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Philosophy of Religious Studies and Ethics A Level at Sandwell College

Course description

The study of the Philosophy of Religion and Ethics raises the big questions of life, about God, meaning and how we ought to live as human beings. You will have an opportunity to explore these issues in some depth with other interested students. In addition to the personal value of studying such a subject, you will also acquire valuable skills of critical thinking and philosophical analysis.

Course content

The College offers the Religious Studies Advanced Level awarded by AQA, covering the units on Philosophy of Religion and Ethical Decision Making. Study of world religions does not form a major part of the syllabus.

The AS course is split into two modules. In Unit 1, Religious Ethics, you will be exploring the ethics of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism, followed by Situation Ethics, along with ethical issues relating to religion as well as themes surrounding current philosophical debates on abortion and euthanasia.

In Unit 2, Philosophy of Religion, you will look at Thomas Aquinas's Cosmological Argument and investigate the strengths and weaknesses of the argument. You will then explore religious experiences and the Psychology of Religion, looking in particular at the works of Sigmund Freud and Karl Jung. Following this you will also explore Atheism and postmodern perspectives on the decline and challenges religion faces in light of the developments that science has made.

The A2 course is again split into two modules. In Unit 3, continuing with religious ethics, you will be exploring the free will and determinism debate, asking the question, 'Is life preordained or predestined, or are we the architects of our own lives and therefore truly free as individuals?' You will then look at Aristotle's Virtue Ethics and continue to explore how science and technology have played a role in shaping the way we make ethical decisions.

In Unit 4 you will finally go on to explore the controversial issues surrounding religious fundamentalism in both Christianity and Islam, exploring historical and current themes pertaining to the rise of religious extremism.

Entry requirements

All students studying for A Level would be expected to have five GCSEs A*-C in academic subjects (of which two must be B grades) including GCSE English Language at grade B or above. We will count Level 2 BTEC Diplomas towards this total, but only merits and distinctions will be counted and each diploma will count as one GCSE.

You do not need to have studied GCSE Religious Studies, or to have any particular religious faith, but critical thinking skills and a keen interest in Philosophy are necessary given the nature of the subject.


Each module is assessed by a written examination lasting 1 hour 15 minutes for AS and 1 hour 30 minutes for A2. This means that you will have two AS exams at the end of the first year and two A2 exams at the end of the second year.

You will also require a D grade or above to progress to the A2 course.

Future opportunities

An AS or A Level qualification in Religious Studies is most directly related to degrees in Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies. It is, however, relevant to many other fields of study, such as History, Psychology, Sociology, Literature and Politics.

Given the large component of ethics within the course, it is also highly useful for many people-centred careers, such as teaching, medicine, the police, and community and social work.

How to apply

If you want to apply for this course, you will need to contact Sandwell College directly.

Last updated date: 01 June 2016

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