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MA Middle Eastern Studies

UCAS code: T600

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Literatures, Languages and Cultures

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA Middle Eastern Studies

Located at the crossroads between Europe, Africa and Asia, the Middle East has played a pivotal role on the world stage from ancient times.

The University of Edinburgh is recognised in the UK and internationally as a leading institution for the study of the Middle East, Middle Eastern languages and the Islamic world.

Taking an Area Studies approach to the region, our four-year Master of Arts (MA) programme is highly flexible. It is designed to develop your knowledge and understanding of Middle Eastern:

  • history
  • politics
  • societies and cultures
  • literatures

You will develop the skills to analyse, critique and compare key issues and concepts, both in group discussion and in written work.

To help you access and interpret source material, you will take Year 1 classes in at least one of the three main languages of the Middle East:

  • Arabic
  • Persian
  • Turkish

You can continue to take your language(s) into Year 2, or opt to take courses from other areas.

As you progress through the programme, you will develop your research skills to the level of completing a dissertation in your final year.

You will graduate with a combination of specialist knowledge and the Intercultural Competence valued by employers around the globe.

Year 1

You will take classes in at least one Middle Eastern language, choosing from:

  • Arabic
  • Persian
  • Turkish

Whichever language you choose, you will learn basic grammar and develop your vocabulary so that you can read and write the language and speak about a range of topics.

You do not currently need to know any of the languages, as Year 1 courses are designed for beginners.

You will also choose from courses in:

  • Islamic history, spanning the period 550 CE to around 1650
  • the religion of Islam - an exploration of the religion's branches, key texts, central beliefs and rituals
  • Islamic and Middle Eastern cultures - an introduction to the literary, aesthetic and intellectual culture of the Middle East, from the eve of Islam to the modern period

Option courses

You will complete your Year 1 studies with option courses chosen from a wide range offered by the University.

You can, for example, opt to learn an additional Middle Eastern language. Our courses in Arabic, Persian and Turkish are suitable for complete beginners.

Other options include, but are not limited to, courses in:

  • European languages and cultures
  • Asian studies
  • business, economics and informatics
  • politics, social policy, social anthropology and international relations
  • art and architectural history
  • history, classics and archaeology
  • Celtic and Scottish ethnology
  • linguistics and language sciences
  • philosophy, divinity and law

Year 2

You will take courses in modern Middle Eastern history. These will chart the region's political, economic, social and cultural history from the late Ottoman period to the present day.

You do not have to study a Middle Eastern language this year, but you can opt to continue with your language studies, or to take up another language, if you wish. This could be a Middle Eastern language (Arabic, Persian or Turkish) or another world language.

As in Year 1, you can also choose to take courses in other subject areas offered by the University.

Year 3

This is the first of your honours years. You will choose specialist option courses from a wide selection of subject areas at the University relating to Middle Eastern Studies. These include:

  • history
  • politics, social policy, social anthropology and international relations
  • religion
  • history of art and cultural studies

Alternatively, you may have the option to study abroad for either a full or half year at a partner university or other approved institution. If that is the case, you will still be a student at the University of Edinburgh, with access to all our services. The Year Abroad Office and your Student Adviser, both based in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC), will check in with you at key points during the year.

Year 4

You will continue with your honours-level studies, choosing further specialist option courses from a wide selection of subject areas relating to Middle Eastern Studies.

Building on all the knowledge and skills you have developed over four years, including in independent research, you will complete a dissertation on a subject of your choice and under the supervision of an academic adviser.

Programme structure

Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.

To give you an idea of what you will study on this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.

Programme structure (2024/25)

Our facilities

On campus

When you are on campus, you can expect to spend most of your time in the University of Edinburgh's Central Area - in class, in the library, or in one of the University’s many social and support spaces.

The Central Area is located on the edge of Edinburgh's historic Old Town, surrounded by lots of green space.

Take a virtual tour of the Central Area

Libraries and collections

The Main University Library holds academic books, journals and databases, films, newspapers and other media. It has over 23,000 resources in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (IMES), of which around 9,000 printed books are in Arabic, 2,600 in Persian and 1,500 in Turkish. More than 100 films are in either Arabic or Persian.

The Library is also the home of the University's Centre for Research Collections which brings together:

  • more than 400,000 rare books
  • six kilometres of archives and manuscripts
  • thousands of works of art, historical musical instruments and other objects

Highlights include:

  • The Serjeant and Watt Collections of some 6,400 titles in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies
  • some of the world’s most precious Islamic manuscripts, such as Rashid al-Din’s History of the World and al-Biruni’s Chronology of Ancient Nations
  • an extensive collection of the Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram al-yawmi 1876-1930

Many of the University's Special Collections are digitised and available online from our excellent Resource Centre, computing labs and dedicated study spaces in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC).

IMES also has its own library in 19 George Square, with views across a beautiful garden to both the Main University Library and LLC.

Centres for research, teaching and outreach

We have great links with the Alwaleed Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World which promotes a better understanding of Islam and Muslim culture locally, nationally and internationally.

Events and activities

The Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA) supports more than 300 student-led societies and clubs, including the Islamic Society, and promotes opportunities with local charities through its volunteering centre.

From acting to dancing, making friends in language cafes to campaigning on global issues, these student-led groups offer lots of ways to engage with other cultures.

A number of our Arabic-speaking students have volunteered for a tutoring and educational programme for teenage Syrian refugees in Edinburgh. This programme has won an Outstanding Global Citizenship Impact Award and a Sir William Darling Memorial Prize.

In the city

Edinburgh is a world-leading festival city filled with cinemas, theatres, galleries, libraries and collections.

The city's resources for studying literatures, languages and cultures are exceptional, and its world cinema scene is particularly strong.

Many national collections are located close to the University's Central Area, making them easy to access between classes.

Highlights include the:

  • National Library of Scotland
  • National Museum of Scotland
  • National Galleries of Scotland

Study abroad

You may have the option to study abroad in Year 3. Regardless of location, you will study a range of courses on subjects relating to Islam or the Middle East.

What are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

University is a place to plan your own goals under expert guidance, study independently and in groups, and reflect upon your learning throughout your degree.

Our approach to learning and teaching is active, inclusive and question driven, so it may be different to your experiences at school. It will help you gain the skills for life after university, and we will guide you through the steps from one phase to the next.

Depending on the size of your year group, and which option courses you take, your classes will typically fall into three categories:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • seminars

In addition to these classes, to get the most out of your courses, you will need to read widely.

Lectures

Lectures are taken by all students on a course, typically at the same time. They are delivered as interactive presentations which may involve audio-visual material.

Lectures are given by an experienced academic. They are designed to guide you through the background, questions and debates related to the topic you are studying.

Tutorials

Tutorial groups are smaller. They are also led by an academic, but here the emphasis is more on what you think about the topic yourself. So, tutorials are your chance to discuss and expand upon what you have learned in a lecture.

Language tutorials give you the opportunity to develop your linguistic skills in a range of real-world tasks under the supervision of an experienced language teacher.

These classes typically cover skills such as reading, writing, listening and speaking – all of which involve learning and applying grammar.

Seminars

Seminars blend features of lectures and tutorials. Again, they are designed to encourage and enable your active participation in learning.

On some courses, you will have seminars instead of lectures, especially in your honours years (Years 3 and 4).

Support

As well as the teaching staff and other staff members you will meet day-to-day, there are lots of ways to get help with your learning, including through the University’s Institute for Academic Development (IAD).

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed through a combination of coursework and exams.

Coursework is generally completed throughout the year, while exams take place at the end of a teaching block.

Coursework may take a range of forms to give you the opportunity to practice different skills. For example, you may be asked to:

  • write an essay, review, blog post, opinion piece or learning journal
  • respond to a piece of writing, film, or other media, including through close reading
  • give a short talk or presentation
  • record a podcast or video
  • design a poster or presentation

Exams will include oral exams to test your spoken language skills.

In your final year, you will also complete a dissertation.

Skills and experience

Graduating with a four-year Master of Arts degree from the University of Edinburgh shows intellectual maturity, resilience, and flexibility. This includes the ability to :

  • understand, analyse and articulate complex issues and concepts
  • manage your time to meet deadlines on different types of projects
  • work both independently and as part of a group

Additionally, this programme will give you a nuanced understanding of other cultures and societies, and how they shape our world, giving you the Intercultural Competence valued by employers around the globe.

Learning either Arabic, Persian or Turkish in Year 1 (with the option to continue into Year 2) will also sharpen your written and oral communications skills.

Local and global opportunities

With increasing migration in response to changing global dynamics, there is demand for graduates with a knowledge of the Middle East both at home and abroad.

Your degree in Middle Eastern Studies, which includes some language learning, is an excellent primer for a range of careers. Within the private, public, not-for-profit, and for-benefit sectors, previous graduates have gone on to work in:

  • business, finance and commerce
  • communications, marketing, advertising and public relations
  • education, outreach, advocacy and training
  • journalism, broadcasting and media
  • leisure, tourism and travel
  • politics, policy work, diplomacy, civil service and law
  • publishing, culture, heritage and the arts
  • research, development and venture acceleration

Further study

The enhanced research skills you will develop on a four-year programme, particularly in your honours years, are a valuable asset if you wish to continue studying at postgraduate level.

At the University, we typically offer both taught and research-led Masters programmes in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies. You can also typically choose from MSc programmes in The Globalised Muslim World, The Middle East in Global Politics, and more.

Careers advice

Throughout your time with us, we will encourage you to identify and hone your employability skills.

LLC has a dedicated Careers Consultant within the University's excellent Careers Service.

Through our careers service, you can:

  • book one-to-one appointments and practice interviews
  • access a range of online resources
  • attend themed fairs such as the Creative and Cultural Careers Festival

Popular peer support includes Life After LLC, a panel event where you can draw inspiration from our recent graduates.

Be inspired by our alumni

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S5 or AABB/ABBBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 36 points with 665 at HL - 34 points with 655 at HL.

Minimum entry requirement

The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.

More information for widening access applicants

Required subjects

The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:

  • SQA: Highers: no specific Higher subjects required. National 5s: English at C.
  • A Levels: no specific A Level subjects required. GCSEs: English at C or 4.
  • IB: HL: no specific subjects required. SL: English at 5.

Find out more about entry requirements

International applicants

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.

Entry requirements by country

International Foundation Programme

If you are an international student and your school qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to the University you may be eligible for admission to this degree programme through our International Foundation Programme.

International Foundation Programme

Mature applicants

We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.

Mature applicant qualifications

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

SQA, GCSE and IB

For SQA, GCSE and IB students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:

  • SQA National 5 at C
  • GCSE at C or 4
  • Level 2 Certificate at C
  • IB Standard Level at 5 (English ab initio is not accepted for entry)

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 5.5 in each component.We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 176 with at least 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 62 with at least 54 in each component.

We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.

Unless you are a national of a majority English speaking country, your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start of the month in which the degree you are applying to study begins. If you are using an IELTS, PTE Academic, TOEFL or Trinity ISE test, it must be no more than two years old on the first of the month in which the degree begins, regardless of your nationality.

English language requirements

This information is part of a government initiative to enhance the material that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.

It is one of many sources of information which will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.

Please note that some programmes do not have Discover Uni data available.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for MA Middle Eastern Studies

Additional costs

If you study abroad, there will be additional costs. For example, you will be responsible for associated travel costs such as flights and visas.

Grants may be available for participating students to help with the extra costs of studying and living abroad.

Funding

For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.

Fees and funding