MA Islamic Studies
UCAS code: V622
Duration: 4 years
School: Literatures, Languages and Cultures
College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences
Introducing MA Islamic Studies
This programme will develop your knowledge and understanding of Islam as a religion, as well as the history, thought and culture of Muslims worldwide.
Opening the door to Islam's rich intellectual heritage, our courses will give you a thorough grounding in a variety of areas, such as:
- Islamic literature and poetry
- the Qur'an
- Islam in the contemporary world, from Islamic movements to political Islam
You will learn Arabic in Year 1, with the option to take Persian or Turkish too. You can continue language learning in Year 2 if you wish.
The programme is extremely flexible, enabling you to choose option courses from a broad list of disciplines, and specialise as you progress through your honours years.
Edinburgh is recognised in the UK and internationally as a leading institution for the study of Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Islam and the Middle East.
Study with us, and you will be part of a friendly community with:
- great links to the Edinburgh Alwaleed Centre for the Study of Islam in the Contemporary World
- a student-led Islamic Society
- a regular programme of workshops and guest seminars
The University holds over 23,000 resources in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (IMES). These include the Serjeant and Watt Collections and 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.
When you graduate, you will have the combination of broad cultural education and specialist knowledge valued by employers worldwide.
You will study elementary Arabic to learn basic grammar and develop your vocabulary.
You do not currently need to know any Arabic, as Year 1 courses are suitable for beginners.
Over the course of the year, you will learn to read and write using Arabic script, and talk confidently in Arabic 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
You will complete your Year 1 studies with option courses chosen from a wide range offered by the University of Edinburgh.
You can, for example, opt to learn Persian or Turkish, alongside Arabic. Our courses are suitable for complete beginners.
Other options include, but are not limited to, courses in:
- European languages and cultures
- Asian studies
- business, economics and informatics
- politics, social policy and social anthropology
- art and architectural history
- history, classics and archaeology
- Celtic and Scottish ethnology
- linguistics and language sciences
- philosophy, divinity and law
You will take courses in:
- the religion of Islam - an exploration of the religion's branches, key texts, central beliefs and rituals
- Islamic and Middle Eastern cultures - an introduction to the literary, aesthetic and intellectual culture of the Middle East, from the eve of Islam to the modern period
As in Year 1, you will complete your studies with option courses chosen from a wide range offered by the University.
When choosing what to study, you can opt to continue with your Arabic language, or to take (or continue to take) Persian or Turkish. Alternatively, you can try something completely new.
If international travel restrictions allow, you may have the option to study abroad for a full year or half a year. Regardless of location, you will study a range of courses on subjects relating to Islam or the Middle East.
You will choose specialist honours-level option courses from a wide selection of subject areas relating to Islam and Middle Eastern Studies. These include:
- cultural studies
Building on all the knowledge and skills you have developed over four years, including in independent research, you will complete a dissertation.
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.
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 are in Arabic, 2,600 in Persian and 1,500 in Turkish. 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
- The Serjeant and Watt Collections of some 6,400 titles, including works on Islamic law, Islamic and medieval philosophy, and the relationship between Islam and Christianity
- 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
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).
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
The Edinburgh University Students' Association (EUSA) supports more than 300 student-led societies and clubs, including the Islamic Society, and promotes opportunities with local charities through its volunteering centre.
From acting to dancing, making friends in language cafes to campaigning on global issues, these student-led groups offer lots of ways to engage with other cultures.
A number of our Arabic-speaking 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.
Many national collections are located close to the University's Central Area, making them easy to access between classes.
Highlights include the National Library, Museum and Galleries of Scotland.
If international travel restrictions allow, you may have the option to study abroad in Year 3. Regardless of location, you will study a range of courses on subjects relating to Islam or the Middle East.
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:
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
Graduating with a four-year Master of Arts degree from the University of Edinburgh shows intellectual maturity, resilience, and flexibility. This includes the ability to understand, analyse and articulate complex issues and concepts, and to manage your time to meet deadlines on different types of project, both independently and as part of a group.
Additionally, this programme will give you a nuanced understanding of other cultures and societies, and how they shape our world, giving you the Intercultural Competence valued by employers around the globe. Learning Arabic in your first year (with the option to continue into Year 2) will also sharpen your written and oral communications skills.
Opportunities at home and away
With increasing migration in response to changing global dynamics, there is demand for graduates with knowledge of the Islamic World both at home and abroad.
Your degree in Islamic Studies, which includes some language learning, 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
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 taught and research-led Masters programmes in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies. You can also typically choose from MScs in The Globalised Muslim World, Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, and more.
Throughout your time with us, we will encourage you to identify and hone your employability skills.
LLC has a dedicated Careers Consultant within the University's excellent Careers Service.
Through our careers service you can:
- book one-to-one appointments and practice interviews
- access a range of online resources
- 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.
The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:
- SQA: Highers: no specific Higher subjects required. National 5s: English at C.
- A Levels: no specific A Level subjects required. GCSEs: English at C or 4.
- IB: HL: no specific subjects required. SL: English at 5.
We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.
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.
We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of 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.
SQA, GCSE and IB
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.
English language qualifications must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the degree you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, PTE Academic, TOEFL or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.
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.
If you study abroad, there will be additional costs. For example, you will be responsible for associated travel costs such as flights and visas.
Grants may be available for participating students to help with the extra costs of studying and living abroad.
For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.
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2 degrees in Islamic Studies and Middle Eastern Studies
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