Theology and Science Essay Competition

The University of St Andrews announces a worldwide theology and science essay competition to award scholarships to prospective undergraduates to study theology. The grand prizes will be up to £40,000 towards tuition and fees (up to £10,000 x four years) as dictated by the University, and numerous runner-up prizes may also be given.

Those selected will join the Theology and Science Scholars Programme.

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 package of study in science and theology, students explore these topics and obtain a world-class degree in both theology and a chosen science, i.e. theology and physics, theology and psychology, theology and sustainable development, 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.

For the second year of this competition, we will invite applicants to write essays on the following questions:

  1. 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? 
  2. Does the evolutionary biology of altruism (e.g., animals ‘arguing’ over fairness, etc) challenge or support religious beliefs on love? 
  3. In light of lockdown, many churches used video-audio software to livestream or pre-record their services. What, if any, specific liturgical practices cannot be made ‘virtual’ in this way, and why?
  4. How might the science of addiction and habit-formation inform the Christian belief that everyone is a sinner?
  5. Some religious experiences can be induced using psychedelic substances or technologies such as the ‘god helmet’.  Should churches employ such ‘induced tech’ to enhance a person’s spiritual life? If so, how?
  6. Some cognitive psychologists argue that children have a ‘natural’ belief in God. What does this imply for theology, if anything?
  7. How might the medical sciences inform Christian, Jewish, or Islamic conceptions of death and the ethics of dying? 

How to Apply 

  • The essay competition application for September 2021 entry will open in early October 2020.
  • The essay competition will remain open until March 2021.
  • Step 1:
  • Step 2:
    • Shortly after a completed application to St Andrews has been received, an applicant will be asked to write an essay on one of the questions listed above.
    • This scholarship application should be made through the Scholarships and Funding section of the My Application student portal.
    • Applicants will receive My Application access credentials after they have applied to St Andrews.


  • All submissions must be made in English.
  • Word count limit: 1500 (excluding title page, bibliography and references).
  • Each individual may submit only one essay.
  • Plagiarism will result in disqualification.
  • This competition is open to any qualified undergraduate applicant, including those from the UK, EU, and the rest of the world.


  • 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 scholarship winners will be announced in spring 2021 and will become a part of the Theology and Science Scholars Programme. 
  • Scholarships are subject to passing the normal undergraduate entrance requirements for the programme to which a scholarship applicant applies, and gaining unconditional admission to the University of St Andrews. 

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.