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Corpus Christi College Cambridge Philosophy Essay Competition

The TRPR Tripos

The Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion course (TRPR) course allows students a great deal of freedom when planning their degree.  The range of papers in the first year includes one from each of the major sub-fields taught in the faculty, so students are exposed to a variety of approaches to the discipline.  In their first year, students take a paper in a scriptural language (Greek, Hebrew or Arabic), one paper in the Bible (either Old Testament / Hebrew Bible or New Testament) and three further papers, chosen from the history of Christianity, Christian theology, social-scientific approaches to religion, world religions and the philosophy of religion.  In their second year, they take four papers, either deepening their knowledge of subject areas they worked on in their first year, or diversifying into new areas, such as religion and the arts.  In their third year, students take two broad survey papers and either two additional papers, which may be special interdisciplinary topics, or one further paper and a dissertation.  Some students specialise in just a few areas during their three years in the faculty, whilst others choose to cover a number of sub-fields.

Due to the wide range of papers and subject areas available, it is expected that students will receive most of the one-to-one teaching (supervisions) from supervisors outside their own College.  Supervisions are arranged by the College’s Director of Studies (DoS), who is responsible for overseeing the students’ programme of studies and selecting those who will supervise them.  In Corpus, our philosophy is to secure the best supervision possible for each paper; accordingly, students are sent to the most expert subject specialist available.  Corpus enjoys an excellent reputation in theology and we are therefore in a position to secure outstanding supervisors for our students, including those who are able to take on very few undergraduates.

As a result of the flexibility and rigour of the tripos, our students are able to enter a number of stimulating professions after graduating from the University.  Former Corpus theologians have gone into law, accounting, international development, the civil service, business, acting, the diplomatic corps, as well as the more traditional professions, such as teaching or the ministry.  A number of Corpus theologians have progressed to graduate work in one of the sub-fields they studied as undergraduates. Employers value the rigour of the Cambridge degree (they often remark on our language requirement), but also its breadth.  Our students learn to analyse a wide variety of different kinds of information, and this diverse skill-set is increasingly important in the modern workplace and appreciated by prospective employers.

Why study Theology, Religion and Philosophy of Religion at Corpus?

Corpus has a long and distinguished tradition in theology and religious studies, a tradition that is currently stronger than ever.  We provide a supportive and stimulating atmosphere in which to study the diverse range of sub-fields and approaches that make up this inter-disciplinary subject – one of vital importance to understanding the contemporary world.

Corpus is one of the most supportive colleges in Cambridge at which to study TRPR: we can admit up to four theologians in any given year. Our students thrive academically, but we stress not only individual academic excellence, but also mutual encouragement. Corpus theologians frequently comment on the supportive atmosphere of the College generally, but in particular, the friendly, family-like atmosphere. They have the advantage of being close to a significant number of other students in their own subject area, whilst also benefiting from the intimacy of a small College, which encourages the formation of friendships with students in other subjects as well.

Corpus offers a beautiful setting in which to study theology, including a stunning new undergraduate library, located close to the centre of Cambridge and to the Divinity Faculty, with a friendly and stimulating group of undergraduate theologians.  We nurture our students academically by offering booster work in languages or exam technique when required, but we also challenge them, inviting them to strive and do their best, offering book and travel grants to allow them to reach beyond the parameters of their course in Cambridge. In this atmosphere, our students flourish.  Overall, Corpus is one of the most congenial and supportive Colleges at which to study theology.

We currently have two Fellows in TRPR: Dr Andrew Davison, the Starbridge Lecturer in Theology & Natural Sciences, and Prof William Horbury, a Professor of Jewish & Early Christian Studies. The acting Director of Studies for the 2016-2017 academic year is Dr. Ruth Jackson.

What do we look for in applicants?

There is no typical applicant for TRPR and certainly no ideal one.  Corpus theologians come from all kinds of backgrounds and schools and have all kinds of interests: some are highly focused on a specific religious tradition, such as Buddhism, Judaism or Christianity, while some are primarily interested in philosophy, and some deliberately choose a diverse range of papers. Some have strong personal religious commitments and others have none. All are welcome at Corpus. Most applicants have a background in Arts subjects: English, ancient or modern Languages and History can all be particularly useful for studying this subject area. However, we also admit students whose A Levels are in Mathematics or the Natural Sciences, and they have thrived as well. We do not require applicants to have an A Level in Religious Studies.

Prospective applicants are encouraged to visit us by attending one of our College Open Days.

Lloyd Davies Philosophy Prize

Established in 2006, the Lloyd Davies Philosophy Prize is an essay competition open to students in Year 12/IB1 (or equivalent). The first prize is £250, and there may also be a second prize of £150.

The deadline for entries is 12pm on Thursday 15th June, with winners announced Friday 23rd June.

The judges will look for originality of thought, a clear grasp of the issues, clarity in presentation and a critical approach to what has been read. Essays should be no more than 2500 words in length and should be on one of the topics listed below.

Titles for 2017 Entries:

– How can you know that you really exist?

– How important are our memories for our identity?

– ‘Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few … or the one” (Spock and Captain Kirk). Discuss.

– ‘Since philosophers cannot seem to agree on anything, philosophy is a sham.’ Discuss.

For more information, including the winning 2016 essays, please visit http://www.oriel.ox.ac.uk/study-us/schools-liaison/lloyd-davies-philosophy-prize

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