The University of Manchester

University and BBC collaborate on innovative Religious Studies and Theology educational resource

A group of scholars from the Religions and Theology department at The University of Manchester have developed ‘Going Beyond Belief’, a fresh educational tool for A Level students, with the backing of the BBC Beyond Belief team.

The resource has been created to aid students in schools and colleges in accessing a selection of innovative research generated by researchers at the University and the extensive Beyond Belief archive. Tailored for students studying Religion, Ethics and Philosophy at A Level, the resource is a joint effort between academics from the Religions and Theology Department and the team behind BBC Radio 4’s ‘Beyond Belief’ programme.

“It’s a thrilling and distinctive approach to learning about Religions and Theology,” said Holly Morse, senior lecturer in Bible, Gender and Culture at The University of Manchester, who has overseen the development of the resource. “Initial conversations about the resource began when I was asked to participate in a beyond belief episode on femininity and religion by the producer at the time, Amanda Hancox.

“It was after the recording when we started to discuss more about the history of Beyond Belief, and the incredible archive of episodes. The more we talked, the more we realised there was potential for a collaboration between me and my colleagues at The University of Manchester and the team at Beyond Belief, with a focus on opening up the Beyond Belief archive and UoM research to young people interested in studying religion, theology, and ethics, especially A Level students.”

The Going Beyond Belief resource features unique contributions from a team of university academics with a variety of specialisms including Christian theology, Jewish studies, Islamic studies, and Biblical Studies, as well as expertise in comprehending the intricate relationships between religion(s) and philosophy, science, and textual studies, and explorations of highly contemporary issues such as environment, sexuality, gender, race relations, and artificial intelligence.

The webpages are devoted to assisting students in learning more about this research and how it can enhance their own studies. It’s a guide that leads visitors through a range of fascinating topics that also link to the RS A level, offering students a way to support their learning with the assistance of the world-leading Beyond Belief radio series and cutting-edge research produced at The University of Manchester.

The team behind the resource aims to inspire the next generation of religions and theology researchers and academics by demonstrating to students how crucial, powerful, and potentially world-changing studying religion can be.

The design process was a collaborative and creative effort, as the teams involved collaborated with A level exam board providers, teachers, students to ensure the resource was designed in a manner that could be both an engaging and exciting source of research on some key issues in the study of religions, ethics, and philosophy today, but also valuable for A level work.

“The resource is a well-balanced mix of explanation and discussion prompts,” said Richard Barrow, OCR Religious Studies Subject Advisor. “The layout works very nicely, and the links to podcast snippets are great. I could see it working very well either in the classroom or out of the classroom.”

The resource is intended to encourage students to feel empowered to draw connections between what is being studied in the classroom and the wider world today, both in terms of major events taking place on the world stage but also lived day-to-day experiences.

Research and teaching staff at The University of Manchester hosted an in-person launch of the resource with members of the Beyond Belief team: Tim Pemberton – Head of Religion & Ethics, BBC Audio North, Ruth Purser – Beyond Belief Assistant Producer, Dan Tierney – Content Editor for BBC Audio North, Amanda Hancox – former Beyond Belief editor. The event was attended by 60 students from six colleges, who enjoyed an introduction to the learning resource from Prof Peter Scott and Dr Holly, an interactive session trying out our pages on Roboethics with Dr Scott Midson. The students also experienced a careers talk and a reception from the Religions and Theology Department.

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