2024 entry
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

MA Arabic and Persian

UCAS code: T621

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Literatures, Languages and Cultures

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA Arabic and Persian

This wide-ranging joint honours programme is your opportunity to learn the languages spoken by more than 470 million people worldwide. Together, Arabic and Persian open the door to a fascinating and varied region taking in the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia. They are also your gateway to the rich intellectual heritage of Islam.

Arabic is the sixth most widely spoken language in the world and is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Persian is the national language of Iran, where it is indigenously known as Farsi, and spoken as Dari in Afghanistan and Tajik in Tajikistan.

Language learning in its cultural context

Our four-year programme is designed to give you a thorough grounding in both classical and modern Arabic and Persian.

You can start each language as a complete beginner, and develop advanced skills over your four years, including in translation.

You will gain the confidence to express yourself in modern Arabic and Persian, both written and spoken, on a wide range of topical issues.

Your language learning will open up a wealth of original material enriching your study of:

  • society, religion and culture
  • history and politics
  • literature, art, and cinema

Why Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh is recognised in the UK and internationally as a leading institution for teaching and research in Arabic, Persian, Islam, and the Middle East.

Arabic has been taught here since the mid 18th century and, today, we are the only university in Scotland to offer courses in the Muslim world’s three main languages.

You will have access to over 23,000 resources in the University's collections in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, and a regular programme of workshops, film screenings, book launches and guest seminars.

Studying over four years gives you the blend of specialist skills and Intercultural Competence needed for a range of careers 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 staff are passionate and supportive and constantly work to provide a fulfilling experience.

  • Lajeen, Arabic and Persian MA Hons

Year 1

You will study elementary Arabic and Persian to learn basic grammar and develop your vocabulary.

You do not currently need to know either language, as Year 1 courses are suitable for beginners.

Over the course of the year, you will learn to read and write using Arabic and Persian scripts, and talk in both languages about a range of topics.

You will also take courses in:

  • Islamic history - a survey of the formation of the Islamic world, from its pre-islamic origins to the foundation of the first Muslim world empire
  • modern Middle Eastern history - an introduction to the Middle East's political, economic, social and cultural history from 1950 onwards

Year 2

You will continue with your Arabic and Persian language study, developing the grammar and vocabulary to communicate effectively.

Our courses focus on the main linguistic skills:

  • reading
  • writing
  • speaking
  • listening

You will also take courses in:

  • the religion of Islam, which provides an exploration of the religion's branches, key texts, central beliefs and rituals
  • Islamic and Middle Eastern cultures, which provides an introduction to the literary, aesthetic and intellectual culture of the Middle East, from the eve of Islam to the modern period

Year 3

If international travel restrictions allow, you will spend at least part of Year 3 abroad. This will allow you to improve your language and independent study skills.

If you are able to go abroad for the full academic year, you will spend 30 weeks abroad.

For Arabic, you will choose between study abroad destinations in at least two different countries.

When travel to a Persian-speaking country or an approved institution elsewhere is permitted, you will study abroad for Persian too.

If international travel is not possible, fully or in part, you will be offered alternative ways of engaging with your subjects. This will allow you to meet your learning outcomes and prepare for your final year.

Year 4

You will continue to develop your translation and conversational skills in Arabic and Persian.

In your classes and coursework, you will respond to different materials in both languages, including poetry and prose, films, contemporary news and other media.

In addition to your core courses, you will also choose from a range of honours-level option courses dealing with different aspects of:

  • Iran (including pre-Islamic Persia)
  • Islam
  • the Middle East

Building on all the knowledge and skills you have developed over four years, including in independent research, you will write an honours dissertation.

Programme structure

Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.

To give you an idea of what you will study on this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.

Programme structure (2023/24)

Our facilities

On campus

When you are on campus, you can expect to spend most of your time in the University of Edinburgh's Central Area - in class, in the library, or in one of the University’s many social and support spaces.

The Central Area is located on the edge of Edinburgh's historic Old Town, surrounded by lots of green space.

Libraries and collections

The Main University Library holds academic books, journals and databases, films, newspapers and other media. It has over 23,000 resources in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (IMES), of which:

  • around 9,000 printed books and 12,500 e-books are in Arabic
  • around 2,600 printed books are in Persian
  • more than 100 films are in either Arabic or Persian

The Library is also the home of the University's Centre for Research Collections which brings together:

  • more than 400,000 rare books
  • six kilometres of archives and manuscripts
  • thousands of works of art, historical musical instruments and other objects

Highlights include:

  • The Serjeant and Watt Collections of some 6,400 titles, including works on the history of the Arab world and Arabic literature
  • 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
  • an extensive collection of the Egyptian newspaper al-Ahram al-yawmi 1876-1930

Many of the University's Special Collections are digitised and available online from our excellent Resource Centre, computing labs and dedicated study spaces in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC). The School's partnership with IMVBox.com gives you access to over 1,000 Iranian films.

IMES also has its own library in 19 George Square, with views across a beautiful garden to both the Main University Library and LLC.

Centres for research, teaching and outreach

We have great links with the Alwaleed Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World which promotes a better understanding of Islam and Muslim culture locally, nationally and internationally.

Events and activities

From making friends in language cafes to campaigning on global issues, student-led groups offer lots of ways to explore your subjects, interests and talents socially.

The Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA) supports more than 300 student-led societies and clubs, including the Persian Society, and promotes opportunities with local charities through its volunteering centre.

A number of our students have volunteered for a tutoring and educational programme for teenage Syrian refugees in Edinburgh. This programme has won an Outstanding Global Citizenship Impact Award and a Sir William Darling Memorial Prize.

In the city

Edinburgh is a world-leading festival city filled with cinemas, theatres, galleries, libraries and collections.

The city's resources for studying literatures, languages and cultures are exceptional, and its world cinema scene is particularly strong. Iran has been the thematic focus of the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and there is a regular Iranian Film Festival.

Many national collections are located close to the University's Central Area, making them easy to access between classes. Highlights include the:

  • National Library of Scotland
  • National Museum of Scotland
  • National Galleries of Scotland

Study abroad

If international travel restrictions allow, you will spend at least one semester of Year 3 abroad.

For Arabic, you will choose between at least two different countries, immersing yourself in Arabic-language culture and developing your broader life experience and skills towards life after university.

For Persian, you may be able to study in a Persian-speaking country, or at an approved institution elsewhere.

How will I learn?

University is a place to plan your own goals under expert guidance, study independently and in groups, and reflect upon your learning throughout your degree.

Our approach to learning and teaching is active, inclusive and question driven, so it may be different to your experiences at school. It will help you gain the skills for life after university, and we will guide you through the steps from one phase to the next.

Depending on the size of your year group, and which option courses you take, your classes will typically fall into three categories:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • seminars

In addition to these classes, to get the most out of your courses, you will need to read widely.


Lectures are taken by all students on a course, typically at the same time. They are delivered as interactive presentations which may involve audio-visual material.

Lectures are given by an experienced academic. They are designed to guide you through the background, questions and debates related to the topic you are studying.


Tutorial groups are smaller. They are also led by an academic, but here the emphasis is more on what you think about the topic yourself. So, tutorials are your chance to discuss and expand upon what you have learned in a lecture.

Language tutorials give you the opportunity to develop your linguistic skills in a range of real-world tasks under the supervision of an experienced language teacher.

These classes typically cover skills such as reading, writing, listening and speaking – all of which involve learning and applying grammar.


Seminars blend features of lectures and tutorials. Again, they are designed to encourage and enable your active participation in learning.

On some courses, you will have seminars instead of lectures, especially in your honours years (Years 3 and 4).


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 (IAD).

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed through a combination of coursework and exams.

Coursework is generally completed throughout the year, while exams take place at the end of a teaching block.

Coursework may take a range of forms to give you the opportunity to practice different skills. For example, you may be asked to:

  • write an essay, review, blog post, opinion piece or learning journal
  • respond to a piece of writing, film, or other media, including through close reading
  • give a short talk or presentation
  • record a podcast or video
  • design a poster or presentation

Exams will include oral exams to test your spoken language skills.

In your final year, you will also complete a dissertation.

Skills and experience

Studying languages to degree level demonstrates that you are 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 this programme, 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 issues and concepts
  • manage your time to meet deadlines on different types of project
  • work independently and as part of a group

Opportunities across sectors

Our programmes are an excellent primer for a range of careers, especially those that place a premium on thinking that is both disciplined and imaginative.

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

Home and away

With increasing migration in response to changing global dynamics, there is demand for our graduates both at home and abroad.

Wherever you are based in the world, the ability to communicate in these two world languages, and to understand the cultures to which they open doors, will make you stand out.

If you are keen to work abroad, it’s good to know that:

  • more than 350 million people are native speakers of Arabic, the sixth most widely spoken language in the world. It is the common language of the 22 countries in the Arab League, and one of the six official languages of the United Nations, with sizeable communities of speakers in Western Europe and Latin America.

  • collectively, the three variants of modern Persian (Farsi, Dari and Tajik) are the first language of more than 120 million people in the Middle East and Central Asia. There are also significant communities of speakers in Europe (including Turkey), Australia and North America.

Your language learning and cultural awareness will make you ideally placed to work with displaced people from Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere now living in Europe and other parts of the world, and with international organisations advancing refugee issues, rights and spaces.

Further study

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, we typically offer both a taught MSc and a Masters by Research programme in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies.

Our interdisciplinary taught MSc programmes typically include:

  • The Globalised Muslim World
  • Comparative Literature
  • Intermediality
  • Translation Studies

Each of these programmes is a good stepping stone to a PhD, but is equally of value as a stand-alone qualification.

Careers advice

Throughout your time with us, we will encourage you to identify and hone your employability skills.

As part of the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC), we have a dedicated Careers Consultant within the University's excellent Careers Service.

You can book one-to-one appointments and practice interviews, access a range of online resources, and attend themed fairs such as the Creative and Cultural Careers Festival.

Popular peer support includes Life After LLC, a panel event where you can draw inspiration from our recent graduates.

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: AAAB by end of S5 or AAAA by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 36 points with 665 at HL - 34 points with 655 at HL.

Minimum entry requirement

The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 34 points with 655 at HL.

More information for widening access applicants

Required subjects

The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:

  • SQA: Highers: no specific Higher subjects required. National 5s: a language other than English at A and English at C.
  • A Levels: no specific A Level subjects required. GCSEs: a language other than English at A or 7 and English at C or 4.
  • IB: HL: no specific subjects required. SL: a language other than English at 6 and English at 5.

Additional requirements

Native speakers

Please note that the Arabic and Persian degree involves beginners language study and is not suitable for native or near-native speakers.

Language requirement

For degrees that have a subject requirement of a language other than English, students may not use their own native language to meet this requirement. In these instances, English or an alternative language other than native will be acceptable.

Find out more about entry requirements

International applicants

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.

Entry requirements by country

International Foundation Programme

If you are an international student and your school qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to the University you may be eligible for admission to this degree programme through our International Foundation Programme.

International Foundation Programme

Mature applicants

We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.

Mature applicant qualifications

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.


For SQA, GCSE and IB students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:

  • SQA National 5 at C
  • GCSE at C or 4
  • Level 2 Certificate at C
  • IB Standard Level at 5 (English ab initio is not accepted for entry)

English language tests

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

  • IELTS Academic: total 6.5 with at least 5.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 176 with at least 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 62 with at least 54 in each component.

(Revised 29 August 2023 to remove PTE Academic Online)

We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.

Unless you are a national of a majority English speaking country, your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start of the month in which the degree you are applying to study begins. If you are using an IELTS, PTE Academic, TOEFL or Trinity ISE test, it must be no more than two years old on the first of the month in which the degree begins, regardless of your nationality.

English language requirements

This information is part of a government initiative to enhance the material that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.

It is one of many sources of information which will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.

Please note that some programmes do not have Discover Uni data available.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for MA Arabic and Persian

Additional costs

As long as international restrictions allow, Year 3 will involve at least one semester studying abroad. The costs you have to pay will depend on where you decide to go, and how you spend your time.

Some study placements at language schools may charge a fee, but we will normally refund you for tuition costs as long as your activity has been approved. You will be responsible for associated travel costs such as flights and visas.


For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.

Fees and funding