Syriac Studies MSt

L0034806 Page from Socrates Scholasticus - The Ecclesiastical History Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images

The MSt in Syriac Studies is a one-year taught degree which has been designed to give students experience in reading and interpreting a wide range of Syriac texts, from a choice of genres and in all the major scripts, as well as a broad knowledge of Syriac literature and history, and an ability to use key research tools. It is can thus be either a stand-alone qualification or a solid foundation in the subject for those intending to go on to do doctoral research.

You must choose to study texts in three of the following subjects: Biblical versions; exegetical literature; early poetry; liturgy; historical literature; secular literature; monastic literature; hagiography; translations of Greek patristic texts; theological texts; (or any other subject approved by the Faculty Board). The choice of the precise texts to be read in each of the three subjects selected is decided by consultation between yourself and your supervisor in the first week of Michaelmas term.

No more than three of these subjects will be taught in any one year. Teaching takes the form of text-classes (usually 6 hours per week), for which you are expected to prepare; seminars (usually one and a half hours per week), for which you are expected to prepare oral or written presentations on specified topics; and lectures on the general background of Syriac literature (normally one hour per week). These classes and lectures are normally given by Professor David Taylor or Professor Alison Salvesen. You are also encouraged to attend seminars in relevant areas: there are regular series in Patristic studies, Late Antique and Byzantine studies, Armenian Studies, Jewish Studies in the Greco-Roman Period, Old Testament, and New Testament, Ancient Near Eastern studies.

The examination (towards the end of the third (Trinity) Term) takes the form of four three-hour papers. The first of these consists of essay questions on the history, literature, and culture of the Syriac Churches; you are required to answer three questions (out of seven or more that are set). The other three papers will each have an obligatory Question 1, containing four passages from the set texts for translation into English and for comment. Questions 2-6 will be essay questions, most of which concern some aspect of the specific set texts. Question 7 will be an unseen Syriac passage for translation. You are required to answer two out of questions 2-7. You will also be examined viva voce unless you  have been individually excused by the examiners. In taught graduate degrees the pass mark is 50. In the MSt a distinction may be awarded for a final overall mark of 70 or above. The final mark is arrived at as a numerical mean of the marks on individual papers, with the qualification that you must also pass on each paper individually.

Applicants should have a basic knowledge of the Syriac language. If in doubt about the level of their knowledge, potential applicants should contact Professor David Taylor at


The allocation of graduate supervision for this course is the responsibility of the Faculty of Oriental Studies and it is not always possible to accommodate the preferences of incoming graduate students to work with a particular member of staff. Under exceptional circumstances a supervisor may be found outside the Faculty of Oriental Studies.

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.

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

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