About the course
The MSc in Modern Middle Eastern Studies is a new twelve-month, taught master's course, offered by the Faculty of Oriental 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 either Arabic or Hebrew 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 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, e.g. through extensive formal study and experience in the region outside the scope of a degree program.
Students on the language track take language classes, plus two optional papers. Students on the non-language track take three optional papers. Students in both tracks take assessed qualitative and quantitative research methodology modules, and both tracks write a 12,000 word dissertation.
Optional papers are taught through a combination of lectures, tutorials, and non-assessed essays and will be examined through 5,000 word take-home essays at the end of each term. Students will choose from a list of optional papers published annually.
The language paper for the language track will be examined by an examination at the end of Trinity term. The dissertation will be undertaken independently under the supervision of a 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.
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.
Other courses in this area
- MPhil in Modern Middle Eastern Studies
- MPhil in Modern South Asian Studies
- MPhil in Islamic Studies and History
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 2019-20
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 3.7 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 expected.
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 Hebrew or 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 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, e.g. through extensive formal study and experience in the region outside the scope of a degree program.
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.
- 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 an annual lectures - 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 2019-20
Annual Course fees
|Home/EU (including Islands)||£16,415|
The fees shown above are the annual course fees for this course, for entry in the stated academic year.
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. You may have seen separate figures in the past for tuition fees and college fees. We have now combined these into a single figure.
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.
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.
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.
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 2019-20 academic year, the range of likely living costs for full-time study is between c. £1,058 and £1,643 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 2019-20, you should allow for an estimated increase in living expenses of 3% each year.
The following colleges accept students on the MSc 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 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.
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.
Two essays 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.
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.
References/letters of recommendation:
Three overall, of which at least two should usually 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.