Undergraduate study - 2025 entry
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

MA Persian and Social Anthropology

UCAS code: TL66

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: Literatures, Languages and Cultures

College: Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Study abroad

Introducing MA Persian and Social Anthropology

Persian is one of the major languages of the Middle East and Central Asia. Its modern form has three variants which, collectively, are the first language of over 120 million people. It is the national language of Iran, indigenously known as Farsi. It is known as Dari in Afghanistan and Tajik in Tajikistan.

To study Persian is to enter into a rich and diverse culture that has produced:

  • major epic and Sufi poets
  • world-class cinema
  • exquisite miniature painting and fine textiles

Our programme is also your gateway to understanding modern Iran, a dynamic society at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.

Combining Persian with Social Anthropology enables you to learn the Persian language while engaging in the comparative study of human behaviour and ideas in a range of contexts:

  • social
  • cultural
  • religious
  • political

You can start the language as a complete beginner, and develop advanced skills over your four years, including in translation. This will enable you to access original material and to express yourself in modern Persian on a wide range of topical issues.

In addition to language learning, you will have the opportunity to learn from researchers who are international leaders in their field.

You will study aspects of the Islamic world and the Middle East, and take a range of courses in anthropology. The discipline overlaps with sociology, human geography, and development studies, and is also closely linked to history and philosophy.

You will learn what anthropology contributes to some of the most important issues facing us today and build up the theoretical tools and practical techniques to engage in your own original anthropological research.

Your dissertation will enable you to draw on skills from both sides of your programme, and a range of excellent resources in the University of Edinburgh collections.

Year 1

You will study basic Persian grammar, vocabulary and conversational skills. Over the course of the year, you will develop the key tools to understand, speak, read and write elementary Persian.

You will take a course in Islamic and Middle Eastern Cultures and choose one of two courses in Islamic history, depending on what historical period interests you most.

You will receive a broad introduction to social anthropology by studying Social Anthropology 1A and 1B. You will learn about participant observation and fieldwork, and consider what the discipline contributes to public debates about global issues.

Year 2

You will continue with your Persian language study, developing the grammar and vocabulary to read, write and speak about social and everyday topics.

You will take a course in the religion of Islam or modern Middle Eastern history.

You will also study Social Anthropology 2 and Ethnography. You will learn what concepts have shaped the development of social anthropology, and be introduced to the theory and practice of ethnographic fieldwork.

Option courses

You will choose one further course from a wide range of options offered by the University.

Options include, but are not limited to, courses in:

  • business, economics and informatics
  • politics, international relations and social policy
  • art and architectural history
  • history, classics and archaeology
  • Celtic and Scottish ethnology
  • linguistics and language sciences
  • philosophy, divinity and law

Year 3

When study in a Persian-speaking country or at an approved institution elsewhere is permitted, you will spend at least eight weeks of Year 3 abroad. This will help you to improve your language, cross-cultural communication, and independent study skills.

Living abroad will also give you the wider perspective, experience and skills to embrace the opportunities and challenges of life after university.

Coursework while abroad

If you go abroad, you will study at an accredited institution offering an immersive learning environment.

In addition, you will write an essay or short story in Persian, which you will be asked to talk about on your return.

Depending on availability, you may be able to take social anthropology courses at the institution where you are spending your time abroad.

You will begin work on your dissertation. By the time you return from your Year Abroad, you will be ready to submit a detailed dissertation proposal on a topic related to Persian, Islamic or Middle Eastern Studies.

Keeping in touch

While you are studying abroad, you are still a student at the University of Edinburgh.

The Year Abroad Office and your Student Adviser, both based in the School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (LLC), will check in with you at key points during your Year Abroad. Additionally, each language has a dedicated Year Abroad Coordinator for any academic queries, ensuring you are all set and ready for your final year in Edinburgh.

Just like any other time during your studies, you have access to all University services while you are abroad. These include our:

  • Student Wellbeing Service
  • Student Counselling
  • Student Disability and Learning Support
  • University emergency helpline (available 24 hours a day)

Wellbeing and safety

Your wellbeing and safety abroad is our first priority. If international travel is not possible or placements are disrupted, for example following travel advice from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), we will offer you alternative ways to engage with Persian and Social Anthropology. You will take a course in Intensive Persian, and choose from specialist, honours-level option courses in aspects of the Middle East and of social anthropology, enabling you to meet your learning outcomes and to prepare for your final year. Just as if you were studying abroad, you will also begin work on your dissertation.

Year 4

You will continue to develop your translation and conversational skills in Persian. In your classes, you will respond to different materials, including Persian poetry and prose, films, 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 and the Middle East
  • social anthropology

You will complete your 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 (2024/25)

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.

Take a virtual tour of the Central Area

Libraries and collections

The Main University Library holds academic books, journals and databases, films, newspapers and other media. It has extensive holdings for the study of Social Anthropology, and over 23,000 resources in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (IMES). Of these, around 2,600 printed books are in Persian, and more than 100 films are in either Persian or Arabic.

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 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). The School's partnership with IMVBox.com gives you access to over 1,000 Iranian films.

IMES also has its own library at 19 George Square, with views across a central garden to the Main University Library, LLC and the School of Social and Political Science.

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.

In the city

Edinburgh is a world-leading festival city filled with cinemas, theatres, galleries, libraries and collections. A cultural powerhouse, it is also a political city - seat of the Scottish Parliament, and home to a range of embassies and consulates.

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

When study in a Persian-speaking country or at an approved institution elsewhere is permitted, you will spend at least part of Year 3 abroad.

We know that you are likely to have lots of questions about your Year Abroad. We’ve gone into lots more detail under ‘What you will study / Year 3’ above. You can also find out more through the University's Study and Work Away Service.

What are my options for going abroad?

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 Year 4.


As well as the teaching staff and other staff members 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

Combining a language with social anthropology demonstrates that you are a good communicator, and someone open to other cultures and new ideas – what employers value as Intercultural Competence.

Beyond the Persian language skills you will develop on this joint honours programme, and the nuanced understanding you will gain of other 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 projects
  • 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

Local and global opportunities

With increasing migration in response to changing global dynamics, there is demand for our graduates in Scotland, the UK and abroad.

Wherever you are based in the world, the ability to communicate in another world language, and to understand the cultures to which it opens doors, will make you stand out.

If you are keen to work abroad, it’s good to know that, collectively, Persian, 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 and Afghanistan 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, we offer a one-year Masters by Research degree in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies. This programme is a good foundation for a PhD, but is equally of value as a stand-alone qualification.

We usually also offer taught MSc programmes in:

  • Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies
  • Social Anthropology
  • The Globalised Muslim World
  • Comparative Literature
  • Intermediality

Careers advice

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

The School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures (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.

Alumni and futures

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S5 or AABB/ABBBB 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 Persian degrees involve beginners language study and are 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.We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • 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 65 with at least 54 in each component. We do not accept 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

(*Revised 24 May 2024 to change PTE Academic requirement from total 62 with at least 54 in each component, and to clarify that we do not accept PTE Academic online.)

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 Persian and Social Anthropology

Additional costs

As long as international travel is possible, Year 3 may involve study abroad in a Persian-speaking country or an approved institution elsewhere. 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