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. It 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
  • 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 six 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.

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.


The assessment (towards the end of the third (Trinity) term) takes the form of four timed examinations. These consist of:

  • one paper with essay questions on the history, literature, and culture of the Syriac Churches; and
  • three papers on the three specialist options, containing passages from the set texts for translation from Syriac into English and for comment, and also essay questions related to the set texts.

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).


Syriac has been studied and taught in Oxford since the 1570s. As a result of this 440-year tradition, the University of Oxford has one of the world’s greatest library collections of printed Syriac books, and related materials, as well as an important collection of Syriac manuscripts. The Bodleian Library is the main research collection, but the Nizami Ganjavi Library at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies also has a major collection of Syriac books. Other relevant collections are housed in the Bodleian Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library (archaeology, Classical languages, ancient Near East) and the Theology Faculty Library.

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 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, 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.