Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies

Undergraduate study | Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies

Offering a wide range of degree combinations in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (IMES), we are the only university in Scotland to teach courses in the Muslim world’s three main languages, placing Arabic, Persian and Turkish in the context of history, literature, culture, religion and politics, past and present.

Located at the crossroads between Europe, Africa and Asia, the Middle East has played a pivotal role on the world stage from ancient times to the present. The University of Edinburgh has a long and well-established tradition of teaching Islam and the history, culture, languages and literatures of the Middle East. Arabic, for example, has been taught here since the middle of the 18th century.

Study with us and you’ll be part of a friendly international community of staff and students, ranked fifth in the UK for our subject in the Complete University Guide 2024 and third in the UK for Arts & Humanities in the QS World Rankings by Subject 2023. Even if you are not studying with IMES to degree level, you can take our courses as an outside subject in years one and two of many undergraduate degrees at the University.

We have great links to the Alwaleed Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World, fantastic resources (including our own library and over 23,000 IMES titles in the Main University Library), and a regular programme of workshops, film screenings and guest seminars, all within a School passionate about languages, literatures and cultures from around the globe. 

You’ll typically be based at the heart of the University in the historic centre of a world-leading festival city alive with culture. We have a particularly strong relationship with the Edinburgh Iranian Festival (notably its Film strand), are home to a thriving student Islamic Society, and have won awards for our work with local communities.


Your learning at a glance

  • We offer degrees in four main areas: Arabic; Islamic Studies; Middle Eastern Studies; and Persian.
  • You’ll complete a four-year MA degree, with your third year spent abroad if you’re studying Arabic and, usually, Persian. If your degree isn’t language focused, you may still have the opportunity to study abroad.
  • All IMES-led degrees include an element of language learning (some more than others), within the context of the rich and diverse cultures of the Middle East and the Islamic world. Regardless of the focus on your degree, you’ll also develop the critical, analytical and comparative skills to interpret and discuss key issues and concepts.
  • It doesn’t matter if you're a complete beginner, you can take Arabic or Persian to degree level, either as single honours subjects, or jointly with one of a range of other subjects. We also teach Turkish to intermediate level.


Undergraduate study | Arabic

Muslim children
Through the study of the written and spoken language (the world's sixth most widely spoken), open the door to the Arabic-speaking world, past and present.

Undergraduate study | Persian

Learn the Persian language and uncover the rich and diverse cultures of Iran, Afghanistan, Persian-speaking Central Asia, and the Persian diaspora.

Undergraduate study | Islamic Studies

Hats on a market stall
Combine the study of Islam's rich history, culture and intellectual heritage with its place in the modern world.

Undergraduate study | Middle Eastern Studies

Explore the Middle East from an interdisciplinary perspective, advancing your critical and analytical skills.

Learn Turkish as an undergraduate

Spanning the continents of Europe and Asia, Turkey occupies a strategic position on the world stage, both culturally and geographically. Turkish is spoken in eight countries and by over 85 million people as their first language.

A knowledge of modern Turkish is an indispensable aid to learning Ottoman Turkish, the official language of the Ottoman Empire and the key to accessing a wealth of literary, historical and religious sources from the pre-modern Islamic world.

Turkish can be taken as an outside subject in one or both of Years 1 and 2 of your undergraduate degree. Your main subject(s) don't have to be in LLC for you to take our Turkish courses, and they're suitable for complete beginners. 

Find out more about our Turkish courses on the University's online course catalogue

QS World Rankings by Subject 2024

QS graphic on orange background, text reads #3 in the UK, World Top 10

The University of Edinburgh is ranked 3rd in the UK for Modern Languages.

Globally, we’re in the World Top 10 for Modern Languages.

The Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings are based on research citations and the results of major global surveys of employers and academics.

They are International Ranking Expert Group (IREG) approved.