Entries for Religious Studies A level rising faster than for any other arts, humanity or social science

The key outcomes of the 2015 A level results in England and Wales for Religious Education are as follows:

  • 23,372 RS A level entries were recorded, an increase of 6.5% on 2014 and more than double the number in 2003 (11,132 entries were recorded in 2003)
  • The number of entries for RS A level has increased by 110% since 2003, more than for any arts, humanity or social science subject (the nearest subject is Political Studies with an increase of 62%).  Among all subjects, only Further Maths has seen more rapid growth than RS
  • 23.9% of entries for RS A level were awarded an A or an A* 
  • There were 37,365 entries for RS at AS level, an increase of 3.5% on 2014 and more than double the number in 2003 (15,482 entries were recorded in 2003)

The contextual evidence shows the growing status of RS as a subject for Higher Education entry:

  • The Russell Group of top universities has made it clear that RS A level provides ‘suitable preparation for University generally’ 
  • Both Oxford and Cambridge University include Religious Studies in the top level list of ‘generally suitable Arts A levels’
  • Applicants with Religious Studies A level were more likely to gain admission to study History at Oxford University in 2012 than those with A levels in many ‘facilitating’ subjects
  • 20% of students admitted to Oxford University to study mathematics in 2012 had an RS A level (more than those with Economics, Physics and Business Studies A levels)
  • Research from the Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring at Durham University on the comparative difficulty of different subjects at A level showed that RS was ‘in the middle difficulty range, similar to Geography and more demanding than English’. 

Comment from Daniel Hugill, Chair, National Association of Teachers of RE (NATRE):

"Congratulations to the many students receiving their Religious Studies results today.  The grades they have achieved are the product of their hard work grappling with some of the most difficult questions to ever puzzle humankind. Thanks are due to their teachers, too, who have worked tirelessly to ensure that their students can reach their full potential.

These students, and teachers, will tell you that A level RS is certainly not an easy option. As the research from Durham University proves, it is more challenging than some of the so-called ‘facilitating’ subjects, and universities are recognising this fact.  A-level RS helps to equip students with the skills, knowledge, and attitudes necessary to succeed in modern Britain.”

Comment from Joyce Miller, Chair, Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC): 

"No one should be surprised to see how popular Religious Studies A level has become.  Pupils want to study the subject because it allows them to explore crucial questions in relation to beliefs, values and morality, and contributes to their preparation for living in a multi-faith, multi-cultural world.  It also provides an excellent foundation for further study in a range of academic subjects, not limited to theology, religious studies and philosophy, and remains a very attractive qualification to universities. Pupils and their teachers deserve congratulations for this impressive set of results.”

Religious Studies A-level pupils explain why they chose the subject:

Tom, Haslingden High School, Lancashire

small-thumbnail​“I chose RS at A level for a couple of reasons. One being I did quite well at GCSE. Also In this day and age, as we live in a somewhat ignorant society, it's important to understand other cultures and religions, and break down the negative stereotypes portrayed by the media. I also enjoy debating in moral and religious arguments and in my course there were plenty of opportunities to do so.”

Lilly, The King's School, Ottery St Mary

small-thumbnail“I chose A level Religious Studies because it develops and nurtures a range of skills that are useful across so many subjects: critical analysis, evaluation, exploring contexts, detailed explanation, conceptual development and many more.”

Ollie, The King's School, Ottery St Mary

small-thumbnail“I took Religious Studies at AS level because other people's opinions on ethical issues and philosophical ideas fascinate me. I love learning about theories from different thinkers and applying them to ethical situations. The subject has also taught me a wide variety of skills, from essay writing to analysing different conceptual ideas. You also learn to argue from different perspectives which can help you see the bigger picture.”

Kirsty, The King's School, Ottery St Mary

small-thumbnail“I chose A Level Religious Studies because it is such an intriguing and rewarding subject, where no question is out of bounds.”


Media Information

Colin Hallmark / Harriet Johnson, 3:nine Communications

Tel: 0207 736 1888; 07745 914170 ; 07837 053 207; email: info@3nine.co.uk

Numbers of A level entries in arts, humanities and social sciences in England and Wales by selected subject area, 2003 to 2015

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National Association of Teachers of RE

NATRE is the subject teacher association for RE professionals in primary and secondary schools and higher education, providing a representative voice at national level and publications and courses to promote professional development. NATRE’s Executive consists of a majority of serving teachers from primary and secondary schools who are elected for a three-year term of service.

Religious Education Council of England and Wales

Established in 1973, the Religious Education Council of England and Wales (REC) brings together over 60 national organisations. These comprise academic and professional associations specialising in religions and religious education, as well as individual religion and belief organisations inclusive of the range of faith communities found nationally, including the British Humanist Association. 

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