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 Oriental 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 either Arabic or Hebrew 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, e.g. through extensive formal study and experience in the region outside the scope of a degree program.

Students on the language track take language classes, plus two optional papers. Students on the non-language track take three optional papers. Students will choose from a list of optional papers published annually which are taught through a combination of lectures, tutorials, and non-assessed essays.

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

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

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.

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
Students in both tracks take assessed qualitative and quantitative research methodology modules, and both tracks write a 12,000 worddissertation 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 take-home 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).

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 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 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 Oriental 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.