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.
Why study Persian in Edinburgh?
Persian is one of the major languages of Middle East and Central Asia. Its local variants are Dari (Afghanistan) and Tajik (Tajikistan). Collectively, these are the first language of over 120 million people. This ranks Persian among the world's 20 most widely spoken native languages
To study Persian is to enter into a rich and diverse culture that has produced major epic and Sufi poets, exquisite miniature painting, fine textiles and world-class cinema. It is also a gateway to modern Iran, a dynamic society at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.
Persian is an Indo-European language, related to English, French and German and written in Arabic script. Unchanged significantly in over a millennium, the basic grammar for its classical and modern forms is virtually the same and relatively easy to learn. This enables you to access a wide range of original material and to develop insights into Iran’s historical, literary, cultural and political life, as well as the rich intellectual heritage of Islam.
Study with us and you’ll be part of a friendly community of staff and students, with great links to the Alwaleed Centre and Edinburgh Iranian Festival, fantastic resources (including our own 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.
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 Persian Studies as a single honours degree, or study Persian jointly with one of a range of other subjects, including Arabic.
- It doesn't matter whether you’re starting from scratch, or have some existing knowledge of Persian. Over the course of your four years, alongside the written and spoken language, you'll acquire a good knowledge of the Persian-speaking world, past and present, including its literature, culture, history, religion and politics.
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 potentially be spent in full, or in part, in a country where Persian is spoken, or at an approved institution elsewhere. This depends on the travel advice in place at the time.
- If international travel is not possible for Persian, you will be offered alternative ways of engaging with the Persian language and culture.
- 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 on different aspects of Iran (including pre-Islamic Persia), Islam and the Middle East.
- In your final year, you will also continue to develop your translation and conversational skills in Persian.
- 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 Islamic manuscripts.
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 Persian Studies as a single honours degree, or study any of the following joint honours degree combinations...
|Arabic and Persian||Persian and Middle Eastern Studies|
|Persian and Social Anthropology||Persian and English Literature|
There’s lots of information about our undergraduate Persian 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
If you’d like to study on any of our undergraduate programmes, you must apply through UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. Applications for entry in September 2024 are now open.
Skills and experience
Studying one or more languages to degree level demonstrates that you're a good communicator, a resilient problem solver, and someone open to other cultures and new ideas – what employers value as Intercultural Competence.
Beyond the language skills you'll develop on our programmes, and the nuanced understanding you will gain of other cultures and societies, graduating with a four-year honours degree from the University of Edinburgh shows high-level intellectual strength and flexibility, including the ability to understand, analyse and articulate key concepts, and to work to varied briefs to deadline, both independently and in groups.
Opportunities at home and away
Persian, and its local variants Dari (Afghanistan) and Tajik (Tajikistan), is the main language of more than 120 million people in the Middle East and Central Asia, ranking it among the world’s 20 most widely spoken first languages.
With increasing migration in response to changing global dynamics, there is demand for Persian-speaking graduates both at home and abroad. You do not have to be based in a Persian-speaking country to have a career in which the ability to understand and communicate in the language will make you stand out.
An advanced understanding of Persian, 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 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, Film Studies, or Intermediality.
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