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 examination, 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:
- 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
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.
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.
Changes to this course and your supervision
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. In certain circumstances, for example due to visa difficulties or because the health needs of students cannot be met, it may be necessary to make adjustments to course requirements for international study.
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, parental leave or change in employment.
For further information, please see our page on changes to courses.
Other courses you may wish to consider
If you're thinking about applying for this course, you may also wish to consider the courses listed below. These courses may have been suggested due to their similarity with this course, or because they are offered by the same department or faculty.
Courses suggested by the lead faculty
All graduate courses offered by the Faculty of Oriental Studies
All graduate courses offered by the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies
Entry requirements for entry in 2020-21
Proven and potential academic excellence
As a minimum, applicants should normally hold or be predicted to achieve the equivalent of the following UK qualifications:
- a first-class or strong upper second-class undergraduate degree with honours 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 your degree is not from the UK or another country specified above, visit our International Qualifications page for guidance on the qualifications and grades that would usually be considered to meet the University’s minimum entry requirements.
GRE General Test scores
No Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or GMAT scores are sought.
Other qualifications, evidence of excellence and relevant experience
- Publications are not required.
English language requirement
This course requires proficiency in English at the University's higher level. If your first language is not English, you may need to provide evidence that you meet this requirement.
Detailed requirements - higher level
The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are:
|IELTS Academic||7.5||Minimum 7.0 per component|
Minimum component scores:
|Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English (CAE) or C1 Advanced||191||Minimum 185 per component|
|Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE) or C2 Proficiency||191||Minimum 185 per component|
Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. For more information about the English language test requirement, visit the Application Guide.
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
Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.
Any offer of a place is dependent on the University’s ability to provide the appropriate supervision for your chosen area of work. Please refer to the ‘About’ section of this page for more information about the provision of supervision for this course.
How your application is assessed
Your application will be assessed purely on academic merit and potential, according to the published entry requirements for the course. 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. Whether you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.
Admissions panels and assessors
All recommendations to admit a student involve the judgement of at least two members of the academic staff with relevant experience and expertise, and must also be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies or Admissions Committee (or equivalent within the department).
Admissions panels or committees will always include at least one member of academic staff who has undertaken appropriate training.
After an offer is made
If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, you will be required to meet the following requirements:
If you are offered a place, you will be required to complete a Financial Declaration in order to meet your financial condition of admission.
Disclosure of criminal convictions
In accordance with the University’s obligations towards students and staff, we will ask you to declare any relevant, unspent criminal convictions before you can take up a place at Oxford.
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 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 Charles Wendell David 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.
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 or partial graduate scholarships available across the University. You will be automatically considered for over two thirds of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant January deadline, with most scholarships awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. To help identify those scholarships where you will be required to submit an additional application, use the Fees, funding and scholarships search and visit individual college websites using the links provided on our college pages.
Annual fees for entry in 2020-21
Annual Course fees
|Home/EU (including Islands)||£17,070|
Course 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 course fees). 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.
Course fees cover your teaching as well as other academic services and facilities provided to support your studies. Unless specified in the additional information section below, course fees do not cover your accommodation, residential costs or other living costs. They also don’t cover any additional costs and charges that are outlined in the additional information below.
For more information about course 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 course fees, you will need to ensure that you have adequate funds to support your living costs for the duration of your course.
For the 2020-21 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,135 and £1,650 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. When planning your finances for any future years of study in Oxford beyond 2020-21, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.
The following colleges accept students on the MPhil in Modern Middle Eastern Studies:
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.
Start or continue an application
Step 1: Read our guide to getting started, which explains how to prepare for and start an application.
Step 2: Check that you meet the Entry requirements and read the How to apply information on this page.
Step 3: Check the deadlines on this page and plan your time to submit your application well in advance.
Step 4: Our Application Guide will help you complete the form. It contains links to FAQs and further help.
Step 5: Submit your application as soon as possible (you can read more information about our deadlines).