Ivory carving of elephants in the Ashmolean Museum
Ivory carving in the Ashmolean Museum.
(Credit: Ashmolean Museum)

Oriental Studies

mortar boardUCAS codeSee course optionscalendarDuration

3 or 4 years (BA)
(see Structure tab)

pencilEntrance requirementsAAAHeadSubject requirements A language
tickAdmissions test(s)

(for certain options)

tickWritten workTwo pieces
bar chartAdmissions statistics*

Interviewed: 79%
Successful: 24%
Intake: 42
*3-year average 2018-20


+44 (0) 1865 278312
Email Oriental Studies

Subject requirements:       Essential       Recommended       Helpful – may be useful on course

Unistats information for each course combination can be found at the bottom of the page

Please note that there may be no data available if the number of course participants is very small.

Arabic, Chinese, Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Hebrew, Japanese, Jewish Studies, Persian, Sanskrit, Turkish.

Oriental Studies is unique in its sole focus on introducing students to civilisations that are different from the Western ones upon which the curriculum in most British schools and colleges is based. The courses present both the major traditions and cultural trends of the regions studied and, in most cases, their modern developments. All courses include a combination of linguistic, literary, historic and cultural studies and there is a wide range of options in fields such as art and archaeology, history, literature, philosophy, religion and modern social studies.

Oriental Studies has a long history in Oxford. The Bodleian and other libraries have acquired extensive collections. The Nizami Ganjavi Oriental Institute library, the KB Chen China Centre, and the Bodleian Japanese and Indian Institute libraries are all specialists in their respective fields. Around the corner from the Oriental Institute is the Ashmolean Museum, which houses superb collections, the Leopold Muller Memorial Library at the Clarendon Institute for Hebrew and Jewish Studies material, and the Sackler Library which contains the renowned Griffith Institute Archive, one of the finest libraries in the world for the study of ancient Egypt and the Ancient Near East.

Work placements/international opportunities

Most courses offer the opportunity to spend time in the region being studied. The Arabic course includes a year in the Middle East, the Turkish course a year in Turkey and the Hebrew course an optional year in Israel. The Chinese and Japanese courses also include a year in China and Japan respectively. For Persian, the faculty decides each year whether it is advisable for its students to spend their year abroad in Iran. In years when Iran is not possible, they study in Tajikistan instead.

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 a course’s requirements for international study. Students who consider that they may be affected are asked to contact their department for advice.

 Student studying student studying in a library students socializing
“I chose Oxford because apart from just learning the language, the Arabic and Islamic Studies course gives a solid introduction to many different areas relating to the Middle East, before moving on to focus on particular areas in more depth and becoming really flexible, allowing me to explore my interests. I am looking forward to being able to read literature in Arabic rather than having to study it in translation. Spending the second year in Cairo or Beirut (rather than the third year as with most other language courses) will help me achieve this as I will reach a very high level of proficiency in Arabic quickly.”
“Apart from Akkadian language classes and my history and civilisation lectures, which I love, the department in general is so lovely. It's a really close knit community and there's often events going on to get everyone together, lecturers and students alike.”
“Most people think of Egyptology and Assyriology as really hermetic subjects, but they involve everything from linguistics and scientific archaeology to literary theory and comparative religion. They just use ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia as contexts for applying and evaluating much broader streams of academic inquiry. And that's great because while you get to pursue your specific interests in the field, you also dip into a bit of everything else - it's not a subject one gets bored of!”

A typical week

Your time will be divided between lectures, tutorials (up to three students and a tutor) and language classes that will develop your writing, speaking and comprehension skills. The rest of your time will be dedicated to independent study, working on regular assignments in reading, writing and translation. Seminar and language class sizes may vary depending on the options you choose or the language you are studying, but there would usually be no more than around 10 students and often fewer, while lectures are normally around 15-25 students.

Most tutorials, classes, and lectures are delivered by staff who are tutors in their subject. Many are world-leading experts with years of experience in teaching and research. Some teaching may also be delivered by postgraduate students who are usually studying at doctorate level.

To find out more about how our teaching year is structured, visit our Academic Year page.

Course structure

Arabic T601
Persian T613 
Turkish T600



  • Elementary language
  • Middle Eastern history and cultures


Year abroad: approved course of language instruction


  • Core work on language and literature
  • History
  • Specialisation or subsidiary language
  • Islamic Religion (Arabic only)

First University examinations after term 3: three written papers; an oral exam (Arabic only)


Final University examinations at the end of Year 4: oral exam and eight or nine written papers (one of which must be a dissertation)

Options listed are only illustrative of what is available. A full list of current options is available on the Oriental Studies website.
Chinese T101


  • Elementary language in Modern and Classical Chinese
  • History and civilisation of China


  • Year abroad in China


  • Extended language classes in modern and classical Chinese
  • Interdisciplinary course on modern China
  • Options: China and the World; Contemporary Chinese cities in literature, art and cinema; Organization and ideology of the Chinese Communist Party; Literary worlds and cultural flows in Pre-Modern China; Angst in Early China; Chinese painters on painting; Chinese ceramics; Women and writing in Republican China; Chinese law and society; or subsidiary languages: Tibetan, Japanese or Korean


First University examinations: three written papers; an oral exam



Final University examinations: oral examination; seven written papers; dissertation; extended essay (for candidates who have taken options)

Options listed are only illustrative of what is available. A full list of current options is available on the Oriental Studies website.
Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies Q401
Egyptology Q400
Ancient Near Eastern Studies Q402


  • Broad survey of civilisations of Egypt and the Ancient Near East
  • Language teaching in Egyptian or Akkadian


  • Addition of second language, or Archaeology and Anthropology
  • Language options: Akkadian, Egyptian, Arabic, Aramaic and Syriac, Coptic, Hebrew (Biblical and Mishnaic), Old Iranian, Sumerian or Hittite (if available)
  • Literary and historical topics through study of texts and essay writing
  • Intensive class work
  • Artefact classes
Subject to acceptance, students may also have the option of Classical Greek or Latin from the Classics with Oriental Studies degree.


  • Essay writing and dissertation work
  • Intensive classes in the first and second terms
  • Artefact classes
  • Field of concentration


First University examinations: four written papers


Final University examinations: ten units

Options listed are only illustrative of what is available. A full list of current options is available on the Oriental Studies website.
Hebrew Q480 


  • Intensive study in Hebrew language in all periods
  • Introduction to Jewish history and culture


  • Intensive language study
  • Study of history and culture through texts
  • Choice of options from Jewish Studies


  • Continued language study
  • Tutorials in history, culture and society
Year 3 is a compulsory year abroad for students on the four-year track. 


First University examinations: four written papers



Final University examinations: seven written papers; dissertation 4-year course only: oral examination if taking a year abroad

Options listed are only illustrative of what is available. A full list of current options is available on the Oriental Studies website.
Japanese T201


  • History and culture
  • Intensive Japanese language classes


  • Year abroad at Kobe University


  • Continued language classes 
  • Classical Japanese
  • Options with tutorials (five subjects to be chosen), from a range of specialised subjects within: Classical literature; Modern literature; Linguistics; History; Politics; Economics; Society, Art; Subsidiary language (counts as three subjects) from: Chinese, Korean or Tibetan


First University examinations: three written papers


Test at end of course


Final University examinations: oral examination; eight written papers; dissertation

Options listed are only illustrative of what is available. A full list of current options is available on the Oriental Studies website.
Jewish Studies QV91


  • Intensive study in Hebrew language in all periods
  • Introduction to Jewish history and culture


  • Intensive language study
  • Options (three subjects to be chosen)


  • Options (two subjects to be chosen)
  • Tutorials in history, culture and society


First University examinations: four written papers



Final University examinations: seven written papers; dissertation

A full list of current options is available on the Oriental Studies website.

Sanskrit Q450


  • Intensive language learning
  • Introduction to the study of ancient Indian civilization


  • Continued language learning and text reading
  • Study of the historically and culturally most important genres of Sanskrit literature 
  • Begin subsidiary language options: Hindi, Early Iranian, Pali, Prakrit or Tibetan


  • Continued language learning and text reading
  • Specialisation in one area of Sanskrit literature
  • Additional special subject or dissertation
Options listed are only illustrative of what is available. A full list of current options is available on the Oriental Studies website.


First University examinations: three written papers


Final University examinations: ten papers (seven in Sanskrit and three in subsidiary languages)

Options listed are only illustrative of what is available. A full list of current options is available on the Oriental Studies website.

The content and format of this course may change in some circumstances. Read further information about potential course changes.

Academic requirements 

Advanced Highers:                    AA/AAB
IB: 39 (including core points) with 666 at HL                                                                          
Or any other equivalent (see other UK qualifications, and international qualifications

Wherever possible, your grades are considered in the context in which they have been achieved.  (See further information on how we use contextual data.) 

Subject requirements

  Helpful: Students are not expected to have studied an Oriental language before. A language to A-level, Advanced Higher, Higher Level in the IB or another equivalent can be helpful to students in completing this course,  although this is not required for admission.

If a practical component forms part of any of your science A‐levels used to meet your offer, we expect you to pass it.

If English is not your first language you may also need to meet our English language requirements.


All candidates must follow the application procedure as shown in applying to Oxford. The information below gives specific details for students applying for this course.

Admissions tests

Yes, for candidates applying for course combinations including Arabic, Turkish, Hebrew, Jewish Studies and Persian.

Test: OLAT
Test date:3 November 2021
Registration deadline:                   6pm 15 October 2021                                                                                                   

Candidates for course combinations including Arabic, Turkish, Hebrew, Jewish Studies and Persian must take the Oriental Languages Aptitude Test (OLAT) as part of their application. Separate registration for this test is required and it is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that they are registered. We strongly recommend making the arrangements in plenty of time before the deadline.

Everything you need to know, including guidance on how to prepare, can be found on the OLAT page

Written work

Description:                                     Two pieces, written in English. The particular topic of your essay and the A-level (or equivalent) subject from which it is drawn are not important; it is intended to show how you construct an argument and express your ideas in English. If you do not have any recent marked work written in English (for example, because of the combination of subjects you are currently studying), you may submit a separate piece of work, such as an essay in English on one of the topics you have been studying for your A-level (or equivalent). It may be helpful to seek guidance from your teachers in devising a suitable title. In such circumstances, it would not normally be expected for this piece to have been marked, as it will not have been done in the normal course of your studies. 
Submission deadline:  10 November 2021

If you have any further questions about what to submit, please contact the Tutor for Admissions at the college which is considering your application (see college pages for contact details). For more information, and to download a cover sheet, please see our further guidance on the submission of written work.

What are tutors looking for?

The ability to learn difficult languages from scratch requires strong motivation and a capacity for sustained and well-organised hard work. Oriental Studies also requires you to develop skills of analysis, argument and essay writing across the fields of literature, history and religious thought.

For more detail on the selection criteria for this course, please see the Oriental Studies website.


The skills developed while studying for a degree in Oriental Studies are greatly appreciated by a wide range of employers. Career options include finance, the media, commerce, the Civil Service, the law, accountancy, international development, education and the arts. Around 30% of Oriental Studies graduates go on to further study.

Andi, who graduated with a BA in Japanese, is Director of International Business Development at Ping Identity. He says: ‘My time at Oxford gave me a good foundation for the varied demands of both small and large companies, and the skills required to handle the constant change and learning required in the software industry. I’ve had the opportunity to do business in Japan on several occasions through my career.’

Iason, who graduated with a BA in Arabic, is a photojournalist, film-maker and lecturer currently working for the UN in Libya. He says: ‘I have lived in Cairo, Damascus, Sanaa and Tehran, and covered events like the 2011 Arab revolts and the Greek economic crisis. After studying for a Master’s in Persian and Contemporary Iranian Studies, I was a Nieman Fellow at Harvard.’ 

We don't want anyone who has the academic ability to get a place to study here to be held back by their financial circumstances. To meet that aim, Oxford offers one of the most generous financial support packages available for UK/Republic of Ireland students and this may be supplemented by support from your college.

Further information for EU students starting in 2022 is available here.


These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2022.

Fee status

Annual Course fees


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

For more information please refer to our course fees page. Fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s departure from the European Union.

Living costs

Living costs at Oxford might be less than you’d expect, as our world-class resources and college provision can help keep costs down.

Living costs for the academic year starting in 2022 are estimated to be between £1,215 and £1,755 for each month you are in Oxford. Our academic year is made up of three eight-week terms, so you would not usually need to be in Oxford for much more than six months of the year but may wish to budget over a nine-month period to ensure you also have sufficient funds during the holidays to meet essential costs. For further details please visit our living costs webpage.

Financial support


A tuition fee loan is available from the UK government to cover course fees in full for Home (UK, Irish nationals and other eligible students with UK citizens' rights - see below*) students undertaking their first undergraduate degree**, so you don’t need to pay your course fees up front.

In 2022 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to Home students with a family income of around £42,875 or less, with additional opportunities available to UK students from households with incomes of £27,500 or less. The UK government also provides living costs support to Home students from the UK and those with settled status who meet the residence requirements.

*For courses starting on or after 1 August 2021, the UK government has confirmed that EU, other EEA, and Swiss Nationals will be eligible for student finance from the UK government if they have UK citizens’ rights (i.e. if they have pre-settled or settled status, or if they are an Irish citizen covered by the Common Travel Area arrangement). The support you can access from the government will depend on your residency status.

 See further details.

(Channel Islands and Isle of Man)

Islands students are entitled to different support to that of students from the rest of the UK.

Please refer the links below for information on the support to you available from your funding agency:

States of Jersey
States of Guernsey
Isle of Man


Please refer to the "Other Scholarships" section of our Oxford Bursaries and Scholarships page.

**If you have studied at undergraduate level before and completed your course, you will be classed as an Equivalent or Lower Qualification student (ELQ) and won’t be eligible to receive government or Oxford funding

Fees, Funding and Scholarship search

Additional Fees and Charges Information for Oriental Studies

Students taking Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Persian or Turkish will take the second year abroad. Students of Hebrew can choose to take a year abroad, but it is not compulsory.

During the year abroad, students currently pay significantly reduced fees to the University. For example, for students going on their year abroad in 2022, who started an undergraduate Humanities course from 2020, the course fees are:

  • Home students: £1,385 for the year.
  • Overseas students: £11,045 for the year. 

The Faculty of Oriental Studies covers the cost of language tuition abroad, but not living costs and flights. Students who are eligible for government maintenance support will also be assessed for an Oxford Bursary during their year abroad. A living costs grant may also be available, subject to Oxford’s participation in the Turing scheme and the associated eligibility criteria.

Some bursaries and scholarships are currently available for students of Chinese and Japanese, and a number of colleges have funds to support their students’ period of study abroad.

Click on the UCAS code list to the right to see KIS data for each subject option.

Contextual information

Course data from Discover Uni provides applicants with statistics about undergraduate life at Oxford. But there is so much more to an Oxford degree that the numbers can’t convey.

The Oxford tutorial

College tutorials are central to teaching at Oxford. Typically, they take place in your college and are led by your academic tutor(s) who teach as well as do their own research. Students will also receive teaching in a variety of other ways, depending on the course. This will include lectures and classes, and may include laboratory work and fieldwork. However, tutorials offer a level of personalised attention from academic experts unavailable at most universities.

During tutorials (normally lasting an hour), college subject tutors will give you and one or two tutorial partners feedback on prepared work and cover a topic in depth. The other student(s) in your college tutorials will be from your year group, doing the same course as you and will normally be at your college. Such regular and rigorous academic discussion develops and facilitates learning in a way that isn’t possible through lectures alone. Tutorials also allow for close progress monitoring so tutors can quickly provide additional support if necessary.

Read more about tutorials and an Oxford education

College life

Our colleges are at the heart of Oxford’s reputation as one of the best universities in the world.

  • At Oxford, everyone is a member of a college as well as their subject department(s) and the University. Students therefore have both the benefits of belonging to a large, renowned institution and to a small and friendly academic community. Each college or hall is made up of academic and support staff, and students. Colleges provide a safe, supportive environment leaving you free to focus on your studies, enjoy time with friends and make the most of the huge variety of opportunities.
  • Each college has a unique character, but generally their facilities are similar. Each one, large or small, will have the following essential facilities:
    • Porters’ lodge (a staffed entrance and reception)
    • Dining hall
    • Lending library (often open 24/7 in term time)
    • Student accommodation
    • Tutors’ teaching rooms
    • Chapel and/or music rooms
    • Laundry
    • Green spaces
    • Common room (known as the JCR).
  • All first year students are offered college accommodation either on the main site of their college or in a nearby college annexe. This means that your neighbours will also be ‘freshers’ and new to life at Oxford. This accommodation is guaranteed, so you don’t need to worry about finding somewhere to live after accepting a place here, all of this is organised for you before you arrive.
  • All colleges offer at least one further year of accommodation and some offer it for the entire duration of your degree. You may choose to take up the option to live in your college for the whole of your time at Oxford, or you might decide to arrange your own accommodation after your first year – perhaps because you want to live with friends from other colleges.
  • While college academic tutors primarily support your academic development, you can also ask their advice on other things. Lots of other college staff including welfare officers help students settle in and are available to offer guidance on practical or health matters. Current students also actively support students in earlier years, sometimes as part of a college ‘family’ or as peer supporters trained by the University’s Counselling Service.

More about Oxford colleges and how you choose