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History and Mission

The Graduate Program in Religious Studies began its activities in 1976 as the first Masters degree program at the Methodist University of São Paulo (UMESP). In 1990, the program received formal recognition by the National Counsel on Education and also created the Doctoral Course, which received recognition four years later, in 1994. Since then, all courses in Brazil are regularly evaluated by the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES). CAPES evaluates the graduate program every three years and attributes a grade on a scale of 1 to 7. In 2009, the graduate program earned a grade of 5. In 2012, CAPES issued a grade of 6 to the graduate program, the highest grade applied to a graduate program in Religious Studies or Theology in Brazil. UMSEP’s graduate program was the first in Brazil to earn a grading of this distinction from CAPES.

In its 37 years of existence, the Program has graduated 542 masters students and 180 PhDs. Many of our graduates work today in Schools of Theology and graduate programs of Theology and Religious Studies in Brazil and abroad. Approximately 110 students are from different regions of Brazil and many countries in Latin America and Africa. Professors in the program hold doctorates from Brazilian, North American and European Universities. Teaching and research activities involve sustained engagement of both professors and students in the critical study of the phenomenon of religion, seeking scientific knowledge and social relevance from inter and transdisciplinary methodological perspectives which respect the complexity and variety of religious experiences on our continent.

The Graduate Program in Religious Studies investigates religions and their particular
forms of expression, articulation, and relation to historical, social and cultural contexts. Utilizing an interdisciplinary approach to Religious Studies, the degree program deploys diverse theoretical instruments from the human sciences, such as: literary and linguistic
theories, culture, gender, historiography, social sciences, theology, exegesis, philosophy,
psychology and pedagogy.

The Masters degree in Religious Studies seeks to attain the following objectives:

  • Train teachers for institutions of higher education;
  • Promote the training of researchers;
  • Stimulate scientific production in the area of Religious Studies;
  • Prepare students to work in schools, community leadership, religious institutions, and governmental and non-governmental organizations;
  • Promote dialogue with society regarding themes of interest related to the phenomenon of religion.

The Doctorate degree in Religious Studies has the following specific objectives:

  • Promote the scientific formation of professors and researchers for the development high level academic activities;
  • Develop systematic studies and advanced research of religious phenomenon;
  • Stimulate scientific production and the publication of theses, dissertations, monographs, and original research.


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