MORE students than ever before chose to study religious studies (RS) this year, the publication last week of the 2015 A-level results showed. The figures confirmed that interest in the subject among 16- to 19-year-olds is continuing to grow.
Entries for RS have more than doubled since 2003, and after a further rise of 6.5 per cent this year, increased to 23,372.
Of these, 24 per cent of entrants were awarded A* or A grades. At the intermediate AS level, there were 37,365 entries, up 3.5 per cent on 2014.
Across the range of subjects, only further maths has seen a more rapid rise.
The results showed that the only humanities or social-science subject to approach the increased popularity of RS is political science, where entries have risen by 65 per cent over the decade.
The status of RS has also improved. Although it is not among the Russell Group of top universities’ list of "facilitating" subjects, from which aspiring applicants are advised to choose, the Group has officially stated its recognition of RS as a suitable qualification for a range of degree courses. Oxford and Cambridge take a similar view.
The chairman of the National Association of Teachers of RE, Daniel Hugill, said: "These students and their teachers will tell you that A-level RS is not an easy option.
"Research at Durham University has shown that it can be more challenging than some facilitating subjects, and universities are recognising this."
The continuing rise was welcomed by Joyce Miller, who chairs the RE Council. She said: "No one should be surprised by how popular RS has become.
"Students want study the subject because it allows them to explore crucial questions in relation to beliefs, values, and morality, and contributes to their preparation for life in a multifaith, multicultural world."