Modern Middle Eastern Studies MSc

View of Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar from above, taken by Elisabetta Pietrostefani

The MSc in Modern Middle Eastern Studies is a twelve-month, taught master's course, offered jointly by the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern  Studies and the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies (OSGA).

The MSc in Modern Middle Eastern Studies offers research training for students already familiar with the Middle East region and its languages. The course provides a common foundation in the methods and disciplines relevant to the study of the Middle East. It provides intensive training in several fields of knowledge based on a combination of lectures, tutorials and essay writing allowing students to develop research and writing skills with training in appropriate theoretical and methodological approaches, through supervision of a dissertation on a subject of the student’s choice. The MSc teaches both qualitative and quantitative methodologies through assessed work.

The course offers two tracks: a language and a non-language one.

The language track is designed for students who already have intermediate to advanced -level ability in Arabic and who wish to further develop these skills through intensive classes.

The non-language track is designed for students who already have full research fluency in at least one of the languages of the region - Arabic, Hebrew, Persian or Turkish - through being either a literate native speaker, or possessing a degree in the language (a course specifically focusing on language and acquisition of the capacity to read untranslated texts in a Middle- Eastern language, not a disciplinary or area studies degree in which the applicant has taken language classes). Non-native speaker applicants who think they might qualify for the non-language track who do not have such a degree should explain specifically why they think they qualify, eg through extensive formal study and experience in the region outside the scope of a degree program. Applicants who do not have formal language-study credentials, and particularly applicants who may want to be seen as prospective non-language-track students (including all Hebrew, Persian and Turkish applicants) may wish to submit writing samples that demonstrate the ability to use untranslated sources (preferably written) in a Middle Eastern language.

Students on the language track take language classes throughout the three terms of the course, plus two optional papers taken in the second and third terms. Students on the non-language track take three optional papers, one in each of the three terms. Students will choose from a list of optional papers published annually which are taught through a combination of lectures, tutorials, and non-assessed formative (non-assessed) essays.

Tutorial options offered regularly include the following:

  • Authoritarian Politics in the Middle East and North Africa
  • History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran
  • History of the Maghreb since 1830
  • History of the Middle East, 1860-1970
  • Islam and Politics
  • Main Themes in Israeli Politics and Society
  • Mass Media in the Middle East
  • Modern Islamic Thought
  • Modern Turkish Literature: Texts and Contexts
  • The Political Economy of the Middle East and North Africa
  • Clerical Institutions in Contemporary Iran
  • Politics of the Maghreb
  • Politics of the Middle East
  • Social Anthropology of the Middle East

Applicants may wish to confirm with the course coordinator that a specific option listed above will be available to the applicant’s cohort, as scheduled sabbaticals or other research leave may sometimes interrupt the annual teaching schedule.

Graduates from the MSc Modern Middle Eastern Studies may choose to pursue careers in academia, government, business, journalism and the NGO sector. The degree is particularly useful in preparing students wishing to continue study at the doctoral level through its provision of both qualitative and quantitative research training.


Students in both tracks take assessed qualitative and quantitative research methodology modules, and both tracks write a  dissertation which will be undertaken independently under the supervision of a member of faculty tutor with relevant expertise. Preparation for the dissertation will take place through the Research Methods course and relevant optional papers and submitted by the beginning of September. Fieldwork for the dissertation is not required, but it is not discouraged for those students able to carry it out.

Optional papers will be examined through essays at the end of each term.

The language paper for the language track will be examined by a timed examination at the end of Trinity term.

Further information on the course, and the examination process, can be found in the course handbook here (information is current for the academic year of publication).


The Middle East Centre (MEC) serves as both the University's Middle East Studies centre and as a Centre of St Antony’s College. It hosts a weekly seminar, and an annual lecture - The George Antonius Annual Lecture in Trinity (summer) term. The resources of the MEC are available to all members of the Faculty of Oriental Studies. Its library holds some 35,000 books in Western and Middle Eastern languages, with an emphasis on the 18th century to the present. The MEC holds an extensive collection of journals and periodicals, and receives newspapers in Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Hebrew. It holds a rare book collection and an extensive microfilm and microfiche collection. The MEC Archive is home to the Private Papers Collection and photographic archive.

Aside from the MEC, there are three other libraries that will be of use to students on the MSc Modern Middle Eastern Studies course. The Nizami Ganjavi Library, part of the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, houses the collection of books and periodicals in Western and Middle Eastern languages with a particular emphasis on the period from the rise of Islam to the early modern period. The Charles Wendell David Reading Room of the Weston Library is the means of access to the extensive Asian and Middle Eastern manuscript collection as well as reference works and secondary sources received on deposit by the Bodleian Library. Finally, Wadham College Library houses a collection of Persian books

In addition to this, there are a number of other specialist library collections in Oxford that focus on Asian and Middle Eastern studies, such as:

The Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library includes the principal library for Egyptology and ancient Near Eastern Studies. The Khalili Research Centre is the University of Oxford's centre for research and teaching in the art and material culture of the Islamic societies of the Middle East and of non-Muslim members and neighbours

You will also have access to the University's centrally provided electronic resources, the department's IT Officer and other bibliographic, archive or material sources as appropriate to the research topic. There is a computing room for the use of graduate students in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, as well as a common room where tea and coffee are available and staff and students can meet.

Sources of funding

Applications received for this course by the January deadline will also be considered for funding if applications meet the eligibility criteria. Please use the University's fees, funding and scholarship search tool to find what funding you may be eligible for.

The Faculty has a number of scholarships and funding opportunities across a wide range of subjects. Please see here for a list of these opportunities.