Our BA Honours degree in Middle Eastern Studies (MES) is a four-year course in which students learn Arabic or Arabic and Persian (Farsi) and use them as a basis for exploring the literature, history and culture of the Islamic Middle East. We offer courses ranging from techniques in translation to the study of early Arabic poetry, twentieth century political thought or the philosophy of Islam.
The course is made up of a two-year Part 1 and a two-year Part 2. While students can do a completely unrelated subject before or after MES Part I, they can also shift the emphasis within Middle Eastern Studies: so that if they have combined languages at Part I they have the option at Part II of taking different proportions of Arabic and Persian, or concentrating wholly on the other. Similarly, students combining with a modern European language at Part I can continue to do so at Part II, or can concentrate wholly on one or the other langauge.
In the first year, students are given a thorough grounding in their chosen language(s) with a general introduction to the history and culture of the Middle East. This study of the language(s) continues throughout the course. The the second year, there is some choice amnong courses giving a broad sense of the region's history and literature and of Islam.
Students spend the third year in a country of their choice in the Middle East and begin work on their final-year dissertation. Our final year courses offer in-depth perspectives on particular aspects of literature or history as well as courses on translation techniques or Islamic philosophy (in the Divinity Faculty).
Students must spend at least eight months in a Middle Eastern country or countries under conditions approved by the Faculty Board. While most students follow courses, a few do either voluntary or paid work. Students choose their own programmes for the year but are given help with information and arrangements. During the year they do some preparation for the dissertation and are required to do a certain amount of reading in Arabic and/or Persian.
Some of our current students write here about their experiences on the course (at Cambridge and during and the year abroad), their dissertation topics and their future ambitions.
Papers and regulations change from year to year, please see the Undergraduate Handbook for full details
Our student intake varies each year but we admit on average twenty undergraduates per annum. Undergraduates are admitted to Cambridge via the colleges rather than the teaching faculties. The qualifications required to do a BA in Asian & Middle Eastern Languages are not strictly defined. We normally expect students to take their strongest combination of subjects at 'A' Level and prior knowledge of Arabic or Persian is not required. Ordinarily students who wish to combine either Arabic or Persian with a modern European language have an 'A' level in their chosen European language.