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Welcome to About Us

The programmes offered in the Department of Religion and Theology seek to be relevant within the African and South African contexts and are offered on a thoroughly ecumenical basis​


 About Us


A History of the Department

The Department of Religion and Theology came into being as a department in the Faculty of Arts in 2000. It continues a long and proud history of theological training at the University of the Western Cape since the inception of the Faculty of Theology in 1972.

At first, the Faculty of Theology focused only on the training of ministers in the former Dutch Reformed Mission Church. A Department of Biblical Studies (later renamed as Biblical & Religious Studies) was also formed in the Faculty of Arts in 1971 to provide training, especially for prospective teachers.

Since the late 1980's the doors of theological training were opened to students from a wide variety of denominations. In 1995 the Faculty of Religion and Theology came into being in order to integrate all the programmes in theology and religion. The formation of the Department of Religion and Theology in 2000 coincided with the following visions:

  • The restructuring of programmes in theology to equip students to fulfil positions of leadership in religious and moral communities in civil society and for a variety of ministries in the widest possible spectrum of churches;
  • The introduction of a visionary programme in Ethics, with a focus on the Moral and Religious Foundations of Society;
  • The introduction of first year modules in Hermeneutics in order to contribute to the development of basic academic skills of students within a wider context; 
  • An integration of the department within the Faculty of Arts to ensure the inter-disciplinary nature of the programmes offered by the department.

The unique context and ethos of the University of the Western Cape, with its history of struggle, its commitment to disadvantaged students and its vision as "A place of quality, a place to grow" continues to provide a challenging and intellectually stimulating environment for the study of religion and theology. The programmes offered in the Department of Religion and Theology seek to be relevant within Africa and South Africa. 

The study of religion and theology takes place in close co-operation with related​ institutions in the region and with various faith based organisations and other interest groups in civil society in the region. Since 2000 the Department has maintained formal relations with the United Church of Zambia Theological College, now the United Church of Zambia University.

The Department introduced eight continuous education courses through the Programme for Lay Theological Education (PLATE). This can be done fore academic credits or by attendance only. Since 2006 many students have come through this programme, some of whom continued with the Bachelor of Theology programme.

After several years of preparation the Desmond Tutu Chair of Ecumenical Theology and Social Transformation in Africa was finally established in 2013, with Professor Christo Lombard as the first incumbent. In 2016 Prof Sarojini Nadar was appointed in the Desmond Tutu Chair and subsequently also became the Director of the Desmond Tutu Centre for Religion and Social Justice. This Chair was awarded DST/NRF SARChI status under the name of the Desmond Tutu Chair in Religion and Social Justice, effective from 2019.  Prof Nadar has effectively been seconded to that Chair that reports directly to the DVC for Research and Innovation.

Growth in the department

Since 2000 the department has firmly re-established itself and has grown significantly in a number of areas. We are particularly proud of the following:

The department has a large number of postgraduate students. Many pastors in the Western Cape region register for the Honours programme to further their theological education.

The student growth in the subject Ethics has been dramatic. The more than 600 registered students from various faculties at UWC find the various modules particularly helpful as a supplement for their studies in other disciplines.

Annual conferences

The department, in cooperation with the Ecumenical Foundation of Southern Africa (EFSA), has hosted annual conferences on a variety of themes. See here​ for more information.

Six major frameworks for collaborative research projects

The research activities of the members of staff and postgraduate students in the Department of Religion and Theology have been concentrated in especially six large frameworks for collaborative research projects. See the section on research for detail in this regard. ​

Programme for Lay Theological Education

This innovative programme provides theological training at a tertiary level for lay people in leadership positions in churches in the Western Cape region. It is aimed at people who are already serving as leaders in local congregations, for example as preachers, counsellors, Sunday School leaders, Bible Study group leaders, youth leaders, women's group leaders and leaders of Christian community organisations. Read more about this programme here. More information and application forms are available here.

Agreement with the United Church of Zambia Theological College

In 2001 the department established an agreement with the United Church of Zambia Theological College, based in Kitwe. This agreement enables students at UCZTC to register for the B.Th. degree at UWC. In terms of this agreement, tuition is offered by UCZTC staff on the campus of UCZTC while the curricula, module outlines, examination papers and examination scripts are moderated by the UWC staff. This agreement has been of mutual benefit and is particularly valuable in the department's contact with other theological institutions in the Southern African region.

Study Guides in Religion and Theology

The development of this series of study guides is an initiative of the Department of Religion and Theology at the University of the Western Cape. Its main purpose is to help produce affordable, readily available and contextually relevant textbooks which can be used for teaching purposes in the Southern African context. In addition, the aim of the series is to develop research tools which may be employed for postgraduate research projects in the region. For more information, see the Department's list of book of publications.

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