About the course
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.
You are evaluated in five areas: a language, three written examinations on course options taught through tutorials and lectures, and a 30,000-word thesis.
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.
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, though additional options are also likely to be available:
- 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 of Turkey, 1908-80
- History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 1979-2005
- Politics of the Maghreb
- The Maghreb since 1830
- Israel: History, Politics and Society
- The Political Economy of the Middle East and North Africa
- Political Islam, Islamism, and Modern Islamic Movements
- Islam in the West
- Contemporary Islamic Ethics
- 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
You will sit the qualifying examination at the end of the second term. 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.
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.
For further information on the course and the examinations involved, applicants should consult the course handbook, which can be accessed via the faculty's course webpage.
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.
- MSt in Islamic Art and Archaeology
- MSt in Oriental Studies
- MPhil in Islamic Art and Archaeology
- MPhil in Islamic Studies and History
- DPhil in Oriental Studies
Changes to the course
The University will seek to deliver this course in accordance with the description set out in this course page. However, there may be situations in which it is desirable or necessary for the University to make changes in course provision, either before or after registration. For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.
Entry requirements for entry in 2018-19
Within equal opportunities principles and legislation, applications will be assessed in the light of an applicant’s ability to meet the following entry requirements:
1. Academic ability
Proven and potential academic excellence
Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications), as a minimum, in any social science or humanities subject.
For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA sought is 3.5 out of 4.0.
If you hold non-UK qualifications and wish to check how your qualifications match these requirements, you can contact the National Recognition Information Centre for the United Kingdom (UK NARIC).
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other appropriate indicators will include:
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references and an official transcript. See 'How to apply' for instructions on the documents you will need and how these will be assessed.
Performance at interview(s)
Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.
Publications are not required.
2. English language requirement
Applicants whose first language is not English are usually required to provide evidence of proficiency in English at the higher level required by the University.
3. Availability of supervision, teaching, facilities and places
The following factors will govern whether candidates can be offered places:
- The ability of the Faculty of Oriental Studies to provide the appropriate supervision, research opportunities, teaching and facilities for your chosen area of work.
- Minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to Oxford's research and taught programmes.
The provision of supervision, where required, is subject to the following points:
- The allocation of graduate supervision 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.
Where possible your academic supervisor will not change for the duration of your course. However, it may be necessary to assign a new academic supervisor during the course of study or before registration for reasons which might include sabbatical leave, maternity leave or change in employment.
4. Disability, health conditions and specific learning difficulties
Students are selected for admission without regard to gender, marital or civil partnership status, disability, race, nationality, ethnic origin, religion or belief, sexual orientation, age or social background.
Decisions on admission are based solely on the individual academic merits of each candidate and the application of the entry requirements appropriate to the course.
Further information on how these matters are supported during the admissions process is available in our guidance for applicants with disabilities.
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgment of at least two members of academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and additionally must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent departmental persons or bodies).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
6. Other information
Whether you have yet secured funding is not taken into consideration in the decision to make an initial offer of a place, but please note that the initial offer of a place will not be confirmed until you have completed a Financial Declaration.
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 two annual lectures: The Abd al-Aziz Lecture, usually in Hilary (Winter) Term, and 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 Oriental Institute Library 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 New Bodleian Library (entry on Parks Road) 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.
You will also have access to the University's centrally provided electronic resources and the faculty IT Officer. 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.
There are over 1,100 full graduate scholarships available across the University, and these cover your course and college fees and provide a grant for living costs. If you apply by the relevant January deadline and fulfil the eligibility criteria you will be automatically considered. Over two thirds of Oxford scholarships require nothing more than the standard course application. Use the Fees, funding and scholarship search to find out which scholarships you are eligible for and if they require an additional application, full details of which are provided.
The Ertegun Scholarship Programme and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) each provide a number of awards every year, to support graduate students across a range of disciplines. To be considered for these studentships you must apply by the relevant January admissions deadline.
Annual fees for entry in 2018-19
Total annual fees
The fees shown above are the annual tuition and college fees for this course for entry in the stated academic year; for courses lasting longer than one year, please be aware that fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.
Tuition and college fees are payable each year for the duration of your fee liability (your fee liability is the length of time for which you are required to pay tuition and college fees).
For more information about tuition fees, college fees and fee liability, please see the Fees section of this website. EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.
You will normally be expected to spend the summer after your first year attending an intensive language course in the Middle East. The faculty estimates the cost of attendance to be between £1,400 and £3,000, depending on the country and the fees charged by the various institutes that provide such courses. This estimate includes tuition fees, living expenses (both housing and food) and airfare. The faculty currently provides some funding toward these costs.
In addition to your tuition and college fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2018-19 academic year, the range of likely living costs is between c. £1,015 and £1,555 for each month spent in Oxford. Full information, including a breakdown of likely living costs in Oxford for items such as food, accommodation and study costs, is available on our Living costs page.
The following colleges accept students on the MPhil in Modern Middle Eastern Studies:
- Balliol College
- Campion Hall
- Exeter College
- Harris Manchester College
- Linacre College
- Magdalen College
- Mansfield College
- Pembroke College
- The Queen's College
- Regent's Park College
- St Anne's College
- St Antony's College
- St Benet's Hall
- St Catherine's College
- St Cross College
- St Edmund Hall
- St Peter's College
- Wadham College
- Wolfson College
How to apply
You are not expected to make contact with an academic member of staff before you apply.
The set of documents you should send with your application to this course comprises the following:
Your transcripts should give detailed information of the individual grades received in your university-level qualifications to date. You should only upload official documents issued by your institution and any transcript not in English should be accompanied by a certified translation.
More information about the transcript requirement is available in the Application Guide.
A CV/résumé is compulsory for all applications. Most applicants choose to submit a document of one to two pages highlighting their academic achievements and any relevant professional experience.
Statement of purpose/personal statement:
Up to three pages
Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying for the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, previous language study (including any non-Middle Eastern languages) and the specific areas that interest you and/or you intend to specialise in. The overall page count should include any bibliography.
This will be assessed for:
- your reasons for applying, especially to Oxford
- evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
- commitment to the subject
- preliminary knowledge of research techniques
- capacity for sustained and intense work at a high intellectual level
- reasoning ability
- ability to absorb new ideas at a rapid pace.
Two essays of 2,000 words each
Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. Extracts of the requisite length from longer work are also permissible.
The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.
This will be assessed for:
- comprehensive understanding of the subject area
- understanding of problems in the area
- ability to construct and defend an argument
- powers of analysis
- powers of expression
- clarity and accuracy of thought and writing
- conceptual sophistication
- critical skill
- control of relevant primary and secondary sources
- presentation of material in the appropriate scholarly form.
It is helpful if written work relates closely to the proposed area of study, though it is not compulsory, as there are many aspects that the assessors look for in the written work which are not specific to the subject area, such as ability to construct and defend an argument and presentation of material in the appropriate scholarly form.
References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, generally academic
Whilst you must register three referees, the department may start the assessment of your application if two of the three references are submitted by the course deadline and your application is otherwise complete. Please note that you may still be required to ensure your third referee supplies a reference for consideration.
Whilst it is appreciated that obtaining academic references will be difficult for some candidates, academic references are requested because it is necessary to establish whether a candidate is intellectually prepared for a course. It is unlikely that this is something that can be established from a professional or personal reference, so you should only submit such references if there is absolutely no alternative.
Your references will support intellectual ability, academic achievement, motivation, and fitness for chosen course of study.