Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

MA Persian and Middle Eastern Studies

UCAS code: T63H

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Literatures, Languages and Cultures

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA Persian and Middle Eastern Studies

Persian is one of the major languages of the Middle East and Central Asia. Its modern form has three variants which, collectively, are the first language of over 120 million people. It is the national language of Iran, where it is known as Farsi. It is known as Dari in Afghanistan and Tajik in Tajikistan.

To study Persian is to enter a rich and diverse culture that has produced:

  • major epic and Sufi poets
  • world-class cinema
  • exquisite miniature painting and fine textiles

Our programme is also your gateway to understanding modern Iran and the dynamics of the wider Middle East.

Language learning in its cultural context

Our programme is designed to give you a comprehensive grounding in Persian, enabling you to access a wide range of original material.

You can start the language as a complete beginner, and develop advanced skills over your four years, including in translation. This will enable you to express yourself in modern Persian on a wide range of topical issues.

As well as developing your language skills, you will also study the Middle East from a range of perspectives:

  • historical
  • literary
  • cultural
  • political

You will take an introductory course in the religion of Islam and, optionally, an honours course from another discipline such as:

  • Divinity
  • Politics
  • Social Anthropology
  • History
  • History of Art

With increasing migration in response to changing global dynamics, there is demand for our graduates both at home and abroad. Wherever you are based in the world, the ability to communicate in Persian, and to understand Middle Eastern cultures, will make you stand out.

Why Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh is recognised in the UK and internationally as a leading institution for teaching and research in Persian, Islam and the Middle East.

This programme is very flexible. In Years 1 and 2, in addition to Persian and Middle Eastern Studies, you will choose option courses from a wide range of disciplines. You can, for example, opt to study an additional Middle Eastern language.

You will then specialise as you progress through your honours years (Years 3 and 4). This involves gaining the knowledge and skills to complete a dissertation in your final year.

When you graduate, you will have the combination of broad cultural education and specialist knowledge valued by employers worldwide.

One of the most attractive characteristics of this four-year programme is its flexibility.

In Years 1 and 2, your pre-honours years, you will choose option courses from a wide range of disciplines in addition to your core subjects of Persian and Middle Eastern Studies.

As well as broadening your education and skill set, this may enable you to change the focus of your programme in Years 3 and 4, your honours years.

Year 1

You will study basic Persian grammar, vocabulary and conversational skills. Over the course of the year, you will develop the key tools to understand, speak, read and write elementary Persian.

You will also take courses in:

  • Islamic history - a survey of the formation of the Islamic world, from its pre-Islamic origins to the foundation of the first Muslim world empire

  • modern Middle Eastern history - an introduction to the Middle East's political, economic, social and cultural history from 1950 until the present day

Option courses

You will complete your Year 1 studies with option courses, either from Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (IMES) or from other subject areas.

You can, for example, opt to study Arabic or Turkish. Edinburgh offers one of the widest range of languages of any UK university. The majority are suitable for complete beginners and include cultural study.

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

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

Year 2

You will continue with your Persian language study, developing the grammar and vocabulary to read, write and speak about social and everyday topics.

You will take courses in:

  • 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 can opt to study, or continue to study, Arabic, Turkish or another language.

As in Year 1, you can also choose from a wide range of discursive courses offered by IMES and by other subjects at the University.

Year 3

When study in a Persian-speaking country or at an approved institution elsewhere is permitted, you will spend Year 3 abroad. This will help you to improve your language, cross-cultural communication, and independent study skills.

Living abroad will also give you the wider perspective, experience and skills to embrace the opportunities and challenges of life after university.

Coursework while abroad

If you go abroad, you will study at an accredited institution offering an immersive learning environment.

In addition, you will write an essay or short story in Persian, which you will be asked to talk about on your return.

You will begin work on your dissertation. By the time you return from your Year Abroad, you will be ready to submit a detailed dissertation proposal on a topic related to Persian, Islamic or Middle Eastern Studies.

Keeping in touch

While you are studying abroad for credit, you are still a student at the University of Edinburgh.

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 your Year Abroad. Additionally, each language has a dedicated Year Abroad Coordinator for any academic queries, ensuring you are all set and ready for your final year in Edinburgh.

Just like any other time during your studies, you have access to all University services while you are abroad. These include our:

  • Student Wellbeing Service
  • Student Counselling
  • Student Disability and Learning Support
  • University emergency helpline (available 24 hours a day)

Wellbeing and safety

Your wellbeing and safety abroad is our first priority. If international travel is not possible or placements are disrupted, for example following travel advice from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), we will offer you alternative ways to engage with Persian and Middle Eastern Studies. You will take a course in Intensive Persian, and choose from specialist, honours-level option courses in aspects of the Middle East, enabling you to meet your learning outcomes and to prepare for your final year. Just as if you were studying abroad, you will also begin work on your dissertation.

Year 4

You will continue to develop your translation and conversational skills in Persian.

In your classes and coursework, you will respond to different materials, including Persian poetry and prose, films, and other media.

In addition to your core courses, you will also choose from a range of honours-level option courses dealing with different aspects of:

  • Iran (including pre-Islamic Persia)
  • Islam and the Middle East

Depending on where your interests lie, one of these courses may be rooted in a different discipline, such as history, history of art, politics, social anthropology, or divinity.

Building on all the knowledge and skills you have developed over four years, including in independent research, you will complete your honours dissertation.

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 2,600 printed books are in Persian, and more than 100 films are in either Persian or Arabic.

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 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.

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). The School's partnership with IMVBox.com gives you access to over 1,000 Iranian films.

IMES also has its own library at 19 George Square, with views across a central 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

From making friends in language cafes to campaigning on global issues, student-led groups offer lots of ways to explore your subjects, interests and talents socially.

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

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. Iran has been the thematic focus of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and there is a regular Iranian Film Festival.

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

When study in a Persian-speaking country or at an approved institution elsewhere is permitted, you will spend Year 3 abroad.

We know that you are likely to have lots of questions about your Year Abroad. We’ve gone into lots more detail under ‘What you will study / Year 3’ above. You can also find out more through the University's Study and Work Away Service.

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 Year 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

Studying a language to degree level demonstrates that you are a good communicator, and someone open to other cultures and new ideas – what employers value as Intercultural Competence.

Beyond the language skills you will develop on this programme, and the nuanced understanding you will gain of the Middle East, graduating with a four-year Master of Arts degree from the University of Edinburgh shows intellectual maturity, resilience, and flexibility.

The skills you will be able to demonstrate to employers when you graduate include the ability to:

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

Opportunities across sectors

Our programmes are an excellent primer for a range of careers, especially those that place a premium on thinking that is both disciplined and imaginative.

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
  • translating and interpreting

Local and global opportunities

With increasing migration in response to changing global dynamics, there is demand for our graduates in Scotland, the UK and abroad.

Wherever you are based in the world, the ability to communicate in another world language, and to understand the cultures to which it opens doors, will make you stand out.

If you are keen to work abroad, it’s good to know that, collectively, the three variants of modern Persian (Farsi, Dari and Tajik) are the first language of more than 120 million people in the Middle East and Central Asia. There are also significant communities of speakers in Europe (including Turkey), Australia and North America.

Your language learning and cultural awareness will make you ideally placed to work with displaced people from Iran and Afghanistan now living in Europe and other parts of the world, and with international organisations advancing refugee issues, rights and spaces.

Further study

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

At the University, we typically offer a one-year Masters by Research degree in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies. This programme is a good foundation for a PhD, but is equally of value as a stand-alone qualification.

We usually also offer a taught masters MSc programme in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies and in The Globalised Muslim World. These programmes generally comprise a combination of core and optional courses taught by specialists in the field, training in research methods, and an independent dissertation.

Our other interdisciplinary MSc programmes typically include Comparative Literature and Intermediality.

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: a language other than English at A and English at C.
  • A Levels: no specific A Level subjects required. GCSEs: a language other than English at A or 7 and English at C or 4.
  • IB: HL: no specific subjects required. SL: a language other than English at 6 and English at 5.

Additional requirements

Native speakers

Please note that the Persian degrees involve beginners language study and are not suitable for native or near-native speakers.

Language requirement

For degrees that have a subject requirement of a language other than English, students may not use their own native language to meet this requirement. In these instances, English or an alternative language other than native will be acceptable.

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 Persian and Middle Eastern Studies

Additional costs

Year 3 may involve study abroad in a Persian-speaking country or an approved institution elsewhere. The costs you have to pay will depend on where you decide to go, and how you spend your time.

Some study placements at language schools may charge a fee, but we will normally refund you for tuition costs as long as your activity has been approved. You will be responsible for associated travel costs such as flights and visas.

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