The Master of Studies in Islamic Studies and History is a one-year degree for students who already possess substantial knowledge of the field and who are able, without further language training, to work with pre-modern Arabic, Persian, and Turkish primary sources as appropriate to their particular research interests.
The course focuses on the political, social, and intellectual history of the central Islamic lands (Egypt, the Fertile Crescent, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, Central Asia, and Anatolia) up until c. 1800. The course is characterised by a strong emphasis on research based on primary sources, thus making it a very good entry gate for subsequent doctoral study. You will already possess substantial general knowledge of Islamic or Middle Eastern studies and history.
You can take specialised classes and undertake independent research under the supervision of a faculty member. You will receive specialised teaching in two elective papers, taught during the first two terms, while also working on a dissertation (or on two extended research essays) under the supervision of a suitable member of the faculty. Available elective papers may vary from year to year, but topics that are frequently taught include:
- the Qur’an and Qur’anic exegesis
- Islamic law
- Islamic theology
- Arabic philosophy
- medieval Islamic history
- Islamic art and architecture
In the past students have also taken options in Arabic and Persian literature. Elective papers normally involve a weekly meeting of two hours devoted to the reading and primary sources, student presentations, informal lecturing, and the discussion of student essays. Students spend a significant amount of time preparing for these meetings by working through primary texts, reading secondary literature, and writing essays.
An induction meeting is normally scheduled for new students during noughth week of Michaelmas Term, ie the week before the beginning of full term.
Asian and Middle Eastern studies graduates have found employment in many and diverse fields including business, finance, law, civil service, journalism, government and industry.
Students often progress to doctoral work after completing the MSt. Many graduates have undertaken further research into subjects linked with Asian and Middle Eastern studies and have pursued successful careers in the academic world, education and in museums.
Your final examination will consist of four units, which carry the same weight: two elective papers (often examined as one-week take-home essays); an essay on methods and research materials related to one of the options chosen by a candidate (examined during Hilary term); and a thesis, or two essays, on a topic (or topics) selected in consultation with your supervisor and approved by the Faculty Board.
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).
You will have access to the Nizami Ganjavi Library at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. The library, comprising approximately 80,000 volumes of books, periodicals and pamphlets, housed both on and off-site, supports students of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, Hebrew and Jewish Studies, Eastern Christianity, South and Inner Asian Studies and Korean. The library’s Middle Eastern and Islamic collections have a strong focus on language, literature, and pre-1800 history, religion, philosophy and culture which is complemented by the modern Middle East collections of St Antony’s Middle East Centre Library. The Nizami Ganjavi Library provides access to publications in both vernacular languages (i.e. Arabic, Persian, Turkish and others) as well as European languages.
Adjacent to the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies is the Ashmolean Museum, which houses superb collections.
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 fulfill 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.