Modern Middle Eastern Studies MPhil

Interior of a shopping center in Doha, Qatar. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The MPhil in Modern Middle Eastern Studies is a two-year course intended for students from all social science and humanities backgrounds. The course provides intensive training in a Middle Eastern language, training in research methods and topics relevant to the study of the Middle East.

The MPhil Modern Middle Eastern Studies accepts students who are complete beginners in a Middle Eastern language (Arabic, Hebrew, Persian or Turkish). The course also accommodates students in any of these languages at an advanced level. If you already have research-level proficiency in one of these languages you will be required to take a different language.

In the first two terms, you will receive intensive language training to cover the fundamentals of grammar in your chosen Middle Eastern language. This training takes place in classes or language laboratories. You are expected to attend the weekly MPhil seminar, The Modern Middle East, held in the first term. The seminar is an interactive forum in which you are asked to present arguments and to respond to each other’s work. In addition to this seminar, you will be encouraged to attend lectures and seminars offered by the teaching staff during the first term. You will complete and submit a take-home written assignment based on the MPhil Seminar after the end of the first term which will form part of your Qualifying Examination.

In the second term, in consultation with your supervisor, you will arrange a series of tutorials for one of three options to be offered for the final examination. Tutorials typically involve eight weekly meetings and between four and six essays, arranged between you and your tutor. Most options have an associated lecture series which you are expected to attend.

Tutorial options offered on a regular basis include the following:

  • History of the Middle East, 1860-1970
  • Politics of the Middle East
  • Social Anthropology of the Middle East
  • International Relations of the Middle East
  • Iranian History from the Constitutional to the Islamic Revolution, 1905-1979
  • History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran
  • Politics of the Maghreb
  • The Maghreb since 1830
  • Main Themes in Israeli Politics and Society
  • The Political Economy of the Middle East and North Africa
  • Political Islam, Islamism, and Modern Islamic Movements
  • Modern Turkish Literature: Texts and Contexts
  • The Arab-Israeli Conflict
  • History from below in the Middle East and North Africa
  • Space and Gender in Middle Eastern Literatures: The Harem and the Body
  • History and Politics of the Gulf
  • History of Qajar Iran
  • Hebrew Literature
  • Modern Islamic Thought

Language training continues in the third term, and you will have tutorials for the second of your three options. You will at this stage begin your thesis preparations, meeting with staff members to identify a thesis supervisor. You will sit the qualifying language examination at the end of the third term.

During the long vacation from the end of June to early October you are urged to pursue intensive language training in an appropriate course in the region, political circumstances permitting. Information on the different courses can be obtained from the relevant language instructors, in consultation with supervisors. You are encouraged to take the opportunity provided by study abroad to conduct research for your thesis in the region.

In the first term of the second year, you will continue language training, and have tutorials for your third option. Over the Christmas vacation research and writing of the thesis should continue. In the second term, you will have further language training and attend an MPhil research seminar where you will present your research findings to your peers and faculty. A complete draft of your thesis should be ready for the supervisor to assess by the end of the second term. By the second week of the final term, you will be ready to submit your thesis. The final examination is held at the end of the final term.

Oriental studies graduates have found employment in many and diverse fields including business, finance, law, civil service, journalism, government and industry.

Many graduates have also undertaken further research into subjects linked with Oriental studies and have pursued successful careers in the academic world, education and in museums.

Assessment
You are evaluated in five areas: a language examination, three written examinations on course options taught through tutorials and lectures, and a 30,000 word thesis.

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).

Resources

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 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 MPhil Modern Middle Eastern Studies course. The Nizami Ganjavi Library at the Oriental Institute 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 Oriental 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 Oriental studies, such as:

The Sackler 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 Oriental Institute, as well as a common room where tea and coffee are available and staff and students can meet.
Sources of funding

Applications recieved 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.