MA in Religion, Health and Wellbeing


Program Description

What role does religion and spirituality play in our experience of health and wellbeing? How does the biomedical focus of current healthcare practice affect us?

This interdisciplinary degree program examines what it means to be ill or healthy in diverse, individualized and highly technological societies, from psychological, cultural, ethical, and political perspectives. Not only does religious, cultural, political, physical, and technological diversity influence how we try to recover or maintain our health, it also influences what we think 'health' is in the first place.

This track within the Master's Programme in Theology and Religious Studies has two specializations: 'Spiritual Care [Geestelijke Verzorging]' and 'Ethics and Diversity'.

  • The specialization in Ethics and Diversity imparts the academic knowledge and skills to examine the anthropological, sociological, and ethical dimensions of health and well-being. This specialization is taught in English.
  • The specialization in Spiritual Care imparts the academic and practical knowledge and skills needed to examine the psychological, ethical, and spiritual dimensions of health and wellbeing, enabling you to become a registered spiritual caregiver [geestelijk verzorger]. This specialization is mainly taught in Dutch.

Why study this program in Groningen?

  • A unique combination of clinical, empirical, conceptual, and historical approaches;
  • The Spiritual Care (Geestelijke Verzorging) specialization is accredited by the SKGV (Stichting Kwaliteitsregister Geestelijke Verzorging);
  • We relate the latest research and theories to current developments;
  • Taught by internationally recognized experts in the field at a non-denominational university.


Year 1

The MA track in Religion, Health, and Wellbeing consists of:

  • An introductory course unit: Perspectives on Religion, Health, and Wellbeing (5 ECTS);
  • A course unit on Ethics in Care (5 ECTS);
  • A course unit on Research Methods (5 ECTS;
  • Three electives, depending on your specialization (15 ECTS);
  • Placement (10 ECTS) and Thesis (20 ECTS).

The introductory course outlines some of the basic theories and concepts that help us think through the intersections between religion, health, and wellbeing from psychological, anthropological, and philosophical perspectives. Case studies will be taken mainly from the field of Spiritual Care.

The course unit on Ethics in Care explores the moral issues surrounding various forms of intervention in human life. The bounds of technical possibilities are constantly shifting. How do ethicists discuss euthanasia, dignity in the process of dying? And how do we define what is good care within specific contexts? Issues such as relationality, vulnerability, and embodiment in relation to processes of signification will be discussed from an ethics of care perspective.


  • Compulsory: Ethics in Care (5 EC)
  • Compulsory: Perspectives on Religion, Health, and Wellbeing (5 EC)
  • Elective: Religion, Gender, and Sexuality (Ethics and Diversity) (5 EC, optional)
  • Elective: Spiritual Care (Spiritual Care) (5 EC, optional)
  • Compulsory: Conducting Research on RHW (5 EC)
  • Elective: (Beyond) Bioethics (Ethics and Diversity) (5 EC, optional)
  • Elective: Healing, Possession, and Illness (Ethics and Diversity) (5 EC, optional)
  • Elective: Psychopathology and Religion (both specializations) (5 EC, optional)
  • Placement (Spiritual Care) (15 EC)
  • Placement (Ethics and Diversity) (10 EC)
  • Thesis + Thesis Seminar (20 EC)

Study load

28 hours of class and self-study per week on average.

Study abroad

  • Study abroad is optional
  • For an average of 20 weeks
  • Maximum of 30 EC

The Master has several exchange contracts with other universities within and outside Europe to follow a part of the study at these universities.

Entry requirements

Admission requirements

Dutch diploma

Specific requirements More information
Assessment interview Voor de specialisatie Geestelijke Verzorging geldt een intakegesprek. Het intakegesprek is bedoeld om wederzijdse verwachtingen te bespreken. Om toegelaten te worden tot de stage in de specialisatie Geestelijke Verzorging dien je voorafgaand aan de toelating tot de master een assessmentprocedure te doorlopen.
Grade list Een overzicht van behaalde resultaten in de gevolgde bacheloropleiding met een toelichting op de gevolgde vakken.
Previous education

Specialisatie Ethics and Diversity: Bachelordiploma in Theologie, Religiewetenschappen, Letteren, Filosofie of Sociale Wetenschappen (zoals antropologie, psychologie, sociologie). Afhankelijk van je vooropleiding, krijg je ter voorbereiding een leeslijst aangereikt. Bij aanvang van de studie gaan we er van uit dat je op de hoogte bent van de concepten en theoretische discussies die in deze literatuur is beschreven. Studenten met een andere vooropleiding moeten een premasterprogramma volgen.

Specialisatie Geestelijke Verzorging: Bachelor Theologie of Religiewetenschappen (WO) met premaster van specifiek voorbereidende vakken (30 ECTS). Andere afgeronde HBO- of WO-opleiding (bachelor of master) met premaster van maximaal 60 ECTS, bestaande uit algemeen voorbereidende vakken en specifiek voorbereidende vakken.

Written request In je motivatiebrief schrijf je voor welke specialisatie je je wilt aanmelden: Geestelijke Verzorging of Ethics and Diversity. In deze brief schrijf je waarom je je wilt aanmelden voor deze opleiding (1 pagina). Bij de specialisatie Geestelijke Verzorging reflecteer je in je motivatiebrief op de diverse leerlijnen binnen het portfolio van de premaster. Voor de specialisatie in Ethics and Diversity stuur je ook een voorbeeld van een door jou geschreven academisch paper mee (bij voorkeur je bachelor-scriptie).

International diploma

Specific requirements More information
Grade list A grade list of the marks of your bachelor's degree program with an explanation of the followed courses.
Language test Sufficient proficiency in English is required. Minimum requirements: TOEFL 580 paper/237 computer/92 internet or IELTS: 6.5 (6.0 on each part). Native speakers of the English language, as well as Dutch applicants with a VWO certificate, are exempt from this requirement.
Previous education

Bachelor's degree in Theology, Religious Studies, Arts, Philosophy or Social Science (e.g. Anthropology, Psychology, Sociology). Depending on your former study and courses a reading package will be provided. We assume that you are aware of the concepts and theoretical discussions outlined in this literature.

Students with another bachelor's degree can be permitted via a bridging program.

Written request A letter of motivation to the admissions board explaining the choice for this study program (max. 1 page) is required, accompanied by a writing sample of an academic paper, preferably your Bachelor's (or Master's) thesis.

Language requirements

Exam Minimum score
IELTS overall band 6.5
IELTS listening 6
IELTS reading 6
IELTS writing 6
IELTS speaking 6
TOEFL paper-based 580
TOEFL computer-based 237
TOEFL internet-based 92

Application deadlines

Type of student Deadline Start course
Dutch students 01 May 2020 01 September 2020
EU/EEA students 01 May 2020 01 September 2020
non-EU/EEA students 01 May 2020 01 September 2020

Registration procedure

International students and Dutch students with non-Dutch qualifications are not automatically admitted to a Master's degree program at the University of Groningen. The full registration procedure will take longer than for Dutch students with regular Dutch qualifications and consists of three steps: application, admission, and registration.

Tuition fees

Nationality Year Fee Program form
EU/EEA 2019-2020 € 2083 full-time
non-EU/EEA 2019-2020 € 8900 full-time
EU/EEA 2020-2021 € 2143 full-time

Job prospects

This Master's degree qualifies you to work in a care institution, such as a hospital, nursing home or psychiatric hospital, for example as a spiritual carer. You could also become a policy officer in public health, global (mental) health and healthcare, or a consultant on a medical-ethical committee. These days, it is becoming increasingly common for spiritual carers to start their own practice.

Job examples

Spiritual Carer

In the specialization in Spiritual Care, you will study a wide range of religious traditions and personal convictions. You will learn how to counsel groups and individuals, helping them to find meaning and stability in their lives. You can also train company employees and offer advice and opinions at the policy level. Spiritual Carers can find jobs in care institutions, for example, general or psychiatric hospitals, nursing homes or institutions for people with a mental disability. These days, it is becoming increasingly common for spiritual carers to start their own practice instead of working for an institution.

Policy Advisor Health(care)

You will gain knowledge and understanding of ethical questions, diversity, and health, based on case studies and care practices. You can work as a policy officer for the government, a patient organization or a care institution, or in an advisory position, for example on a medical-ethical committee.


Once you have completed this Master's programme you will have enough knowledge of the subject to become a secondary school teacher in the subject of Religious Studies. You could also opt for a position in higher vocational education, for example teaching Theology at a university of applied sciences. As you also need didactic skills as a teacher, it is advisable to do a Master's in Education after you have completed your regular Master's program or follow this track within the two-year Master's program in Education.

Academic Research

Traditional forms of religion are making way for new ways of searching for meaning and purpose in your life. How do modern opinions of health and wellbeing fit in? What is the role of spirituality and religious convictions? How do present-day dilemmas and divergent ideas about these dilemmas affect both our wellbeing and the way we organize our care system? What is the function of professional spiritual counseling in our current healthcare system? This Master's program will equip you to answer these and other questions. The two-year Research Master's degree program also offers a specialization in Religion, Health, and Wellbeing. The Research Master's is the best way to prepare for a career in academic research.


The MA in Religion, Health, and Wellbeing is a multidisciplinary program, and so you will benefit from the expertise of the Centre for Religion, Health and Wellbeing, and its affiliated scholars. The Centre for Religion, Health, and Wellbeing is part of the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies and focuses on these specializations.

Spiritual Care

Spiritual care professionals and chaplains contribute to healthcare by providing support and sustenance for people who struggle with questions posed by their life events; such as severe physical and mental illness. These life events may bring up questions around meaning, purpose, self-identity, and value, which require an interdisciplinary approach informed by a blend of sociological, philosophical, ethical; anthropological, theological and psychological theories. These theories explore religion, spirituality, coping; human relationships and health/wellbeing. Research in the field focuses on how theoretical and empirical insights can be used to inform both practice and policy to improve or maintain biopsychosocial-spiritual well-being and how healthcare and community-care can be organized to support these goals.

Ethics and Cultural History

Study in this field concentrates on a culturally and historically informed analysis of generally-held key concepts and practices around both health and wellbeing. This then develops into identifying the key theoretical concepts which are put to work in the proposals of (for example) the World Health Organisation. The concepts are critically examined; both in terms of their feasibility and their situation within a larger cultural-historical map.

Health Psychology

One of the avenues of research is explicitly psychological; focusing on the role of behavior, psychology, and culture in physical health and wellbeing. More specifically, topics in this area include the prevention of illness through behavior change, optimization of medical treatment through the application of psychological theory and ideas of coping, stress, and diversity (socio-economic status, culture, gender, and religion). Health psychology is an interdisciplinary field; drawing from the social sciences, psychological traditions, humanities, medicine, and life sciences.

Cultural Anthropology and Sociology of Culture

This field of research is informed by anthropological and sociological approaches within the sub-fields of the anthropology of religion and medical anthropology. Furthermore, feminist approaches to issues of embodiment and health are explored. Empirical research is developed from the standpoint that many people look for holistic ways of addressing health and wellbeing.

Lecturers and their expertise

Staff members within the MA in Religion, Health, and Wellbeing bring their own research into teaching; preparing graduates for a career at the cutting edge of any chosen specialism.

  • Christoph Jedan is a Professor of Philosophy of Religion and Ethics. Central terms in his research are the history of death, dying and bereavement; religion and emotion; and 'levenskunst' (Art of Living).
  • Kim Knibbe is an associate professor in Sociology and Anthropology of Religion. She researches the relationship between religious and secular notions concerning sexuality in the African Diaspora and looks into how religion, globalization, and health are intertwined.
  • Brenda Mathijssen is an assistant professor of Psychology, Culture, and Religion. Her expertise lies in the fields of human attitudes to death, and the role of ethnic-cultural and religious diversity in relation to health and welfare.
  • Hanneke Muthert is an assistant professor of Psychology of Religion and Spiritual Care. She specializes in the relationship between mental disorders and religion, and in trauma, mourning and coping with loss.
  • Anja Visser is an assistant professor in Spiritual Care. She is an expert on forms of spirituality and religion outside traditional religious institutions and specializes in the role of spirituality when coping with curable or chronic forms of cancer.
Last updated Feb 2020

About the School

The University of Groningen has a rich academic tradition dating back to 1614. From this tradition arose the first female student and the first female lecturer in the Netherlands, the first Dutch astr ... Read More

The University of Groningen has a rich academic tradition dating back to 1614. From this tradition arose the first female student and the first female lecturer in the Netherlands, the first Dutch astronaut and the first president of the European Central Bank. Geographically, the University is rooted in the Northern part of the Netherlands, a region very close to its heart. Read less
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