MA in Pastoral Care: Existential and Humanist Practice

Course Description

NSPC is at the forefront of the exciting, emerging field of non-religious pastoral care. This is the first MA of its nature in the UK and provides a much-needed pathway towards professional work in pastoral care/chaplaincy from a non-religious perspective.  We work closely with Humanists UK to achieve this objective. Graduates can expect to work across a range of sectors including education, healthcare, the prison service and the armed forces. In addition, the MA provides probationary accreditation as a Humanist UK funeral, wedding and naming celebrant. Drawing on psychotherapeutic literature, existential philosophy and models of pastoral and spiritual care, we teach students to work in a holistic way, engaging with the unique world of each client.

The programme covers theory, skills training, placement experience aligned to professioanl competence frameworks with supporting supervision,The programme covers theory, skills training, placement experience aligned to professional competence frameworks with supporting supervisionThe programme covers theory, skills training, placement experience aligned to professional competence frameworks with supporting supervision and research. Prior learning can be granted for modules studied at level 7 covering the same learning outcomes as the NSPC equivalent – this can be discussed at interview stage.

Year one assumes no prior knowledge or experience, building your skills from the ground up. You will start with core competencies such as active listening, and build to a ceremonies training, as well as explicitly existential skills. Theoretical learning includes professional ethics, the psychology of worldviews, and a grounding in existential philosophy.

Year two provides an opportunity to start building experience in a placement with the support of supervision. You will also complete a research project, with the help of an experienced supervisor. This will be on a topic of your choice, and can take the form of a literature review or a qualitative piece. Students will build on the learning from year two, looking more deeply at ceremonies and ethical dilemmas.

The course leader is Dr Elizabeth Young.

For further information on possible learning adaptions we can offer neurodivergent students and students with a disability or chronic health condition, contact [email protected]

Useful Links:

Non-Religious Pastoral Support

Humanist Ceremonies

Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network

Programme of Study

Year 1

  • Existential Perspectives on Human Issues
  • Pastoral Care Settings, Celebrancy & Ceremonies: Celebrant Practice
  • Pastoral Care Settings, Celebrancy & Ceremonies: Introduction to ceremonies
  • Philosophical Worldviews, Religions and Belief Systems
  • Skills in Pastoral Care: Basic Skills 
  • Skills in Pastoral Care: Advanced skills 
  • Skills in Pastoral Care: Supervised Practice 

Year 2

  • Mentoring, reflective practice and supervision practice and theory
  • Overview of Research Methods
  • Social, Cultural & Ethical Issues
  • Pastoral Supervision of Practice (3 terms)
  • Research Supervision & Project 
  • Research dissemination & Symposium 

Accreditation and Careers

This programme is quality assured by Middlesex University and you will receive a Middlesex award on successful completion. You can view the Middlesex Research Degree Regulations here.

Successful completion of this 2-year programme leads to a registration with the Non-Religious Pastoral Support Network (which in turn leads to UKBHC registration) and as a Humanist Celebrant for weddings, funerals and naming ceremonies.

Our graduates go into a wide range of settings including the NHS.

Fees 2023-24

Year of course

Units to be completed in year

Fee payable per year

(if no units have to be repeated)


6 units over 3 terms



9 units over 3 terms


APEL (if required)

Per submission


*NB You should also expect to pay for books and professional registration.

There is a £50 non-refundable application fee for all courses, to cover administrative costs. An interview with a member of the course staff will only be arranged once this has been received.   

A registration Fee of £150 will be paid when you accept your place on the course. This is non- refundable. 

For more detailed financial terms and conditions click here.

Please note : Students on validated programmes are not eligible for Student Finance or DSA

Entry Requirements

  • An undergraduate degree in any subject (equivalent experience may be acceptable)
  • Fluent English: IELTS level 7 or above in all categories (or equivalent)
  • Personal suitability to be determined at interview
  • Reliable internet connection

How You Study

The course is delivered via blended learning. This consists of online theory modules via Moodle, face-to-face skills modules in NW London, online research supervision and online supervision of practice. With 25% of attendance carried out face-to-face, this course is easy to fit around a busy life, and is accessible to those living far from London or with caring commitments.

Theory modules are asynchronous, except for a weekly chat to be decided between group members. Students work through weekly materials online, posting and discussing in the forum with the group and tutor. A weekly quiz ensures that you are absorbing the materials.

Face-to-face skills modules take place over 5 consecutive days. There are 5 skills modules in total over the two years.

Placement supervision is provided via group video chat on a weekly basis in year 2 of the programme.

Research supervision is provided from year 2, and can be done in a number of ways depending on what best suits both student and supervisor, but usually takes the form of email and video chat.

Students may take up to 4 years to complete should they need additional time.

It is possible to exit the programme early with either a PGCert or PGDip award, however, this may affect professional registration.

MIddlesex University