Postgraduate study

Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (IMES) PhD

Awards: PhD

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

A PhD in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (IMES) is an opportunity to expand upon your interests and expertise in a community that really values research, and to make a definite and original contribution to the field.

Why Edinburgh

With over 260 years of history in teaching and research, we are globally recognised as a leading centre for postgraduate study in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies.

Our research resources and facilities are outstanding, and we have excellent links with a number of centres and networks, including the Alwaleed Centre and the Centre for Medieval & Renaissance Studies.

Research areas

We are able to supervise research in a wide range of specialist and interdisciplinary areas.

Our expertise includes:

  • language and literature: classical and modern Arabic literature, classical Persian literature, cultural transmission and translation between Arabic and Persian cultures
  • history and historiography: pre-Islamic Iran, early Islamic history, Ottoman history, modern history and politics, in particular Iraq, Iran and Egypt
  • religion: early and classical Islam, Qur’an and Qur’anic exegesis, Hadith, the biography of Muhammad, Sufism, Islam in the Ottoman Empire
  • contemporary Muslim politics: Islamism, social movements, comparative social and political change in the Muslim world
  • arts and cultures of the Middle East and Muslim societies: particularly visual arts, cinema
  • gender and sexuality in the Middle East and North Africa, contemporary Arab media
  • Shi’ism: Shi’i history and contemporary Shi’ism
  • Islam and Muslims in Europe

In addition, you have the opportunity to undertake interdisciplinary research in areas such as:

  • comparative literature
  • film studies
  • translation studies

You will work closely with expert supervisors and attend research skills courses as part of the programme.

You will also have the opportunity to attend additional training courses in a range of research and professional skills, including through the:

  • School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC)
  • Careers Service
  • University’s Institute for Academic Development (IAD)

Our graduates tell us that they value our friendliness, the connections they make here and the in-depth guidance they receive from our staff, who are published experts in their field.

As part of our research community, you will be immersed in a world of knowledge exchange, with lots of opportunities to share ideas and learning.

Edinburgh contains exceptional resources for study and research in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies.

Based in the Main University Library, the Centre for Research Collections is unique in the UK, bringing together a collection of more than 400,000 rare books, six kilometres of archives and manuscripts, and the University’s collections of art, historical musical instruments and other objects.

Treasures include the Serjeant & Watt Collections of around 6,400 titles on subjects such as:

  • Islamic law
  • Islamic and medieval philosophy
  • the relationship between Islam and Christianity
  • the history of the Arab world
  • Arabic literature

The University Library also holds some of the world’s most precious Islamic manuscripts, such as:

  • Rashid al-Din’s History of the World
  • al-Biruni’s Chronology of Ancient Nations

Our buildings are also within walking distance of the National Library of Scotland, which has important collections of manuscripts and early printed books and is one of the UK’s six copyright (legal deposit) libraries.

A UK 2:1 honours degree and a masters degree, or their international equivalents, in a related subject. We may also consider your application if you have equivalent qualifications or experience; please check with your potential supervisor before you apply.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

For 2021 entry we will accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS: total 7.0 (at least 6.5 in each module)
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Special Home Edition): total 100 (at least 23 in each module). We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 176 in each module)
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about our language requirements:

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
PhD3 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
PhD6 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

There are a number of scholarship schemes available to eligible candidates on this PhD programme, including awards from the Arts and Humanities Research Council and Economic and Social Research Council.

Please be advised that many scholarships have more than one application stage, and early deadlines.

*(Revised 3 November 2020 to include featured funding links.) *(Revised 27 November 2020 to update featured funding information.)

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures
  • 50 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LH

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible. We may consider late applications if we have places available, but you should contact the relevant Admissions Office for advice first.

You must submit two references with your application.

Pre-application guidance

Before you formally apply for this PhD, you should look at the pre-application information and guidance on the programme website.

This will help you decide if this programme is right for you, and help us gain a clearer picture of what you hope to achieve.

The guidance will also give you practical advice for writing your research proposal – one of the most important parts of your application.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures
  • 50 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LH