University and BBC co-create exciting Religions and Theology learning tool

A team of academics from the Religions and Theology department at The University of Manchester have created ’ Going Beyond Belief ’, a new learning resource for A Level students, with the support of the BBC Beyond Belief team.

The resource has been conceived to support students in schools and colleges to access a collection of innovative research produced by researchers at the University and the rich resource that is the Beyond Belief archive. Designed for students studying Religion, Ethics and Philosophy at A Level, the resource is a collaboration between academics from the Religions and Theology Department and the team behind BBC Radio 4’s ’Beyond Belief’ programme.

"It’s an exciting and unique way to learn about Religions and Theology," said Holly Morse, senior lecturer in Bible, Gender and Culture at The University of Manchester, who has co-ordinated the development of the resource. "Initial discussions about the resource began when I was invited to take part in a beyond belief episode on femininity and religion by the producer at the time, Amanda Hancox.

"It was after the recording when we began to chat more about the history of Beyond Belief, and the amazing archive of episodes. The more we spoke, the more we felt 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 of 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 has unique contributions from a team of university academics with a range of specialisms including Christian theology, Jewish studies, Islamic studies and Biblical Studies, as well as expertise in understanding the complex relationships between religion(s) and philosophy, science, and textual studies, and explorations of highly contemporary issues such environment, sexuality, gender, race relations, and artificial intelligence.

The webpages are dedicated to supporting students learn more about this research and how it can enrich their own studies. It’s a guide that takes visitors through a range of fascinating topics that also connect the RS A level, offering students a way to support their learning with the help of the world-leading Beyond Belief radio series and cutting-edge research produced at The University of Manchester.

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

The design process was collaborative and creative, as the teams involved worked with A level exam board providers, teachers, students to ensure the resource was designed in such a way that it 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 judicious blend 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 designed to encourage student to feel empowered to make 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.

We were particularly excited about the way a collaboration of this kind would give students access to different kinds of material beyond textbooks, added Holly. "It would be a resource of edge research and teaching from leading academics in the field, interviews from faith leaders, and experiences and life stories of people from different religious communities. We hope we can share some of the excitement and enthusiasm we all feel about researching and communicating about religion.

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.