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Science & Theology Essay Prize

DEADLINES EXTENDED. The University of St Andrews announces a worldwide essay competition to award a scholarship to prospective undergraduates to study theology. First prize is £40,000 towards tuition & fees (£10,000 x 4 years), and nine runner-up awards of £600.

Why St Andrews?

Scotland’s oldest university, St Andrews is a world-leader in the study of theology. Our students:

  • Debate the place of religious belief in politics and international affairs
  • Learn biblical languages and read ancient manuscripts
  • Consider how increasing scientific knowledge can inform Christian thought and practice
  • Investigate the relationship between religion and the imagination
  • Optionally, as part of a Science and Theology joint degree, students explore these topics and obtain a world-class degree in both theology and a chosen science, i.e. Theology & Physics, Theology & Psychology, Theology & Sustainability, etc.

What is the Initiative in Science-Engaged Theology?

Past conversations between science and religion have sometimes been unnecessarily adversarial and unhelpfully broad, and more constructive questions have been neglected. By contrast, the project in science-engaged theology explores how current scientific studies and discoveries can inform theology’s sub-disciplines, such as liturgy, church history, biblical interpretation, and ethics. We ask questions such as:

Recent studies from cognitive scientists suggest that empathy is a bad thing. If these studies are sound, how should we interpret the Parable of the Good Samaritan?

Does the evolutionary biology of altruism (e.g., animals ‘arguing’ over fairness, etc) challenge or support religious beliefs on love?

What, if any, specific liturgical practices cannot be made ‘virtual’ and why?

How might the science of addiction and habit-formation inform the Christian belief that everyone is a sinner?

Do MRI scans of people thinking about “The Trolley Problem,” support or undermine Thomas Aquinas’ Principle of Double Effect?

Some cognitive psychologists argue that children have a ‘natural’ belief in God. What does this imply for theology, if anything?

How might the medical sciences inform Christian, Jewish, or Islamic conceptions of death and the ethics of dying?

How To Apply – deadlines extended

  • By 2 March 2020, write and submit a 1500-word essay, using one of the above questions as your prompt.
  • By 15 January 2020 (UK/EU applicants) or 10 February 2020 (non-UK/EU), apply to one of the undergraduate Divinity (or Joint) programmes using the standard undergraduate St Andrews application.


  • Essays must be received at before 23:59 GMT, 2 March 2020.
  • Your undergraduate St Andrews application must be received by 15 January 2020 (UK/EU applicants) or 10 February 2020 (non-UK/EU).
    • For non-UK/EU applicants, this represents an earlier deadline than otherwise. To be eligible for this competition (first prize and runner-up prizes), you must meet these undergraduate application deadlines.
    • St Andrews accepts application services like UCAS and Common App, as well as direct applications; some charge fees. By using UCAS, you will not incur added fees by applying (provided you were already using UCAS to apply to university this year).
  • Essays must answer one of the questions listed above, and be 1500-words or less (not including title page, bibliography or references, if included). Each applicant may submit only one essay. All essays must be written in English. Plagiarism will result in disqualification.
  • This competition is open to any qualified undergraduate applicants, including those from the UK, EU, and the rest of the world. The School of Divinity and the University of St Andrews is committed to diversity and inclusiveness, including welcoming students of any faith tradition or none.
  • The winners will be announced by the week beginning 20 March The decision of the judges will be made according to the selection criteria for the essay, together with your University of St Andrews application. This decision is final and cannot be queried.
  • The first-place award is subject to passing the normal undergraduate entrance requirements for the programme and accepting admission to the University of St Andrews.