Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

MA Arabic and History

UCAS code: TV61

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Literatures, Languages and Cultures

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA Arabic and History

Arabic is the main language of more than 350 million people inhabiting land that extends from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf. It is the sixth most widely spoken language in the world and is one of the six official languages of the United Nations.

Arabic and History make an excellent combination. Our joint honours programme allows you to situate your understanding of the Arabic language, the Middle East and the Islamic world in the wider context of human history. You will spend a year of the programme studying and using your Arabic abroad.

You will learn both classical and modern Arabic and explore the Arabic-speaking world, past and present. Apart from opening the door to a fascinating and varied region, knowledge of Arabic provides access to the rich intellectual heritage of Islam.

Beyond the Middle East, you will develop a thorough understanding of the problems of historical interpretation as applied to a wide range of periods and geographical areas. We offer an exceptional range of history courses, covering:

  • the early Middle Ages to the most recent past
  • Britain and Europe, Asia, Africa, and the Americas

Further, our courses offer a rich variety of approaches to the past, including:

  • political history
  • cultural history
  • social history
  • economic history
  • intellectual history
  • gender history
  • global and transnational history

Why Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh is recognised in the UK and internationally as a leading institution for teaching and research in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies and in History. Arabic has been taught here since the mid 18th century.

You will have access to over 23,000 resources in the University's collections in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, and a regular programme of workshops, film screenings, book launches and guest seminars.

We design our Year 1 courses in Arabic for complete beginners and have built study abroad into the four-year programme, providing complete immersion in Arabic language and culture in Year 3.

Combining a language with history to degree level demonstrates that you are a good communicator and someone open to other cultures and new ideas. This openness to perspectives other than your own is an essential attribute in many careers and a global marketplace.

Year 1

Arabic

You will study elementary Arabic to learn basic grammar and develop your vocabulary.

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

Over the course of the year, you will learn to read and write using Arabic script, and speak confidently in Arabic about a range of topics.

In addition to at least one course in Islamic history, which covers the formation of the Islamic world, you will also have the option to take a course in Islamic and Middle Eastern cultures.

History

History courses in Year 1 are broad survey courses that will emphasise processes and patterns within broad chronological and geographical frameworks. These are designed to prepare you for more specialised study in Years 3 and 4.

You will choose one history course and a compulsory course in historical skills. This course engages with broader questions about the nature of history as an academic discipline and the methods and skills required for historical research.

Year 2

Arabic

You will continue with your Arabic language study, developing the grammar and vocabulary to communicate effectively.

Our course focuses on the main linguistic skills:

  • reading
  • writing
  • speaking
  • listening

In addition to at least one course in modern Middle Eastern history, you will also have the option to take a course in the religion of Islam.

History

Year 2 History courses extend your range geographically and chronologically. As in Year 1, courses offer broad surveys designed to prepare you for more specialised study in Years 3 and 4.

Current options are drawn from various periods and themes in American, European, British, Scottish and global history. You will choose one of these courses, and also take a compulsory course on historiography.

Year 3

You will spend Year 3 in a country where Arabic is spoken, turning classroom learning into living engagement with Arabic and Middle Eastern culture.

This is when you will really deepen your knowledge of Arabic by speaking it daily. 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

You will study at a university or other approved institution in an Arabic-speaking country. This immersive learning environment will strengthen your language and cross-cultural communication skills.

Depending on availability, you will take courses in history at your host institution. If this is not possible, you will undertake research projects supervised by a member of staff in History at Edinburgh, and draw on the resources available both at home and away.

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

If you are intending to do a dissertation for Arabic, you will begin work on that. Alternatively, you will write a second, longer essay (in English) on an aspect of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies.

Keeping in touch

While you are studying abroad, 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 your subjects. We will support you to meet your learning outcomes for Arabic and History and prepare you for your final year.

Year 4

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

In your classes and coursework, you will respond to different materials in the Arabic language, including contemporary news and other media.

In addition to your core courses, you will also choose from a range of specialist, honours-level option courses exploring different aspects of Islam and the Middle East, and a wide range of History topics and periods.

Building on all the knowledge and skills you have developed over four years, including in independent research, you will complete an honours dissertation for either Arabic or History.

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 and 12,500 e-books are in Arabic, and 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, including works on the history of the Arab world and Arabic literature
  • 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 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

The Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA) supports more than 300 student-led societies and clubs, including the History 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 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.

From the winding streets of the medieval Old Town to the Georgian squares and terraces of the New Town, it is also a history lover's paradise.

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 will spend Year 3 abroad (a minimum of 30 weeks) in a country where Arabic is spoken.

Depending on availability, in addition to your Arabic language courses, you may also be able to take history courses at an accredited institution in the Middle East.

This is a chance for you to evolve and grow beyond Edinburgh. Our graduates have told us how much the Year Abroad has benefited their broader life experience and skills.

We know that you are likely to have lots of questions about your Year Abroad. We’ve gone into lots of detail about where you can go and what you can do 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

Combining a language with history 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, research and analytical skills you will develop on this joint honours programme, and the nuanced understanding you will gain of other cultures and societies throughout history, 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 major 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 more than 350 million people are native speakers of Arabic, the sixth most widely spoken language in the world.

It is the common language of the 22 countries in the Arab League, and one of the six official languages of the United Nations, with sizeable communities of speakers in Western Europe and Latin America.

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 Masters by Research degrees in both Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, and in History. Each of these programmes is a good foundation for a PhD, but is equally of value as a stand-alone qualification.

We also typically offer taught MSc programmes in areas such as:

  • Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies
  • The Globalised Muslim World
  • Comparative Literature
  • Translation Studies
  • Contemporary History
  • Medieval History

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 Arabic 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 Arabic and History

Additional costs

As long as international travel restrictions allow, you will spend Year 3 abroad. 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