Studying Religion, Philosophy & Ethics at University

This Saturday sees one of our biggest Open Days (info: here), and I will be doing my bit, talking about what it is like to study religious, philosophical and ethical ideas, especially on our course here at University of Gloucestershire

In discussing what I was planing to say, with a colleague, I was saying that I always get a what’s the point? question: often framed in terms of what type of job a degree like this might lead graduates toward, but also – on occasion – in more general terms.. (His response, by the way, was the surely that a student who had studied philosophy, in particular, could do anything – I liked that answer…)
But it got me thinking…
Of course, on one level, I think “what’s the point of studying anything else?” – the things we cover seem so vital, so central to what it means to be a human being, that the question is hard to get one’s head round…
But: not everyone feels quite the same as we do about the topic – so beyond the intrinsic value of studying RPE, what does it give students? Of course, it gives them lots of analytical and critical skills, the ability to appreciate complex ideas, to deal with conceptually difficult material, to explain exactly what they mean, and to understand and articulate a range of religious notions. It provides them with the confidence to robustly defend points of view, verbally, or in written form, and the ability to revise their points of view as they see fit.
But, and I think this is very much true when I look at, and talk to, our graduates, it seems to make them thoughtful, especially when it comes to matters that impact on other people. By which, I think what I will say at the Open Day tomorrow is that we really strive, in a way that many other disciplines perhaps do not, to make our students better people.
This may seem odd, and we certainly don’t tell them what to think (not that they’d listen – they often are rather argumentative and independent-minded [which is a good thing]) – but we do tell them that it is their duty to think; and that the ideas on the course will challenge them to produce an ethical response…

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