The University of Exeter, a school with four locations in southwest England, is set to offer a Master of Arts in Magic and Occult Science beginning in September 2024.
The interdisciplinary one-year program will allow students to “explore key topics including magic in Greece and Rome, occult texts in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, the history of witchcraft, magic in literature and folklore, deception and illusion, and the history of science and medicine, among other key themes.”
Emily Selove, head of the new program and associate professor in medieval Arabic literature at Exeter, told The New York Times that the idea for the degree was sparked after the university faculty noticed an uptick in interest among students about the history of witchcraft.
“This MA will allow people to re-examine the assumption that the West is the place of rationalism and science, while the rest of the world is a place of magic and superstition,” Selove told the BBC.
The program is being offered by the university’s Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies in an effort to “place the Arabo-Islamic cultural heritage back where it belongs in the centre of these studies and in the history of the ‘West.'”
The degree’s description says that the decolonization, “exploration of alternative epistemologies,” feminism, and anti-racism are “at the core” of the program.
While the University of Exeter is the first British university to offer a degree in witchcraft, others have paved the way for academic study of the occult with programs of their own, including the University of Amsterdam.
In the U.S., Rice University in Texas offers a certificate program in gnosticism, esotericism, and mysticism.
That program seeks to provide students with “a theoretical orientation, which they then can apply to their chosen concentrations or focus areas of study,” which may include “African-American religions; African religions; Bible and Beyond; Buddhism; Christianity; Hinduism; Islam; Judaism; American Religion; New Age and New Religious Movements, New Testament and Early Christianity; etc.”
Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, criticized the University of Exeter and other universities offering courses or certificates in magic and witchcraft, arguing that society is being “progressively evacuated of Christian content.”