Postdoctoral Research Associate in Theological Education

Durham, United Kingdom
£34,304 - £40,927 per annum
28 Apr 2022
End of advertisement period
27 May 2022
Contract Type
Fixed Term
Full Time

Department of Theology and Religion

Grade 7: - £34,304 - £40,927 per annum
Fixed Term - Full Time
Contract Duration: 2 years
Contracted Hours per Week: 35
Closing Date: 27-May-2022, 6:59:00 AM

Durham University

Durham University is one of the world's top universities with strengths across the Arts and Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences. We are home to some of the most talented scholars and researchers from around the world who are tackling global issues and making a difference to people's lives.

The University sits in a beautiful historic city where it shares ownership of a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Durham Cathedral, the greatest Romanesque building in Western Europe. A collegiate University, Durham recruits outstanding students from across the world and offers an unmatched wider student experience.

Less than 3 hours north of London, and an hour and a half south of Edinburgh, County Durham is a region steeped in history and natural beauty. The Durham Dales, including the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, are home to breathtaking scenery and attractions. Durham offers an excellent choice of city, suburban and rural residential locations. The University provides a range of benefits including pension and childcare benefits and the University’s Relocation Manager can assist with potential schooling requirements.

Durham University seeks to promote and maintain an inclusive and supportive environment for work and study that assists all members of our University community to reach their full potential. Diversity brings strength and we welcome applications from across the international, national and regional communities that we work with and serve.

The Department

Founded in 1832, Durham’s Department of Theology and Religion was recently ranked fifth in the world in the QS World University Subject rankings, and first in the UK for research quality in the Complete University Guide. We also came top in the country in the last two UK assessments of research (2008 and 2014). We are home to more than thirty academic staff, and a community of over one hundred doctoral students. The Department has a long-standing tradition of outstanding research and education and is widely recognised as one of the leading departments in its field.

Teaching and research within the Department is focused on three key areas: Biblical studies, Christian theology and ethics, and the social scientific study of religion, with many staff working across these subfields. Maintaining a vibrant research culture, the Department convenes a range of research seminars and regularly attracts leading international scholars to its events. The department is also home to a number of research centres: the Michael Ramsey Centre for Anglican Studies, the Centre for Death and Life Studies, and the Centre for Catholic Studies.

The department enjoys many cross-departmental and interdisciplinary links around the University, including with the Institute for Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies and the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, as well as a strong, collaborative relationship with the theological education institutions based in and around Durham (e.g. Cranmer Hall).

With its home in Abbey House, right next to Durham Cathedral, a UNESCO world Heritage site, it is a beautiful and immensely exciting place to study and to research in Theology and Religion.

The Common Awards scheme

In 2013, Durham University was contracted by the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England to provide validation arrangements for a suite of academic programmes in Theology, Ministry, and Mission, offered at a number of Theological Education Institutions (TEIs) around the country, and to provide academic resources and services to staff and students based at these institutions.

The partnership covers more than 500 members of staff and more than 2,500 students spread across TEIs from Exeter to Edinburgh. Students at these TEIs are training for a variety of forms of ministry, lay and ordained, formal and informal, in a number of churches (Anglican, Methodist, URC, Baptist, Pentecostal, etc.).

In 2019, the University and the Archbishops’ Council signed a renewed contract for Common Awards, for the period from 1 September 2019 to 31 August 2024. The provision of the present post is one of the commitments included in that new contract.

The first holder of this post, Dr Eve Parker, focused on the Common Awards Diversity and Inclusion strategy, working with TEIs to create and strengthen learning environments that celebrate diversity and inclusion in theological education. The aim of this strategy is to advance equality through inclusive practice and pedagogy and to encourage a culture of learning where students can feel as though they are not only included but that they truly belong within TEIs.

The Common Awards team includes an academic support team led by Alyson Bird (the Quality Assurance Manager) based in the University’s Curriculum, Learning and Assessment service, and a small academic team currently comprising Prof. Mike Higton (Professor of Theology and Ministry) and Dr Frances Clemson (Assistant Professor in Theology and Ministry), based in the Department of Theology and Religion.

The members of the academic team work with the academic support team to

  • maintain oversight of the delivery of Common Awards programmes at the partner TEIs, and develop related academic policies and quality assurance processes;
  • facilitate a range of research conversations and projects drawing in staff from around the partnership, and designed to help enhance the theological education provided around the partnership;
  • provide a suite of activities aimed at enhancing the experience of students undertaking Common Awards programmes around the partnership.

More detail on the existing programme of Common Awards research activity is set out at https://www.durham.ac.uk/departments/academic/common-awards/. The student-facing programme includes a diverse range of events.

The Role

Applications are invited for a Postdoctoral Research Associate in Theological Education. The post-holder will be directly responsible to the Head of Department of Theology and Religion but will work closely with the Professor and Assistant Professor of Theology and Ministry as part of the Common Awards team.

Applications will be considered from candidates with a record of excellence in research and education in any area of theology relevant to the provision of theological education for the churches involved in the Common Awards partnership, and to the continuing development of the Common Awards Diversity and Inclusion strategy.

We are particularly interested in candidates who can help us address the following areas:

  • Questions of equality, diversity, and inclusion. How can the TEIs (and the churches) benefit from, and do better justice to, the experience of a wider range of people? How can they address barriers to full participation, in relation to race, class, gender, and disability?
  • Questions of pedagogy. What forms of learning do those training for ministry in today’s churches most need? What difference is made by the variety of modes of training now available? What role can online learning best play in theological education?
  • Questions of social responsibility. How might theological education better equip the churches to respond to pressing social needs and complex social developments, whether this be in relation to climate change, poverty, migration, or other themes? How might theological education help enable the churches to handle well internal debates in areas such as gender and sexuality?


The successful applicant will be expected

  • To work with the Professor of Theology and Ministry and other colleagues, as appropriate, to identify areas for research, develop new research methods and extend the Common Awards research portfolio.
  • To plan and manage individual and collaborative research projects under the direction of the Professor of Theology and Ministry.
  • To understand and convey material of a specialist or highly technical nature to academic and non-academic audiences through the presentation of research papers at conferences and other events
  • Prepare high-quality outputs for publication, including papers for submission to peer reviewed journals; in particular developing original contributions to the conversations surrounding theological education at a national level under the direction of the Professor Theology and Ministry.
  • To deal with problems that may affect the achievement of research objectives and deadlines by discussing with the Professor of Theology and Ministry and offering creative or innovative solutions.
  • To liaise with research colleagues and make internal and external contacts to develop knowledge and understanding to form relationships for future research collaboration, and in particular to work with other members of the Common Awards team in liaising with partner TEIs and with staff from national church bodies such as the Church of England’s National Ministry Team.
  • To assist with the planning and delivery of the existing programme of Common Awards research, events, especially research resources in collaboration with others symposia and the annual staff conference.
  • To work with other members of the Common Awards team to develop and deliver activities that will enhance the experience of students from around the partnership.
  • To work with other members of the Common Awards team to help maintain oversight of the delivery of Common Awards programmes at the partner TEIs, and to develop related academic policies and quality assurance processes.
  • To contribute to fostering a collegial and respectful working environment which is inclusive and welcoming and where everyone is treated fairly with dignity and respect.
  • To engage in wider citizenship to support the department and wider discipline.
  • To engage in continuing professional development by membership of departmental committees, etc. and by attending relevant training and development courses.

The successful candidate may have the opportunity to undertake a small amount of teaching in the Department of Theology and Religion.

This post is fixed term for two years from September 2022, as that is the duration of the current contract between Durham University and the Archbishops’ Council which governs the staffing and delivery of the Common Awards partnership.

The post-holder will be employed to work on research which will be led by another colleague (the Professor of Theology and Ministry). Whilst this means that the post-holder will not be carrying out independent research in his/her own right, the expectation is that they will contribute to the advancement of the project, through the development of their own research ideas.

Successful applicants will, ideally, be in post by 1st September 2022.

How to Apply

For informal enquiries please contact Prof Mike Higton (mike.higton@durham.ac.uk). All enquiries will be treated in the strictest confidence.

We prefer to receive applications online via the Durham University Vacancies Site. https://www.dur.ac.uk/jobs/. As part of the application process, you should provide details of 3 (preferably academic/research) referees and the details of your current line manager so that we may seek an employment reference.

Applications are particularly welcome from women and black and minority ethnic candidates, who are under-represented in academic posts in the University.

What to Submit

All applicants are asked to submit:

  • A CV and covering letter which details your experience, strengths and potential in relation to the requirements set out above;
  • A one-page personal research plan;
  • Two of your most significant pieces of written work, published or submitted since 2014.

Next Steps

The assessment for the post will include a presentation followed by an interview. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interview and assessment.

The Requirements



  • A good first degree in Theology/Religious Studies, or a related discipline.
  • A PhD (or be close to submission) in a relevant subject.


  • Experience in conducting high quality academic research.
  • Demonstrable ability to write material of a quality commensurate with publication in peer-reviewed journals.
  • Demonstrable ability to present research papers at national and/or international conferences and to communicate complex information to specialists and within the wider academic community.
  • Experiences that demonstrate the potential to develop good working relationships with staff in the partner TEIs and church bodies, and to contribute to the development of their theological education provision.
  • Experiences that demonstrate the potential to play a constructive role in academic quality assurance.


  • Demonstrable ability to work cooperatively as part of a team, including participating in research meetings.
  • Ability to work independently on their own initiative and to strict deadlines.
  • Excellent interpersonal and communication skills.



  • Strong publication record in peer-reviewed journals, commensurate with stage of career.
  • A track record of presenting research at conferences, symposia, or meetings, commensurate with stage of career.
  • Demonstrable ability to develop research proposals and designs in collaboration with other academics.
  • Familiarity with the church-related theological education sector in the UK, and with the challenges and opportunities facing it.


  • Demonstrable ability to plan and manage independent research.

DBS Requirement: Not Applicable.