Oriental Studies | University of Oxford
Ivory carving
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)

ox.ac.uk/olat
(for some options)

tickWritten workTwo pieces
bar chartAdmissions statistics*

Interviewed: 81%
Successful: 26%
Intake: 42
*3-year average 2016-18

phoneContact

+44 (0) 1865 278312
Email Oriental Studies

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

Arabic, Chinese, Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Hebrew Studies, 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 Oriental Institute, the China Centre, 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, and the Sackler Library which contains the renowned Griffith Library, 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 Persian and Turkish courses a year in Iran (due to visa restrictions some students are unable to travel to Iran, in which case separate individual arrangements are made) or Turkey respectively, and the Hebrew course an optional year in Israel. The Chinese and Japanese courses also include a year in China and Japan respectively.

 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.”
WILL
“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.”
HANNAH
“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!”
JORDAN

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 and Islamic Studies T601
Arabic with subsidiary language T6T9
Persian T613 
Persian with subsidiary language T6TX
Turkish T600
Turkish with subsidiary language T6TY
YEAR 1YEAR 2YEARS 3 AND 4

COURSES

  • Elementary language
  • Islamic history and culture

COURSES

Year abroad: approved course of language instruction

PROJECT

  • Core work on language and literature
  • History
  • Specialisation or subsidiary language.
ASSESSMENT

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

ASSESSMENT

Qualifying examination at the end of the course

ASSESSMENT

Final University examinations at the end of Year 4: oral exam and eight or nine written papers (one of which may be a dissertation – if you are studying Arabic or Arabic with a subsidiary language the dissertation is compulsory)

Options listed are only illustrative of what is available. A full list of current options is available on the Oriental Studies website.
Chinese T101
YEAR 1YEAR 2YEARS 3 AND 4

COURSES

  • Elementary language in classical and modern Chinese
  • History and culture

COURSES

  • Year abroad at Peking University

COURSES

  • Extended language classes and historical study
  • Options: Ancient history; Literature; Modern society and politics; or subsidiary languages: Tibetan, Japanese or Korean
Options listed are only illustrative of what is available. A full list of current options is available on the Oriental Studies website.

ASSESSMENT

First University examinations: three written papers; an oral exam

 

ASSESSMENT

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.
Egyptology and Ancient Near Eastern Studies Q401
Egyptology Q400
Ancient Near Eastern Studies Q402
YEAR 1YEAR 2YEAR 3

COURSES

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

COURSES

  • 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.

COURSES

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

ASSESSMENT

First University examinations: four written papers
 

ASSESSMENT

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 (primarily languages, literature, culture and history)
YEAR 1YEAR 2YEARS 3 AND 4

COURSES

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

COURSES

  • Handling Hebrew texts and developing knowledge of historical and cultural background
  • Choice of options from Jewish Studies

COURSES

  • Continued language study
  • Tutorials in history, culture and society
Year 3 can optionally be spent abroad

ASSESSMENT

First University examinations: four written papers

 

ASSESSMENT

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

Options listed are only illustrative of what is available. A full list of current options is available on the Oriental Studies website.
Japanese T201
YEAR 1YEAR 2YEARS 3 AND 4

COURSES

  • Elementary Japanese language
  • History and culture

COURSES

  • Year abroad at Kobe University

COURSES

  • Extended language classes
  • Options (five subjects to be chosen): Classical literature; Modern literature; Linguistics; History; Politics; Economics; Subsidiary language (counts as three subjects); either Chinese, Korean or Tibetan
Options listed are only illustrative of what is available. A full list of current options is available on the Oriental Studies website.

ASSESSMENT

First University examinations: three written papers

ASSESSMENT

Test at end of course

ASSESSMENT

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 (primarily focused on the history, religion and culture of the Jews from biblical to modern times)
YEAR 1YEAR 2YEAR 3

COURSES

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

COURSES

  • Options (three subjects to be chosen)

COURSES

  • Options (two subjects to be chosen)
  • Tutorials in history, culture and society
A full list of current options is available on the Oriental Studies website.

ASSESSMENT

First University examinations: four written papers

 

ASSESSMENT

Final University examinations: seven written papers; dissertation

Sanskrit Q450
YEAR 1YEAR 2YEAR 3

COURSES

  • Intensive language teaching

COURSES

  • Preparation for Final University examinations in third year
  • Study of Sanskrit grammar
  • Subsidiary language options: Hindi, Old Iranian, Pali, Prakrit and Tibetan

COURSES

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

ASSESSMENT

First University examinations: three written papers
 

ASSESSMENT

Final University examinations: nine papers (seven in Sanskrit and two in subsidiary languages)

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

Academic requirements 

A-levels:AAA
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, and only if, you have chosen to take any science A-levels, we expect you to take and pass the practical component in addition to meeting any overall grade requirement.

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

Applying

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:30 October 2019            
Registration deadline:                   6pm 15 October 2019                                                                                                      

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 each test is required and it is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that they are registered for these tests. 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 2019

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.

Careers

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 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.’ 

Oxford University is committed to recruiting the best and brightest students from all backgrounds. We offer a generous package of financial support to Home/EU students from lower-income households. (UK nationals living in the UK are usually Home students.)

Fees

These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2019.

Fee status

Annual Course fees

Home/EU£9,250
Islands
(Channel Islands & Isle of Man)
£9,250
Overseas£26,235

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 plans to leave 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 2019 are estimated to be between £1,058 and £1,643 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

Home/EU

A tuition fee loan is available from the UK government to cover course fees in full for Home (UK)/EU students undertaking their first undergraduate degree*, so you don’t need to pay your course fees up front.

In 2019 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to those on a family income of around £42,875 or less, with additional opportunities available to those from households with incomes of £16,000 or less. This support is available in addition to the government living costs support.  See further details.

Islands
(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

Overseas

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 pay significantly reduced fees. For students who started an undergraduate course from 2018, who are going on their year abroad in 2019, the course fees are:

  • Home/EU/Islands students: £1,385 for the year.
  • International students: £8,415 for the year.

The Oriental Institute 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.

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

The Key Information Sets 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

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