MA Overview

In partnership with ICES, the Catholic university of the Vendée

2-year ‘LOW RES’ Masters degree in Catholic Liberal Arts for Christian teachers, researchers and writers, awarded in the name of the Holy See.  (AN ENGLISH LANGUAGE PROGRAMME with the option of participating in  French-speaking modules.)


This degree is the English language version of the “Master en Humanités catholiques” available since 2013 at ICES, l’Institut Catholique d’Etudes Supérieures, La Roche sur Yon. Specifically recognised by the French Republic by virtue of the 2008 bilateral agreement with the Holy See on the recognition of qualifications in higher education. As such, it is valid throughout the 45 countries of the EHEA (European Higher Education Area).

All students complete a CORE element, featuring a selection of studies in faith and culture. Then they choose one of the three options.

Educator Option:

Practitioners in the field of education will study the tradition of liberal education from a Catholic perspective and explore how to implement its holistic and inter-disciplinary approach in their own school or community education contexts. They will also receive input on the philosophy of education in general and the tradition of Catholic education as enunciated by the Church’s magisterium. Short coursework essays will serve to consolidate and assess their learning.

In the second year they will select a research focus linked to their own reflective practice and work towards a thesis of 10,000 words which shows how they have explored theoretical aspects of the Liberal arts tradition and used them to achieve positive change and enrichment in their own places of work.

The residential meetings will provide a social context in which to share and reflect on progress in their reflective practice research.

For this option there are three 1-week residential sessions in the first year and two in the second, with additional tuition by distance learning.

Researcher option:

The RESEARCH option features literary, artistic, theological, philosophical and ethical studies dealing with Catholic educational tradition and the place of the Church in the modern world. In addition, they receive an introduction to the techniques of academic research. Short coursework essays will serve to consolidate and assess their learning.

By the beginning of the second year, students will select a research focus and prepare a research thesis for publication on an approved subject, with an opportunity to share and reflect on their progress with other members of the group during two residentials at which they will continue their general formation in relevant cultural and ethical themes. Monthly tutorial support is offered online, together with distance learning modules and four residential sessions (two in each year).

Writer option:

The WRITER option features literary, artistic, theological, philosophical and ethical studies, focusing especially on the vocation of the Christian writer. It is also features practically oriented studies in the craft of the writer, taught by professional, published authors and editors. Students on this option will contribute, as part of their continuing assessment, to a regular newsletter about the Masters programme. The culmination of their course is the presentation of a single published work of fiction, or portfolio of published work, created under the guidance of a personal writing tutor.

Proposed dates of residentials:


Sunday 21st – Saturday 27th July 2019:
Summer Residential for all students: 33 hours

All students: 9 hours of core courses.
PLUS 24 hours for the chosen Option:
Research Option: 24 hours
Liberal Arts Education Option: 24 hours.
Writer Option: 24 hours

Saturday 19th October to Saturday 26th October 2019
Residential for Liberal Arts Education OPTION: 36 hours.

The remaining hours of CORE courses for WRITERS and RESEARCHERS will be completed through e-learning from Chavagnes (47 hours).

There are no additional distance learning courses for the Liberal Arts Education OPTION.

For the Research OPTION, there will a further 34 hours by distance learning.

For the Writer OPTION there are a further 36 hours by distance learning.


Monday 13th to Saturday 18th April 2020.

12 hours of core courses, plus 
10 hours of OPTION courses.

E-learning for a further 12 hours of CORE courses, plus 24 hours of OPTION courses.


The first semester will be comprised of 62 hours of classes, delivered over two 3-day residentials plus distance learning, to be developed together by Chavagnes and ICES.

The second semester will operate as follows: 

Obligatory work placement (or existing post in Education), with reflective practice report.


Thesis on chosen research topic in any field related to Liberal Arts, Education Policy, or other approved area, as agreed with tutors. This thesis could include original research or a synthesis of other research such as a literature review.


Production and publication of a substantial piece of written work (novel, play, screenplay, collection of short stories, collection of poetry or work of non-fiction) or of a portfolio of smaller published pieces, under the guidance of a personal writing tutor.

The course fees are 5,500 euros per year over the two-year course. This includes all the residentials, with full board accommodation.

Chavagnes Tutors for the Catholic Liberal Arts MA

Denis Boyles

Denis Boyles is a journalist, editor, university lecturer and the author/editor of several books of poetry, travel/history, criticism, humor, practical advice and essays, including Design Poetics (1975), The Modern Man’s Guide to Life (1986), African Lives (1989), Man Eaters Motel (1991), A Man’s Life: The Complete Instructions (1996), The Pocket Professor series (2001) and Vile France (2005), a satirical examination of French elites. For several years he wrote commentary on the European press in a column for National Review Online, and was an occasional guest on radio and television programs.

In 2008, he wrote Superior, Nebraska, a book about Midwestern political and social values (Doubleday) and in 2009, he co-wrote a documentary film, Femmes de Soldats, with French journalist Alain Hertoghe. Boyles has recently completed Everything Explained That Is Explainable, a history of the creation and compilation of the Encyclopædia Britannica’s 11th edition (1910) for Knopf. He resides in France, where he taught at The Brouzils Seminars, a graduate and undergraduate writing and creative arts program. In 2009, with philosopher Anthony O’Hear, he launched The Fortnightly Review’s “New Series”, of which he is currently co-editor (with Prof. Alan Macfarlane), and from 2012-2015, he was a Visiting Fellow in the School of Humanities at the University of Buckingham. In 2015, he joined the faculties of the Chavagnes Studium, where he teaches literature courses, and l’Institut Catholique d’Études Supérieures in La Roche sur Yon (I.C.E.S.), where he teaches journalism.

Fiorella De Maria

Fiorella De Maria was born in Italy of Maltese parents and grew up in Wiltshire, England. She holds two degrees in English Literature from Cambridge University. Fiorella lives in Surrey with her husband and her four children. She won the National Book Prize of Malta (foreign language fiction category) for her debut novel The Cassandra Curse. She recently published a text book on Creative Writing.   She teaches Creative Writing at Chavagnes Studium


Joseph Pearce 

Professor Joseph Pearce is a native of England and editor of the St. Austin Review, an international review of Catholic culture, founded with Ferdi McDermott in 2000. He is series editor of the Ignatius Critical Editions, and executive director of Catholic Courses. He also edits the online journal of the Augustine Institute and is Chief Editor of their book publishing apostolate.

His internationally acclaimed books include best-sellers such as The Quest for Shakespeare, Tolkien: Man and Myth, The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde, C. S. Lewis and The Catholic Church, Bilbo’s Journey, Literary Converts, Wisdom and Innocence: A Life of G.K. Chesterton, Solzhenitsyn: A Soul in Exile, and Old Thunder: A Life of Hilaire Belloc. Joseph Pearce is a world-recognized biographer of modern Christian literary figures. His books have been published and translated into Spanish, Portuguese, French, Dutch, Italian, Mandarin, Korean and Polish.

Prof. Pearce has hosted two 13-part television series about Shakespeare on EWTN, and has also written and presented documentaries on EWTN on the Catholicism of The Lord of the Rings. He has participated and lectured at a wide variety of international and literary events at major colleges and universities in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Europe, Africa and South America. He is also a regular guest on national and international television and radio programs, and has served as consultant for film documentaries on J.R.R. Tolkien and Alexander Solzhenitsyn.

He teaches English literature and Biography at Chavagnes Studium.

Ferdi McDermott 

Ferdi McDermott founded Chavagnes International College in 2002 after several years in publishing and journalism. A modern languages graduate of the University of Edinburgh (Celtic, Scandinavian and French), Mr McDermott is Principal of the College and of Chavagnes Studium, whose journal Eloquentia he also edits. He founded the international Catholic cultural journal St Austin Review in 2000 and continues to research and publish on literary themes, particularly on 19th century poetry; he is currently undergoing doctoral research in Education at the University of Buckingham, with expected completion in 2020. He is Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, the College of Teachers and the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.  He is the Principal of Chavagnes Studium.

Prof Anthony O’Hear OBE

Professor Anthony O’Hear
Anthony O’Hear OBE is a British philosopher. He is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Buckingham and Head of the Department of Education.
He is Honorary Director of the Royal Institute of Philosophy and editor of its journal Philosophy. He is also editor emeritus of The Fortnightly Review’s new series.

His publications include: Karl Popper (1980), What Philosophy Is (1985), The Element of Fire (1989), An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science (1990), Beyond Evolution (1997), After Progress (1999), Introducing Christianity (2000), Philosophy in the New Century (2001), Plato’s Children (2006), The Great Books: From The Iliad and The Odyssey to Goethe’s Faust: A journey through 2,500 years of the West’s classic literature (2007). He teaches English literature at Chavagnes Studium.

Dr Thomas Conlon

Thomas Conlon
Dr Thomas Conlon holds degrees from Queen’s University, Belfast and the University of Bristol. He has taught Mathematics, Physics and Latin at the College since 2003 after a career in the telecommunications industry. After serving as Head Master from 2004-2006, he now continues to teach A-level classes part time. He writes regulary on scientific, historical and literary themes and recently published a book on the history of science: Thinking about Nothing: Otto von Guericke and the Magdeburg Expermients on the Vacuum. He is a regular contributor to research in Oxford University’s Early Modern Letters Online and is currently co-authoring a biography of 17th century Jesuit, Father Gaspar Schott. He teaches Mathematics and Astronomy at Chavagnes Studium.

Jonathan Battye
Jonathan Battye read Litterae Humaniores (‘Greats’) at Oxford, before completing a postgraduate degree at Durham in Ancient Philosophy. He has taught History, Philosophy and Classics at Chavagnes since 2012. He teaches History and Philosophy at Chavagnes Studium.

Fr Mark Lawler
Father Mark Lawler (left) is chaplain at Chavagnes International College where he has taught theology and literature since 2014. He holds degrees from the University of Leeds and the Angelicum in Rome. He is currently researching for his doctorate on the writings of GK Chesterton.

Rev Dr Bede Rowe
Father Bede Rowe holds a doctorate in Old Testament studies from Durham University and MA and MPhil degrees from Oxford. He is a priest of the Diocese of Clifton and Rector of the Shrine of Our Lady of Glastonbury. He has published widely on catechetics and scriptural themes. He has been involved with teaching at Chavagnes since 2010. He is pursuing a doctorate on the writings of GK Chesterton, with expected completion in 2020.  He teaches Theology at Chavagnes Studium.