Undergraduate study | Arabic
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.
Why study Arabic in Edinburgh?
The sixth most widely spoken language in the world, Arabic is the main language of more than 350 million people inhabiting a huge swathe of land extending from the Atlantic coast of North Africa to the Persian Gulf. It is one of the six official languages of the United Nations and, as well as opening the door to a fascinating and varied region, provides access to the rich intellectual heritage of Islam.
Arabic has been taught at the University of Edinburgh for over 260 years. Today our School is recognised in the UK and internationally as a leading institution for Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (IMES), ranked sixth in the UK for Middle Eastern & African Studies in the Complete University Guide 2022.
Available in multiple degree combinations, our programmes are designed to give you a thorough grounding in both classical and modern Arabic. This gives you access to a wide range of original material, from pre-Islamic poetry and Islamic religious texts, to contemporary sources, Arabic novels, newspapers, and television.
Study with us and you’ll be part of a friendly international community, with great links to the Alwaleed Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World, fantastic resources (including our own library), and a regular programme of workshops, film screenings and guest seminars.
Studying Arabic and Persian has not only given me the chance to learn two beautiful languages but also enter the rich and diverse cultures of the Middle East. I have enjoyed learning both languages while simultaneously exploring literature, history, religion and politics. The departments are passionate and supportive and constantly work to provide a fulfilling experience.
- You’ll complete a four-year Master of Arts (MA) honours degree. You can take Arabic with Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies as a single honours degree, or study Arabic jointly with one of a range of other subjects, including other languages.
- It doesn't matter whether you’re starting from scratch, or have some existing knowledge of Arabic. Over the course of your four years, alongside the written and spoken language, you'll acquire an in-depth understanding of the culture, politics and society of the Arab world, and the wider region of the Middle East, including Turkey and Iran.
Years 1 & 2
- Our programmes are very flexible. In your first two years, alongside language learning, you'll study a range of courses giving you a broad knowledge base and transferable skills. This may enable you to change the focus of your degree going into your final two (honours) years, which is when you start to specialise.
Years 3 & 4
- Your third year will typically be spent abroad, turning classroom learning into living engagement with other cultures. Our graduates have told us how much the Year Abroad has benefitted their broader life experience and skills, as well as their understanding of Arabic, including dialects.
- If Arabic is the only language you are studying, your Year Abroad will be in a country where Arabic is spoken. If you’re doing a joint degree with another language, you’ll divide your time and travel plans between your two languages.
- You will learn how to undertake your own research to the level of completing a dissertation in your final year. This is your chance to focus on a topic, period or discipline that’s of particular interest to you. We have an extensive range of honours courses to choose from, spanning the Islamic world and the Middle East.
- In your final year, you will also take advanced courses in translation, and in reading, listening to, writing and speaking Arabic.
- You’ll be based at the heart of the University of Edinburgh, in the city’s historic centre. Our Georgian building has its own library and the Main University Library is just across the square from us, housing over 23,000 IMES resources, including the Serjeant and Watt Collections.
Teaching and learning
- Our approach to learning and teaching is active, inclusive and question driven to help you gain skills for life after university.
- Across your courses, you’ll typically be taught in a combination of lectures, tutorials (including language classes) and seminars. On some courses, you will have seminars instead of lectures, especially in your honours years.
- You will also be expected to study independently and in small groups, and to read widely.
Assessment and support
- You’ll be assessed through a combination of coursework and exams.
- Coursework may take a range of forms to give you the opportunity to practice different skills.
Exams will include oral exams to test your spoken language skills.
- Depending on where you go and what you do on your Year Abroad, Year 3 may include being assessed, in part, by a host university.
- As well as the teaching and other staff you will meet day-to-day, there are lots of ways to get help with your learning, including through the University’s Institute for Academic Development and Edinburgh University Students' Association.
In the 2024 to 2025 academic year, you can take Arabic with Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies as a single honours degree, or study any of the following joint honours degree combinations...
|Arabic and Persian
|Arabic and French
|Arabic and Spanish
|Arabic and History
|Arabic and Social Anthropology
|Arabic and Ancient Greek
|Arabic and Politics
|Arabic and Business
There’s lots of information about our undergraduate Arabic programmes on the University of Edinburgh Degree Finder. For example, you can find out about:
- the courses you will take each year
- entrance requirements
- English language requirements
- fees and funding opportunities
Applications for 2024 entry are now closed. If you have applied for one of our degrees or are holding an offer to start studying with us in September 2024, check out our applicant and offer holder website for Arabic.
If you’d like to study on any of our undergraduate programmes, you must apply through UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service.
Skills and experience
Studying one or more languages to degree level demonstrates that you're a good communicator, and someone open to other cultures and new ideas – what employers value as Intercultural Competence.
Beyond the language skills you will develop on our programmes, and the nuanced understanding you will gain of diverse cultures and societies, graduating with a four-year Master of Arts degree from the University of Edinburgh shows intellectual maturity, resilience, and flexibility.
The skills you will be able to demonstrate to employers when you graduate include the ability to understand, analyse and articulate complex concepts, and to manage your time to meet deadlines on different types of project, both independently and as part of a group.
Opportunities at home and away
More than 350 million people are native speakers of Arabic, the sixth most widely spoken language in the world. It is the lingua franca of the 22 countries in the Arab League, and one of the six official languages of the United Nations.
With increasing migration in response to changing global dynamics, there is high demand for Arabic-speaking graduates both at home and abroad. You do not have to be based in an Arabic-speaking country to have a career in which the ability to understand and communicate in the language will make you stand out.
An understanding of the Arabic language, and the cultures to which it opens doors, is an excellent primer for a range of careers. Within the private, public, not-for-profit, and for-benefit sectors, previous graduates have gone on to work in:
- Business, finance and commerce
- Communications, marketing, advertising and public relations
- Education, outreach, advocacy and training
- Journalism, broadcasting and media
- Leisure, tourism and travel
- Politics, policy work, diplomacy, civil service and law
- Publishing, culture, heritage and the arts
- Research, development and venture acceleration
- Translating and interpreting
The enhanced research skills you will develop on a four-year programme, particularly in your honours years, are a valuable asset if you wish to continue studying at postgraduate level. At the University of Edinburgh, for example, you can take a taught or research-led Masters in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, an MSc in The Globalised Muslim World, or an interdisciplinary taught Masters programme such as Comparative Literature, Intermediality, or Translation Studies.
Studying Arabic and French has helped me hugely in my career so far. Not only do I use the languages every day at work to find sources and interview people, but the research and communication skills I learnt during my degree have also helped me develop as a journalist.
Get to know us better
- Take a Virtual Visit - Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies
- Join us for an Open Day or Online Information Session
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