Persian is the national language of Iran, one of the most important countries in the Middle East, and one of two official languages of Afghanistan. In the early modern period, the Persianate world extended from the Balkans to Bengal, and Persian is also key to studying the history of India, Turkey and Central Asia.

In addition to allowing you to understand modern Iran in its historical contexts, studying Persian gives you access to a major world literature, including the works of Hafez, the Shahnama of Ferdowsi and the poetry of Forugh Farrokhzad.

More broadly, Iran’s historical contribution to the Islamic world has been of crucial importance, including in fields such as the sciences, theology, Islamic mysticism, painting and architecture.

At Oxford, you may choose to focus entirely on Persian for a BA in Persian, or study it in combination with a subsidiary language, such as Arabic, Turkish or Early Iranian. Persian may also be studied as an additional language as part of other degrees within the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and the wider University. This includes in conjunction with a European language or Classics.

BA in Persian

The BA Persian is a four-year course. Students may choose to focus entirely on Persian, or may combine Persian with a subsidiary (ie second) language.

The Persian course includes a year abroad. The Faculty decides each year whether it is advisable for its students to go to Iran. In years when study in Iran is not possible, students go to Tajikistan and/or Armenia instead.

Visit the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies course page for more information.

Persian with a subsidiary language

If you wish to combine Persian with another language you may choose from the following subsidiary language options:

  • Arabic
  • Aramaic and Syriac
  • Armenian
  • Early Iranian (including Avestan, Old Persian, and / or Middle Persian)
  • Hebrew
  • Hindi/Urdu 
  • Turkish.

This will lead to a degree which combines the two, eg BA Persian with Arabic.

Persian as a subsidiary language

Persian may be studied as a subsidiary language alongside Arabic or Turkish. This study of Persian will lead to a BA in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies combining the main subject area with the subsidiary language, eg BA Arabic with Persian.

BA in European and Middle Eastern Languages - Persian with a European language

European and Middle Eastern Languages is a four-year joint degree through which you can combine Persian with one of the following European languages:

  • French
  • German
  • Modern Greek
  • Italian
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Czech (with Slovak).

You will spend around half your time studying Persian language and literature, and around half studying the other language and related literature.

In the first year, there is less literature in the European language to allow for intensive focus on the Middle Eastern language. You will normally spend your second academic year at an approved course of study in the Middle East. You are strongly advised to spend the adjacent summers where the European language of your choice is spoken.

BA in Classics and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Persian can also be studied as a main or second subject in the joint degree of Classics and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

This course allows you to combine the study of an Asian or Middle Eastern language and culture with Latin and/or Greek and the study of the ancient world.