Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

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 excellence

In the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021), our research was submitted in the categories of:

  • Modern Languages
  • Politics
  • Sociology
  • History
  • Theology

The results reaffirm Edinburgh’s position as one of the UK’s leading research universities - third in the UK based on the quality and breadth of its research in Modern Languages alone, according to Times Higher Education's REF power ratings.

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 and modern Persian literature, cultural transmission and translation between Arabic and Persian cultures
  • History and historiography: pre-Islamic to modern Iran, early Islamic history, Ottoman history, Safavid history, modern history, in particular Iraq, Iran and Egypt; the Middle Eastern prison, the Middle Eastern press
  • Religion: early and classical Islam, Qur’an and Qur’anic exegesis, Hadith, the biography of Muhammad, Sufism, Islam in the Ottoman Empire, contemporary religious authority, Shi'i Islam
  • Contemporary Muslim politics: Islamism, sectarianism, social movements, comparative social and political change in the Muslim world
  • Arts and cultures of the Middle East, and of Muslim societies: particularly visual arts, cinema
  • Gender and sexuality in the Middle East and North Africa, contemporary Arab media
  • Shi’i Islam: Shi’i history and contemporary Shi’ism in local and transnationalist perspective
  • Islam and Muslims in Europe
  • Diasporas and ethnic minorities of the Middle East

Explore our range of research centres, networks and projects in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies

Browse our directory of over 100 years of PhD theses in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies

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

  • comparative literature
  • film studies
  • translation studies

Be inspired by the range of PhD research in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures

Read our pre-application guidance on writing a PhD research proposal

Go beyond the books

Beyond the Books is a podcast from the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) that gives you a behind-the-scenes look at research and the people who make it happen.

Listen to a mix of PhD, early career and established researchers talk about their journey to and through academia and about their current and recent research. Guests include Bahar Fayeghi (Series 2 - Episode 5), a PhD student in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies who is researching the experience of Afghan women refugees in Iran.

Browse Beyond the Books episodes and hear our research community talk about their work

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 and 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.

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.

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

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 the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC) before you apply.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

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

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 23 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 176 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 62 in each component.

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, Trinity ISE or PTE, 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 (non-MESC).

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
PhDIslamic and Middle Eastern Studies3 YearsFull-timeTuition fees
PhDIslamic and Middle Eastern Studies6 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

There are two PhD scholarships available to incoming students on this programme. Each covers UK tuition fees and an annual stipend. The awards are open to UK and overseas students starting their PhD in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies in the academic year 2024 to 2025.

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

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

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • School of Literatures, Languages & Cultures
  • 50 George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LH
Programme start dates Application deadlines
9 September 2024 30 June 2024
6 January 2025 31 October 2024

We strongly recommend you submit your completed application as early as possible, particularly if you are also applying for funding or will require a visa. We may consider late applications if we have places available.

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