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MSc in Modern Middle Eastern Studies

About the course

The MSc in Modern Middle Eastern Studies is a twelve-month, taught master's course, offered jointly by the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern 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 Arabic 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, eg through extensive formal study and experience in the region outside the scope of a degree program. Applicants who do not have formal language-study credentials, and particularly applicants who may want to be seen as prospective non-language-track students (including all Hebrew, Persian and Turkish applicants) may wish to submit writing samples that demonstrate the ability to use untranslated sources (preferably written) in a Middle Eastern language.

Students on the language track take language classes throughout the three terms of the course, plus two optional papers taken in the second and third terms. Students on the non-language track take three optional papers, one in each of the three terms. Students will choose from a list of optional papers published annually which are taught through a combination of lectures, tutorials, and non-assessed formative (non-assessed) essays.

Tutorial options offered regularly include the following:

  • Hebrew Literature
  • History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran
  • History of Qajar Iran
  • History of the Maghreb since 1830
  • History of the Middle East, 1860-1970
  • Iranian History from the Constitutional to the Islamic Revolution, 1905-1979
  • Main Themes in Israeli Politics and Society
  • Mass Media in the Middle East
  • Modern Islamic Thought
  • Modern Turkish Literature: Texts and Contexts
  • Nahda: Literature, Modernity and Institution-building in the Arabic 19th Century
  • The Political Economy of the Middle East and North Africa
  • Political Institutions in Contemporary Iran
  • Political Islam, Islamism, and Modern Islamic Movements
  • Politics of the Maghreb
  • Politics of the Middle East
  • Social Anthropology of the Middle East

Applicants may wish to confirm with the course coordinator that a specific option listed above will be available to the applicant’s cohort, as scheduled sabbaticals or other research leave may sometimes interrupt the annual teaching schedule.

Supervision

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

Assessment

Students in both tracks take assessed qualitative and quantitative research methodology modules, and both tracks write a  dissertation 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 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 via the course webpage on the faculty's website.

Graduate destinations

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.

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. The safety of students, staff and visitors is paramount and major changes to delivery or services may have to be made in circumstances of a pandemic (including Covid-19), epidemic or local health emergency. In addition, 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 illness, sabbatical leave, parental leave or change in employment.

For further information please see our page on changes to courses and the provisions of the student contract regarding 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

Modern Middle Eastern Studies MPhil
Modern South Asian Studies MPhil
Islamic Studies and History MPhil

Entry requirements for entry in 2023-24

Proven and potential academic excellence

Degree-level qualifications

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 3.7 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

Applicants must have the following level of proficiency in a Middle Eastern Language:

Mode A (Language track)

Intermediate or advanced level proficiency in Arabic. For guidelines on assessing language proficiency applicants are encouraged to consult the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages Proficiency Guidelines in Reading and Writing. Proficiency in speaking and listening is desirable, but for purposes of assessing applications we are specifically concerned with reading and writing proficiency

Mode B (Non-language track)

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, eg through extensive formal study and experience in the region outside the scope of a degree program. Applicants who do not have formal language-study credentials, and particularly applicants who may want to be seen as prospective non-language-track students (including all Hebrew, Persian and Turkish applicants) may wish to submit writing samples that demonstrate the ability to use untranslated sources (preferably written) in a Middle Eastern language.

Publications are not expected.

English language proficiency

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. The minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level are detailed in the table below.

Minimum scores required to meet the University's higher level requirement
TestMinimum overall scoreMinimum score per component
IELTS Academic (Institution code: 0713) 7.57.0

TOEFL iBT, including the 'Home Edition'

(Institution code: 0490)

110Listening: 22
Reading: 24
Speaking: 25
Writing: 24
C1 Advanced*191185
C2 Proficiency191185

*Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English or Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)
Previously known as the Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English or Cambridge English: Proficiency (CPE)

Your test must have been taken no more than two years before the start date of your course. Our Application Guide provides further information about the English language test requirement.

Declaring extenuating circumstances

If your ability to meet the entry requirements has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic (eg you were awarded an unclassified/ungraded degree) or any other exceptional personal circumstance (eg other illness or bereavement), please refer to the guidance on extenuating circumstances in the Application Guide for information about how to declare this so that your application can be considered appropriately.

References

You will need to register three referees who can give an informed view of your academic ability and suitability for the course. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the types of reference that are required in support of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Supporting documents

You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including an official transcript and a CV/résumé. The How to apply section of this page provides details of the supporting documents that are required as part of your application for this course and how these will be assessed.

Performance at interview

Interviews are not normally held as part of the admissions process.

How your application is assessed

Your application will be assessed purely on your proven and potential academic excellence and other entry requirements published under that heading. References and supporting documents submitted as part of your application, and your performance at interview (if interviews are held) will be considered as part of the assessment process.

An overview of the shortlisting and selection process is provided below. Our 'After you apply' pages provide more information about how applications are assessed

Shortlisting and selection

Students are considered for shortlisting and selected for admission without regard to age, disability, gender reassignment, marital or civil partnership status, pregnancy and maternity, race (including colour, nationality and ethnic or national origins), religion or belief (including lack of belief), sex, sexual orientation, as well as other relevant circumstances including parental or caring responsibilities or social background. However, please note the following:

  • socio-economic information may be taken into account in the selection of applicants and award of scholarships for courses that are part of the University’s pilot selection procedure and for scholarships aimed at under-represented groups;
  • country of ordinary residence may be taken into account in the awarding of certain scholarships; and
  • protected characteristics may be taken into account during shortlisting for interview or the award of scholarships where the University has approved a positive action case under the Equality Act 2010.

Whether or not you have secured funding will not be taken into consideration when your application is assessed.

Processing your data for shortlisting and selection

Information about processing special category data for the purposes of positive action and using your data to assess your eligibility for funding, can be found in our Postgraduate Applicant Privacy Policy.

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.

Other factors governing whether places can be offered

The following factors will also govern whether candidates can be offered places:

  • the ability of the University to provide the appropriate supervision for your studies, as outlined under the 'Supervision' heading in the About section of this page;
  • the ability of the University to provide appropriate support for your studies (eg through the provision of facilities, resources, teaching and/or research opportunities); and
  • minimum and maximum limits to the numbers of students who may be admitted to the University's taught and research programmes.

Offer conditions for successful applications

If you receive an offer of a place at Oxford, your offer will outline any conditions that you need to satisfy and any actions you need to take, together with any associated deadlines. These may include academic conditions, such as achieving a specific final grade in your current degree course. These conditions will usually depend on your individual academic circumstances and may vary between applicants. Our After you apply pages provide more information about offers and conditions

In addition to any academic conditions which are set, you will also be required to meet the following requirements:

Financial Declaration

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.

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 Asian and Middle Eastern 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, part of the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, 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 Asian and Middle Eastern 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 have access to the University's centrally provided electronic resources, the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies' IT Officer, and other bibliographic, archive or material sources as appropriate to the topic. There is a computing room for the use of graduate students in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, as well as a common room where tea and coffee are available and staff and students can meet.

Funding

The University expects to be able to offer around 1,000 full or partial graduate scholarships across the collegiate University in 2023-24. You will be automatically considered for the majority of Oxford scholarships, if you fulfil the eligibility criteria and submit your graduate application by the relevant December or January deadline. Most scholarships are awarded on the basis of academic merit and/or potential. 

For further details about searching for funding as a graduate student visit our dedicated Funding pages, which contain information about how to apply for Oxford scholarships requiring an additional application, details of external funding, loan schemes and other funding sources.

Please ensure that you visit individual college websites for details of any college-specific funding opportunities using the links provided on our college pages or below:

Please note that not all the colleges listed above may accept students on this course. For details of those which do, please refer to the College preference section of this page.

Further information about funding opportunities for this course can be found on the following faculty websites: 

Costs

Annual fees for entry in 2023-24

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home£19,950
Overseas£30,910

Further details about fee status eligibility can be found on the fee status webpage.

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 changes 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 and Funding section of this website, which includes detailed fee status information.

Additional information

There are no compulsory elements of the MSc in MMES that entail additional costs beyond fees and living costs. However, as part of students’ course requirements, they choose a dissertation. Depending on their choice of topic and the research required to complete it, this may incur additional expenses, such as travel expenses, research expenses, and field trips, although this is considered unlikely for MSc students. Graduates will need to meet these additional costs, but may be able to apply for small grants to help them cover some of these expenses.

Living 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 2023-24 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,290 and £1,840 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 2023-24, it is suggested that you allow for potential increases in living expenses of 5% or more each year – although this rate may vary significantly depending on how the national economic situation develops. UK inflationary increases will be kept under review and this page updated.

College preference

All graduate students at Oxford belong to a department or faculty and a college or hall (except those taking non-matriculated courses). If you apply for a place on this course you will have the option to express a preference for one of the colleges listed below, or you can ask us to find a college for you. The Colleges section of this website provides information about the college system at Oxford, as well as factors you may wish to consider when deciding whether to express a college preference. Please note that ‘college’ and ‘colleges’ refers to all 45 of the University’s colleges, including those designated as Permanent Private Halls (PPHs). 

For some courses, the department or faculty may have provided some additional advice below to help you to decide. Whatever you decide, it won’t affect how the academic department assesses your application and whether they decide to make you an offer. If your department makes you an offer of a place, you’re guaranteed a place at one of our colleges. 

The following colleges accept students on the MSc in Modern Middle Eastern Studies:

Before you apply

Our guide to getting started provides general advice on how to prepare for and start your application. Check the deadlines on this page and the information about deadlines in our Application Guide. We recommend that you submit your application well in advance - two or three weeks earlier. 

Application fee waivers

An application fee of £75 is payable per course application. Application fee waivers are available for the following applicants who meet the eligibility criteria:

  • applicants from low-income countries;
  • refugees and displaced persons; 
  • UK applicants from low-income backgrounds; and 
  • applicants who applied for our Graduate Access Programmes in the past two years and met the eligibility criteria.

You are encouraged to check whether you're eligible for an application fee waiver before you apply.

Contacting the department

You do not need to make contact with the department before you apply but you are encouraged to visit the relevant departmental webpages to read any further information about your chosen course.

Completing your application

You should refer to the information below when completing the application form, paying attention to the specific requirements for the supporting documents. If any document does not meet the specification, including the stipulated word count, your application may be considered incomplete and not assessed by the academic department. Expand each section to show further details.

Referees
Three overall, of which at least two must be 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.

Your references will support your academic achievement, your motivation and interest in the course and subject area, and your ability to work effectively both in a group and independently.

Official transcript(s)

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.

CV/résumé

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:
A maximum of 1,500 words

Your statement should be written in English and explain your motivation for applying to the course at Oxford, your relevant experience and education, and the specific areas that interest you/or you intend to specialise in.

Non-native speaker applicants who think they might qualify for the non-language track and who do not have 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) should explain specifically why they think they qualify, eg through extensive formal study and experience in the region outside the scope of a degree program.

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

This will be assessed for:

  • your reasons for applying, especially to Oxford
  • evidence of motivation for and understanding of the proposed area of study
  • your ability to present a coherent case in proficient English
  • your commitment to the subject, beyond the requirements of the degree course
  • your preliminary knowledge of the subject area and research techniques
  • your capacity for sustained and intense work
  • reasoning ability
  • ability to absorb new ideas, often present abstractly, at a rapid pace.

Written work:
Two essays of a maximum of 2,000 words each

Academic essays or other writing samples from your most recent qualification, written in English, are required. You can submit an extract or excerpted sections from a longer essay as your written work as long as you include a brief note to give the context of the extract, eg to explain that it comprises two chapters of a research dissertation that comprised twelve chapters in all, giving the full title of the dissertation.

The word count does not need to include any bibliography or brief footnotes.

If possible, please ensure that the word count is clearly displayed on the document.

This will be assessed for:

  • a comprehensive understanding of the subject area, including problems and developments in the subject
  • your ability to construct and defend an argument
  • your aptitude for analysis and expression
  • your ability to present a reasoned case in proficient academic English.

Start or continue your application

You can start or return to an application using the relevant link below. As you complete the form, please refer to the requirements above and consult our Application Guide for advice. You'll find the answers to most common queries in our FAQs.

Application Guide Apply

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