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Assessment Committee Praises NOSTER’s PhD Education

27 Aug 2020

In Autumn 2019, NOSTER was assessed as part of the research assessment of the Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies of Radboud University. Recently, the final version of the committee’s assessment report has become available. NOSTER is pleased to learn that, according to the Committee, NOSTER offers “a very valuable contribution to PhD education in the field of theology and religious studies” and that NOSTER is “sufficiently monitoring the quality of the courses and seminars”. The Committee recommends NOSTER to more clearly prioritise its ambitions and address the question of ownership towards the participating institutions.
NOSTER’s previous assessment took place in June 2014, when the Research School Accreditation Committee (Erkenningscommissie Onderzoeksscholen; ECOS) of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) granted NOSTER re-accreditation for six years, based on the evaluation period 2005-2012 and NOSTER’s plans for the future. Later it was decided that the quality assessment of research schools would become part of the research and teaching assessments of the Faculties that act as host institutions (penvoerders). Although the Utrecht Faculty of Humanities has acted as host institution for most of the period covered in the self-assessment report, NOSTER has been assessed as part of the research assessment of the Faculty of Philosophy, Theology and Religious Studies of Radboud University.
The focus of this assessment has been on NOSTER’s training of PhD candidates and its work on fostering research collaboration and innovation among senior scholars in the field. The assessment of NOSTER’s training of ReMA students will be included in the assessment of various ReMA programmes at local institutions.
NOSTER’s Self-Assessment Report 2013-2018 and the Report of the Assessment Committee can be found on the NOSTER website.

Special Issue on Religious Studies in the Netherlands Published Open Access
NTT Journal for Theology and the Study of Religion has just published its latest issue which offers an animated discussion about the future of religious studies in the Netherlands.
The special issue opens with a provocative article by the Leiden scholar of religion Markus Altena Davidsen: ‘Theo van Baaren’s Systematic Science of Religion Revisited: The Current Crisis in Dutch Study of Religion and a Way Out.’ Davidsen claims that with the fall of the phenomenology of religion around 1970, Dutch religious studies also lost its identity as a discipline, its commitment to the comparative method, and its ambition to theorize religion in the singular. The field declined and became fragmented. To turn the tide, Davidsen urges his colleagues to commit to an updated version of Van Baaren’s programme for a systematic science of religion, involving comparison and theory formation.
The editorial board asked a variety of scholars to respond to Davidsen. Kocku von Stuckrad (University of Groningen), Katja Rakow (Utrecht University), Kees de Groot (Tilburg School of Catholic Theology), Eric Venbrux and Arjan Sterken (both Radboud University Nijmegen) all address various aspects of Davidsen’s article. Overall, the respondents agree with Davidsen’s depiction of the field as ‘undisciplined’ (Venbrux) and ‘a huge mess’ (Von Stuckrad), and as being increasingly influenced by postcolonial, feminist and other critiques. But contrary to Davidsen they consider this situation to increase rather than limit the future prosperity of the field, and some consider Davidsen’s longing for more coherence within the discipline to be rather old-fashioned. In his reply to his critics, Davidsen addresses several contested issues and clarifies his views on comparison, in a discussion with Rakow.
The guest editor of the special issue is Arie L. Molendijk (University of Groningen).
Because of its actual importance, the publisher, Amsterdam University Press, has granted permission to make the special issue immediately available open access (instead of after the customary period of three years). Click here to read the whole issue for free.