Monday, December 07, 2015

RPE 2015 Essay Competition Results: The winners..

Well - that was tough!

Over 80 essays - and many of them excellent!

However, after much fighting, many biscuits, and extended soul-searching: we have a result.

The winner of the iPad is Elizabeth Huang, of Magdalen College School (upper sixth), for an essay on Artificial Intelligence and Love - which we hope to publish on this blog soon.

4 Essays were awarded runners-up prizes of an Amazon Voucher - for some really fantastic work. These are:
Phineas Humphris, Thetford Grammar School.
Cameron Newton-Grain, The Cotswold School.
Francesca Lutje-Wilkes, Bearsden Academy.
Jessica Wooff, Cranbrook School.

Thanks to everyone who took part -we really appreciated the work that went into every piece of writing we saw!

Wednesday, December 02, 2015

RPE Essay competition - results soon!

FCH Campus - home of RPE.
Well - the RPE essay competition had over 80 entries this year: and we are still reading them!

The standard is very high - but we hope to come to a decision by the end of this week - and will announce the winner on this blog!

Thanks to all those who took part - and watch this space!

Friday, November 13, 2015

Diwali trip 2015.. Pictures, Students, and a mention of 'black Diwali'

This Wednesday saw students from Religion, Philosophy & Ethics at the University of Gloucestershire (along with some welcome guests from Creative Writing, History, and English Literature along too) head up to Leicester for the 2015 Diwali celebrations.

The BBC report that 41000 people attended, a coach-load of them were our students..  We will be back next year for more fireworks, sweets, street food and to witness the celebrations.

Want to know more about Diwali? There is this Pictures and Guide page, and lots more on the web.

This year's celebrations were not without controversy though - as some British Sikhs called for a 'black Diwali' in protest at the visit to the UK by BJP President of India Nanendra Modi. At a Sikh is quoted as saying:

"Whereas previously the parties were more secular and appealing on economic policies or the general policies you might get here, now it's more Hindu nationalism, that's the agenda," he said.
"The other minorities in India are getting a rough ride."

 Nonetheless, many Hindu communities are delighted at his visit - as the article describes.

Click to see more from RPE's Flickr site of trips, speakers, and events.

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Class of 2015 Graduation Tea

Please join staff and fellow graduates and their families in the FCH Chapel for tea, cakes and the presentation of prizes, from 2.00pm-3.00pm.

RSVP to the School of Humanities by Friday 6 November 2015

Friday, October 16, 2015

Welcome from Professor Melissa Raphael

Hello, I'm Melissa Raphael, Professor of Jewish Theology here at the University of Gloucestershire.  I also teach Modern Jewish Thought to rabbinical ordinands in London and am an editor of the Oxford Encyclopedia for Religion and the Arts, with responsibility for Jewish visual art.

My main areas of research and teaching are modern and contemporary Jewish theology, feminist perspectives on theology and religion; art and religion, and the sacred/profane distinction in Western religion.
When I’m not teaching, I write the articles and books that inform many of the modules I’m responsible for here at the University and which contribute to international academic debate:
These are some of my publications: Rudolf Otto and the Concept of Holiness (Oxford University Press, 1997); Thealogy and Embodiment: The Post-Patriarchal Reconstruction of Female Sacrality(Sheffield Academic Press, 1996); Introducing Thealogy: Discourse on the Goddess (Sheffield Academic Press: 1999); The Female Face of God in Auschwitz:A Jewish Feminist Theology of the Holocaust(Routledge, 2003), shortlisted for the Koret Jewish Book Award in 2004 and the subject of an American Academy of Religion panel session in 2009, and Judaism and the Visual Image: A Jewish Theology of Art (Continuum, 2009). I’m currently working on a new book on gender and idolatry
I don’t only lecture at the University of Gloucestershire.  One of the things I enjoy most about my job is that guest lecturing has taken me all over the world, from Seoul to Wisconsin…Some of these guest lectures have included the 2008 Sherman Lectures in Jewish Studies at the University of Manchester, and the 2008 Granville-Goodspeed Lecture in Theology at Denison University, Ohio.  In 2011 I was the Hussey Lecturer in the Church and the Arts at the University of Oxford and in October 2012 I contributed to the celebration of the fifth anniversary of the issuing of A Common Word, a historic interfaith initiative of Prince Ghazi Bin Muhammad of Jordan, with a lecture on the nature of love in Judaism, at Regent’s Park College, Oxford.
I’m also Honorary Research Scholar at the University of Wales, Lampeter and sit on the International Board of The Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion and The Journal of Religion and Gender. I’m Visiting Professor in Theology at the University of Chichester and Honorary Visiting Professor at the University of York, St John. I regularly broadcast on Radio 4 and television and have been the academic representative for the British Government on the International Task Force for Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research.
Outside my life at the University of Gloucestershire, I like to paint, garden, read, draw and hike (especially on coastal paths).

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

The Hallowe’en Lecture: Re-enchanting culture in a cynical world: Pagans, Satanists, Atheists, Fictional Religions and more. October 28th.

One of the RPE staff, Dr David Webster, will be giving a (free) public lecture on October 28th at the Park Campus of the University of Gloucestershire.

The title is:

The Hallowe’en Lecture: Re-enchanting culture in a cynical world: Pagans, Satanists, Atheists, Fictional Religions and more.

Dr Webster said: “The lecture will consider whether these emerging trends can be seen as the means by which our cynical, suspicious and complex culture expresses its need for life to be something more than a drab series of repeated commercial transactions, culminating in pre-paid funeral plans.”

The event starts with registration and refreshments from 5pm. The lecture is from 6pm until 7pm. Please visit to book a place.

This is a public event - all are welcome - but you do need to use the link above to book a place..

Monday, October 05, 2015

Hello to the Second Year, from Martin Wood.

I am extremely happy to be joining the RPE team for this semester. I will be guiding students through the often complex subject of Hinduism and hopefully encouraging them to engage with the subject with as much enthusiasm and interest as I have done. Over the last ten years I have been working in the field with various Gujarati Hindu communities in India, the U.K. and New Zealand. Much of my research has focused on issues of authority, identity and vernacular traditions, areas that I will no doubt expand upon in the lectures and seminars. I was out in Gujarat earlier this year, which was an astonishing trip, so I intend to lard my lectures with numerous anecdotes from the field (some of which I hope will be received with interest). In the meantime I hope that all the students whom I encounter in the lecture room will find their journey through university greatly enriched by their encounter with the vibrant and dynamic set of religious traditions that we call Hinduism.  

Martin Wood.

Friday, October 02, 2015

A Welcome to new students from Dave


This year marks 10 years of taking students onto the RPE degree. That makes me feel old, as I was there when it all began - as were some students who you can find over on the RPE Facebook group. A lot has happened since then, but the RPE course has become stronger and more successful as time has gone by. As you can see on this post - the recently released National Student Survey gave us 100% overall satisfaction (as it did last year too) - and this was a survey done by final year students.

We also came 3rd in the Guardian 2016 guide to the best courses in the country for this subject area.

As you can tell - I am incredibly proud to part of the team that delivers this amazing course. I can be found contributing sessions in philosophy modules with Course Leader Dr William Large, and I teach the Love, Sex and Death module in the third year. I also teach on some of the interesting things happening in the modern world - so that includes the New Religious Movements course for the first year (semester 2) and the new course which ran for the first time last year - Emergent Spiritualities: you can see some of the video content for this module at: . For the last 7 years (and forever I hope) I have led the Spain Field trip - and love the various coach trips we'll also be taking as part of the course (I think the first one this year will be a Diwali trip to Leicester in November)

I also write and publish - and you'll no doubt be hearing about that in class: but what I hope you're looking forward to most is getting involved in learning with us, arguing with us, and becoming part of the growing community of RPE graduates.


A Welcome to new students from Pekka

I would on my part like to welcome all new students. The study of religion is an exciting enterprise that involves many areas in Humanities and beyond. I myself focus on the study of Christianity, and the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible within its sacred scriptures in particular and currently teach the Christianity module for the RPE course. Otherwise, my interests include natural sciences (my “first love”, with engineering), social scientific, anthropological, postmodern and postcolonial approaches, but I’m always trying to be open to learning something new from any other perspectives. I hope to do my bit to assist you in your journey through the RPE degree. If I can try and pass one bit of my experience at this point, I would say that persistence and raw effort is really a main key to success, at the same time, it is also good to follow one’s interests and impulses in the study (e.g. with reading, assessments and study projects), as everything is better when one can enjoy what one does.

Pekka Pitkanen

Thursday, October 01, 2015

A welcome to our new students from Roy

A warm welcome to our new RPE intake! My name is Roy Jackson and I’ll be teaching you such ‘stuff’ as Greek Philosophy, Philosophy of Religion, and Islam. Also, the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche may crop up on occasion. I have been teaching at the University of Gloucestershire since 2007 and I probably gain the most satisfaction from seeing students grow and transform over the three years they are here. By the time they leave they are, in most cases (though we can’t win them all), more confident, independent and have developed a series of skills that will help them no matter what career(s) they choose. The sensible ones even stay in academia and go on to do MAs and PhDs. The most important thing, however, is to make the most of your three years: you will make some friends for life and it is an opportunity to really question why we are here and what our place in the world is.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Welcome to all the New Students

Welcome to all our new students who are starting the great adventure that is known as RPE. As Dave mentioned in the previous post, we did excellently in the NSS again. This is testimony not only to us, but also to our wonderful students.

There are many great ideas and activities you are going to be introduced to throughout the year, but one that thing that makes RPE special is all the extra stuff we get up to: visits, societies, and clubs. Oh and we also have been known to go to the pub once and a while.

One important event that I do want to direct your attention to, which is happening soon and is organised by our friends in history, is Black History Month. There will be two events at FCH, which you might be interested in.

Bonnie Greer 'A Talk on Disruption and Insouciance'
Wednesday 14th October, 6.30-8.00 pm

Gary Younge 'Free at Last: Reclaiming the Lost Stories of Black History'
Tuesday 20th October, 6.30-8.00 pm

Both are at FCH and in TC001.

You can book both events at the SU website

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

New National Student Survey Results: RPE 100% - again!

Well, after last year's 100% Student Satisfaction in the National Student Survey for Religion, Philosophy & Ethics, and our recent 3rd place in the Guardian League Table, we thought we might have seen our best results: but the new National Survey Data is just out..

You can see below that RPE was rated highly again - and scored 100% overall satisfaction, and the other scores show how happy our students have been. If you want to know just why we rate so highly - visit us at an OPEN DAY - and find out..

Thursday, July 09, 2015

2015 Religion, Philosophy & Ethics Essay Competition (to win an iPad)

First prize: a new iPad
Three Runners-up receive a £20 Amazon voucher

The Religion, Philosophy and Ethics (RPE) course  is pleased to announce the return of its annual RPE Essay Competition

2014 winner!
The competition is open to all those currently studying for any AS or A2-level examinations (or equivalent) in the UK. The first prize is a new iPad, and there will be three runners-up prizes of £20 Amazon vouchers.

Entries must be no longer than 1500 words including footnotes but excluding references and can take any form e.g. essay, dialogue, etc. All sources must be referenced.

The deadline for the 1500 word essay is 5pm on 29st October 2015 and will be judged by RPE lecturers.

To enter please choose one of the titles below and email your entry to (please note you may only submit one entry to the competition).

Entries must be written in as a Microsoft Word document. Entries will normally be acknowledged within 5 days. In your email, please put your name, the Sixth Form / FE college you attend, and the title you have chosen to answer. The subject of your email should be 'essay competition'.

Choose one of the following titles:

  1. Is atheism a faith?
  2. ‘Without a religious dimension a person cannot be fully moral’. Discuss
  3. Would it ever be possible to develop an Artificial Intelligence/Robot that was capable of love?

Peter Tatchell Lecture, next Thursday: 'Organised Religion: the greatest global threat to human rights?'

[This event has now happened - but you can see the full video of the lecture at]

Next week, on July 16th, Peter Tatchell will lecture on 'Organised Religion: the greatest global threat to human rights?'

Given the complex historical relations between battles for human rights, and the place of both people of faith and religious institutions on either sides of these battles, this promises to be a fascinating talk.

There will also be a Q&A with the speaker, and the chance to engage in debate.

The event is free, but please email to reserve a place.

The event is to start at 7.30pm in TC001 at the FCH Campus (Swindon Road, Cheltenham) of the University.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Discover Religion, Philosophy & Ethics at Gloucestershire at an Open Day!

You can find out more about Religion, Philosophy & Ethics at Gloucestershire online, of course, but the best way to really get a feel for the course and place is at an Open Day

We've got events on:
FCH Campus..

  • Saturday, 27 June 2015 
  • Tuesday, 30 June 2015 
  • Saturday, 03 October 2015 
  • Saturday, 31 October 2015 
  • Saturday, 21 November 2015

Click to magnify..
Religion, Philosophy & Ethics at Gloucestershire was recently rated (by the Guardian 2016 League Table) as among the top 3 courses in the UK the whole 'Religious Studies & Theology' area. 

RPE offers an experience well beyond the exciting and interesting lectures, seminars  workshops and tutorials (that led to our recent 100% National Student Survey Satisfaction score, both for overall satisfaction and for the teaching). 

As well as our international trip (see HERE for a report on this year's Spanish adventures), we offer a wealth of chances for students to deepen their knowledge via first -hand experiences. We recently visited Stonehenge, Avebury, the British Museum, the Swaminaryan Mandir in Neasden, the Malmesbury Philosophy Town event, as well as students having the chance of lots of free tickets for speakers at Cheltenham International Festival of Literature. Closer to home, students regularly attend Gloucestershire Philosophical Society talks (held on campus), have their own debate group, and more. You can browse the archives of this blog to see more recent events.

Find us on Flickr..

Over at Flickr you can see loads of pictures of events, trips, students, and staff:  

At our video blog - you can watch staff and guests in discussion about a range of topics:

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

The 2015 Field Trip to Cordoba: A Personal Reflection from Professor Melissa Raphael

Bristol Airport at 5am..

Going to Cordoba this last spring yielded at least two new experiences: my first field trip abroad with the staff and students of the University of Gloucestershire and, on a more personal note, my first trip to the region of Spain my Sephardi Jewish ancestors were expelled from in 1492, travelling on first to Portugal, then Amsterdam and then, in the seventeenth-century, to London, at the invitation of Oliver Cromwell, where the family have remained.

At Medina Azahara, waiting for bus..
The Jewish trace, in Cordoba, is just that.  The Jewish presence-in-absence is yet more elusive than that of Islam or Catholicism, whose monuments, as in most urban topographies of power, occupy the grand central spaces of the city.  If you want Jewish ghosts, you have to turn into the winding alleyways and small squares, and preferably at night.  True, we visited the remains of an exquisite synagogue and a small but vivid museum; I also spotted a restaurant serving traditional Sephardi dishes which, if I could find it again, I'd visit next time.  And there was the famous statue of Maimonides - he wouldn't have approved of it as full-body statues would generally be regarded as contrary to Jewish laws relating to idolatry - which nonetheless situated his work in a very particular historical time and space that had previously felt as abstract as much of his thought.  But, if you're interested in pursuing the Jewish heritage of Cordoba you need to have done some research beforehand and know what you're looking for.   A talk by one of our guides was a great help, but you also need to use your imagination which, in this complex, mysterious city, where the sediment of Jewish history is so rich in achievement and pathos, is not difficult to do. 

Another philosophical debate
But, back in 2015, a pleasure of the trip that I should have anticipated, but didn't, were the impromptu open-air, on-foot religion and philosophy seminars.  This lent fresh meaning to the word 'pedagogy'! - students and staff enjoying theoretical discussions that were more fluid, heated, and perhaps more creative, exchanges than many held in the classroom.  There must have been something in the air...and the unseasonable heat; the golden light and the dramatic shadows cast by perhaps the most spectacular architecture I have ever seen.
Our tour of the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba

Thanks for making my experience on the trip so rewarding must go to Dave for his meticulous planning and totally unfazed approach to any mishaps - but also to the students: all of them, but especially Ally, Caroline, Kathryne, Tom and Bingying.

[For previous trips see HERE]

Most of the group on top of the Torre de la Calahorra Museum

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

League Table Glory: Religion,Philosophy and Ethics in the 2016 Guardian League Tables..

Having just seen the Guardian 2016 tables. Religious Studies (where RPE is measured - and you can see in the detail that it was the RPE NSS data that helped win  the place) that we are 3rd nationally.

And if you are looking "Religion Philosophy" types courses - who do you imagine pops up top?:

See our National Student Survey Results: HERE

See HERE for more on the Religion, Philosophy & Ethics course at Gloucestershire 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Chris Capewell on Camus: Gloucestershire Philosophical Society

This Wednesday (13th May 2015!) - Chris Capewell (an RPE graduate) will speak at Gloucestershire Philosophical Society. His topic is:

Camus: From Absurd Beginnings to Rebellious Ends.

It will be at FCH campus, Cheltenham in TC002a , at 7.30pm - all are welcome!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Lecture: Professor Beverley Clack - Constructing death as a form of failure: addressing mortality in a neo-liberal age.

The Severn Forum

Thursday 21 May 7.45pm
  Constructing death as a form  of failure: addressing mortality in a neo-liberal age

Chair in Philosophy of  Religion, Oxford Brookes University

Lecture Theatre, FC TC 001,
Francis Close Hall
St Paul’s Road
University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham
£3 to the public. Free to members and students 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Avebury and Stonehenge - yet more RPE adventures..

After trips, fairly recently, to London (for the Swaminaryan Mandir and the British Museum) and our Spain Field Visit in March, and recent guest speakers - you'd think RPE students had had enough excitement - but there's always more..

Friday saw us head (with History students too) to Avebury and Stonehenge. Here is a short write-up by one of the History colleagues who joined us, Dr Tim Copeland:

Thirty seven students and three staff visited the prehistoric sites of Avebury and Stonehenge, both in Wiltshire. The aims of this Activity Week event were to explore the past use of these ‘ritual’ monuments in their landscapes and how they have been appropriated in the present by the ‘New Age’ and ‘Heritage’ cults. At Avebury it was possible to wander among the stones in the area contained by the massive earthworks, and indeed walk the full circle around the bank, which provided the necessary contrast with the situation at Stonehenge. There were also fine examples of folk culture to be seen in the tying of ribbons and the deposition of flowers in the trunks and roots of several fine beech trees whose prominent root systems could have come straight out of an illustration from ‘Lord of the Rings’. Finally, it is an ancient tradition to imbibe from Avebury Well which in its modern guise has hops, malt and barley added.
The new interpretive centre at Stonehenge demonstrated the use of Neolithic and Bronze Age landscapes in a very accessible form, but without the mention of the modern ‘Druid’ cult or the political issues surrounding lack of access to the stone circle itself.  With the closure of roads it is now possible to walk to the monument through the ancient landscape and this was experienced by most of the group, returning on the new shuttle bus. Another  interesting area for study was the gift shop with its wide range of ‘Stonehenge Merchandise’ ranging from the academic to the gimmicky, with fridge magnets and chocolate megaliths being favoured by some of the members of staff. Altogether it was a successful and satisfying day giving varied and new experiences to all involved in a pleasant social context.