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 (six-term) 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 in 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 Turkish and Arabic at an advanced level as well as Arabic at an intermediate level. If you already have research-level proficiency in one of these languages you will be required to take a different language.

Intensive language training takes place through all six terms of the course. This training takes place in classes and language laboratories. In addition to language training, in the first term you are expected to attend the weekly MPhil Qualitative Research Methods for Modern Middle Eastern Studies lecture and seminar, held in the first term. In addition to the lecture, this seminar is an interactive forum in which you are expected to present arguments and to respond to the lecture, associated readings, and each other’s formative essays, which are a crucial element of teaching, but do not count toward the student's final marks. In addition to Qualitative Research Methods, you will be encouraged to attend other 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 Qualitative Research Methods Seminar after the end of the first term which will form the first of two elements of your Qualifying Examination. The second element of the Qualifying Examination is a language qualifying examination taken at the end of the first year (first three terms) of the course.

In the second term, in consultation with your supervisor, you will attend a series of tutorials for one of three options to be offered for the final examination. These are taught in the second, third and fourth terms of the course. Tutorials typically involve weekly meetings and between four and six formative essays, arranged between you and your tutor. Most options have an associated lecture series, either concurrent with the tutorials or in some cases delivered in a different term, which you are expected to attend.

Tutorial options offered on a regular basis 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.

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 submit your thesis. The final examination is held at the end of the final 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.

Many graduates have also 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.


You are evaluated in five areas: a language examination, three written examinations on course options taught through tutorials and lectures, and a 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).


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 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.