since I can’t disambiguate other factors.


  10. Yukun Says:

    Hi,Ben, I just want to know something about the ORS in Durham. Is this ORS including stipend or not ? OR only for full tuition waive?

  11. Ben Says:

    I think ORS can be scalable from just the overseas portion of tuition to full tuition. I’ve not heard of it including a stipend, but the university tops up things at their own discretion depending on their own funding.

  12. Pedro Says:

    I got offers from both universities: Rochester Institute of Technology in USA and University of Durham in UK, for a Phd in Computer Science.

    Considering that I live in the Dominican Republic, traveling to either place would be same. Funding is guaranteed for both programs also. However in terms of Computer Science research and Phd experience, quality and recognition, should I go the USA or UK?

    I dont know Durham University at all. Thanks for your advice.

    1. Ben Says:

      With the two having similar items that you’ve mentioned, I’d say the two things that would be deciding factors are the supervisor and the research community. I’m not familiar with Rocherster Institute, so my assumption is that Durham has a better reputation with employers, but that may not be the case for CS.

  13. G. Stiekes Says:

    Hello from the US. We came across your blog site a couple months ago. Thank you so much for taking time to help others in this way. The information is really extremely valuable. I am the wife of a potential PhD student (interested in NT study). My husband, Greg, is a busy senior pastor, and I have more time than he to do some logistical footwork. My question is regarding financing the degree. If there is someone you think of who might be able to address this, feel free to forward it. I don’t want to take too much of your time! Perhaps another student or spouse can interact with me? We will keep pursuing info online and through staff of the seminary Greg recently attended.
    Here is our situation:
    We seem like the impossible case, no doubt, but Greg is going to apply to several schools anyway. We believe the Lord will make it possible if it is to happen. There are some significant hurdles. We will both be 43 this year, so we are getting a little later start than some (maybe most?). We feel that, as a family, this is perhaps our last window of opportunity since our children will be in the college stage very soon (oldest is 15). There are five of them . . . SO if each one attends, we will be helping them finance their own study for a long time. The oldest (so far) is a serious violin student . . . and is already expensive! Although it would not be impossible for Greg to be in school at the same time, it would be even more unlikely then than now.
    Greg has been in a pastorate in some capacity for nearly 20 years. He holds degrees in Speech and Theology. He attended a small Baptist seminary in Minneapolis for his MDiv several years ago. He did complete the ThM at Erskine Seminary in SC in December. The professors are prepared to refer him into a PhD program, and suggest application to Durham (among others). His guiding prof at Erskine (James Herron) studied at Aberdeen under Frances Watson (before he moved to Durham). Herron is taking Greg to Atlanta in Nov to meet Frances Watson (SBL meeting) to begin some initial contact, should Watson be able or willing to interact. Our plans for application have been postponed due to a later graduation (ThM), and our house sale falling through last summer (buyers backed out at closing). Obviously, with the housing market fiasco, our equity is significantly less than we thought it would be in 2007-8 when the degree became a more realistic goal than it had been before. The income from the house sale would have provided a great amount of degree funding. Now, we have almost none.
    We are seeking sources to pursue for financing, but would like some specific input from those who have gone before. And, HONESTY is not going to hurt us! We may not be able to do this at all. . . It “feels” impossible with five children to support, and not much funding. We really know that this is only possible if the Lord presents an undeniable provision. In the meantime, Greg continues his responsibilities as a pastor, and is writing and sending in papers to a handful of sources. He has joined the ETS and plans to attend the regional and national conferences, and is submitting papers to both. He also continues interaction with the professors at Erskine (J Herron, Don Fairburn, Hughes Old, and others) who have various connections in his search for a guiding professor in the UK. What do you (or whomever) suggest we do across the next year in regard to seeking to finance a degree? We hope to begin application with a Fall 2011 start as a goal. We realize it is a long shot from several directions.
    Any advice is helpful. Thanks for your time.

    Rena Stiekes

    1. Ben Says:

      Hi Rena, I’ll shoot you an email with more detail, but you’re right that it can be an expensive endeavour. I’m sure you’ve seen my post on financing, but just in case here’s a link: Another option is to do the phd part-time from home, which isn’t uncommon for Durham. It has it’s own challenges, but can save a bit of money.

  14. Andrew Tsai Says:

    I just stumbled into your blog, and find your blog tremendously helpful. I am considering to apply for a Ph.D. degree at Durham in Old Testament. If you can assess my chance of getting in, I would appreciate it very much. I know any opinion is subjective, so feel free to dump it to me.
    I went to a Christian College and got a bachelor’s degree in Bible and Theology. My GPA is 3.97. I just finished my M.Div. at Regent College, Vancouver, and my GPA is around 3.70. I am starting a Th.M. at Regent this year, and I am looking around two years to complete it. So that will give me 9 years of theological education. Language wise, by the time I am applying for Ph.D. I will have 2 years of Greek, 2 and a half years of Hebrew, 2 years of French, and probably 1 year of German. I will be a teaching TA for intermediate Hebrew this coming school year. So can you give me a thought or two on the odds of me getting in Durham two years from now? I’d appreciate it very much!

  15. reddit Says:

    The design for the weblog is a bit off in Epiphany. Even So I like your website. I may need to install a normal browser just to enjoy it.

  16. Craig Says:

    I have 2 questions:
    Is there a link that details the entrance requirements for the PhD program at Durham?
    And, once accepted, how long is the typical process of pursuing and procuring one’s PhD (presuming one is focused on it full-time)? Is there a “rule of thumb” or typical range?

  17. Craig Says:

    Thank you so much!

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