Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2018/2019

MA (Hons) Arabic and History

To give you an idea of what to expect from this programme, we publish the latest available information. This information is created when new programmes are established and is only updated periodically as programmes are formally reviewed. It is therefore only accurate on the date of last revision.
Awarding institution: The University of Edinburgh
Teaching institution: The University of Edinburgh
Programme accredited by: Insert Text
Final award: MA (Hons)
Programme title: Arabic and History
UCAS code: TV61
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s): ‘Languages’, ‘AreaStudies’ and ‘History’
Postholder with overall responsibility for QA: Dr Huw Lewis (Director of Quality, LLC)
Date of production/revision: January 2017

External summary

Arabic is the main language of over 250 million people inhabiting a huge swathe of land extending from the Atlantic to the Persian Gulf. It is the fifth most widely spoken language in the world and is one of the six official languages of the United Nations. Apart from opening the door to a fascinating and varied region, knowledge of Arabic provides access to the rich intellectual heritage of Islam.

The discipline of History involves study of the human past, adopting a critical approach to evidence relevant to that enquiry. Work in History takes the form of interaction with the evidence in primary form and sceptical reading of a wide body of historical writing.

Arabic and History make an excellent degree combination, allowing students to situate their understanding of the Arabic language, the Middle East and Islamic World in the wider context of human history.

The MA Honours Arabic and History degree programme at Edinburgh is designed to give students a thorough grounding in both classical and modern Arabic and a good knowledge of the Arabic-speaking world, past and present, alongside a thorough understanding of the problems of historical interpretation as applied to a wide range of periods and geographical areas, including the Middle East. A year spent studying Arabic abroad provides complete immersion in Arabic language and culture.

Both the Department of Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies in Edinburgh’s School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures, and the Department of History, in the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, are recognised in the UK and internationally as a leading institutions in their respective subjects.

Educational aims of programme

The MA Honours Arabic and History degree programme at Edinburgh is designed to develop the student’s interest in, and knowledge and understanding of classical and modern Arabic, enabling them to access a wide range of original material in the Arabic language. Students will also develop their interest in, and knowledge of, the Arabic-speaking world, past and present. They will also be introduced to problems of historical methodology in a variety of contexts within and beyond the Middle East and will develop their analytical and critical skills through their studies at degree level. Students will learn to recognise the relationship of breadth of historical knowledge in relation to more specialised study and develop critical appreciation of a wide range of historical materials in their broader cultural and intellectual context. Furthermore, they will develop key generic skills in critical thinking, conceptual analysis, research, and written and oral articulation of information and argument.

Hence, the degree offers society the resource of intellectually trained individuals who are capable of acting as bridges of understanding and conduits of knowledge between cultures. Graduates enter employment in many different fields, including the Civil Service, industry, commerce and education.

Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

Graduates from the Arabic and History degree will acquire knowledge and understanding of:

1. Arabic (written and spoken);

2. the linguistic structures of Arabic;

3.  the literature, history and culture of the Arabic-speaking world;

4.  the position of 3 in a world context;

5. a range of viewpoints on problems of interpretation and evaluation of the past;

6. economic, legal, social, cultural, ethical, global and environmental responsibilities and issues surrounding the study of the past and its applications;

7. the role of the past and its study in the shaping of class, ethnic, gender, national and other identities with current, sometimes sensitive relevance;

8. how to enjoy the life of the mind.

Acquisition of 1 and 2 is through classes, tutorials and regular coursework.  Additional support is provided through access to the facilities for language learning in the Language and Humanities Centre and to recommended materials on the Web.  The period abroad in the 3rd year provides total immersion in Arabic language and culture.

Acquisition of 3-7 is through a combination of lectures/classes and tutorials in Years 1 and 2, and subsequently developed through small-group teaching in Year 4.

Throughout, students are encouraged to undertake independent readings to supplement and consolidate what is being taught/learnt and to broaden their individual knowledge and understanding of the subject (8).

Testing and consolidation of the knowledge base is through a combination of unseen written examinations, essays, seminar presentations, seminar performance, document commentaries, projects, seminar diaries and a dissertation.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in research and enquiry

Arabic and History graduates will be able to:

  1. retrieve, sift, select and analyse and interpret information from texts and other media in Arabic and English;
  2. draw valid conclusions about the past;
  3. identify, define and analyse historical  problems;
  4. select and apply a variety of critical approaches to problems informed by uneven evidence;
  5. exercise critical judgement in creating new understanding;
  6. extract key elements from complex information;
  7. ask key questions and exercise rational enquiry, and will be ready to do so;
  8. critically assess existing understanding and the limitations of knowledge and recognition of the need regularly to challenge/test knowledge;
  9. search for, evaluate and use information to develop knowledge and understanding;
  10. possess an informed respect for the principles, methods, standards, values and boundaries of the discipline(s), as well as the capacity to question these;
  11. recognise the importance of reflecting on one’s learning experiences and being aware of one’s own particular learning style;
  12. work independently to plan, undertake and (in a scholarly and literate fashion) compose an extended piece of bibliographically-based research on aspects of Arabic, Islam and the Middle East and/or History.

These intellectual skills are developed through the teaching and learning programme.  Each course, whatever the format of the teaching, involves discussion of key issues, practice in applying concepts both orally and in writing, analysis and interpretation of material, and feedback sessions on work produced.

Great emphasis is placed, in the various methods of assessment used, on the student’s ability to demonstrate the above skills (1-12) through the production of cogent and coherent written and oral responses to problems and tasks set. Students also submit a dissertation in their final year, which is an ideal vehicle for demonstrating these skills (and especially 12), although they are constantly demonstrated also throughout their other work.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal and intellectual autonomy

Graduates in Arabic and History will be:

  • able to work independently and be self-reliant, with readiness to take responsibility for one’s own learning, and commitment to continuous reflection, self-evaluation and self-improvement;
  • open to new ideas, methods and ways of thinking;
  • intellectually curious and able to sustain intellectual interest;
  • able to identify processes and strategies for learning;
  • able to demonstrate and exercise independence of mind and creativity in thought, especially in the field of Middle Eastern Studies and History;
  • able to assess and respond to the ideas of others, constructing cogent arguments through critical reasoning and the application of historical concepts.
  • able to test, modify and strengthen their own views through collaboration and debate
  • able to make decisions on the basis of rigorous and independent thought.

All are fostered throughout the curriculum. Formative and summative assessment is used to develop, consolidate and evaluate these skills. All five are particularly developed by the final-year Dissertation.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

Graduates in Arabic and History will be able to:

  • process, structure and communicate ideas effectively and at an advanced level of proficiency, both orally and in written form in both Arabic and English;
  • communicate clearly and accurately, constructing cogent arguments;
  • participate constructively in group discussions, assessing and responding effectively to the ideas of others;
  • communicate effectively in English to inform others about aspects of Arabic language and culture, and aspects of human history, including the Middle East;
  • make effective use of oral, written and visual means convey understanding of historical issues and one’s interpretation of them;
  • seek and value open feedback to inform genuine self-awareness;
  • articulate their skills as identified through self-reflection.
All courses require regular written work, on which feedback is provided, so that students develop not only their understanding but also their powers of written expression, while tutorials and tutorial presentations allow development of oral expression, participation in groups and communication with others.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in personal effectiveness

Graduates in Arabic and History will be able to:

1. work autonomously, setting their own goals, self-motivating and organising their own learning;

2. manage their time and priorities and work to self-imposed and external deadlines;

3. collaborate effectively and productively with others in the process of learning and presenting conclusions;

4. approach historical problems with academic rigour;

5. respond flexibly, adaptably and proactively to changing surroundings;

6. make decisions with confidence, based on their understanding and personal/intellectual autonomy;

7. transfer knowledge, learning, skills and abilities flexibly from one context to another;

8. work effectively with others, capitalising on diversities of thinking, experience and skills;

9. work with, manage, and lead others in ways that value their diversity and equality and that encourage their contribution;

10. exercise sensitivity to ambiguity and multiplicity of meanings;

11. confidently interact with, and think about, cultural difference.

All skills (1-11) are acquired throughout the degree programme. Skills 3-10 are particularly acquired through interactions with fellow students, tutors and lecturers. The time spent studying abroad also contributes very significantly to 1, 2, 5, 6 and 11.

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

Graduates in Arabic and History will be able to:

1 read, write and speak Arabic at a high level of proficiency;

2 translate from and into Arabic;

3 deploy good bibliographical and library research skills, as well as a range of skills in reading and textual analysis

4 produce coherent and well presented text, sometimes of considerable length;

5 produce text to meet standard presentational specifications as laid out in a style sheet;

6 make effective presentations, perhaps using audio visual support;

7 deal with quantitative evidence, where relevant

8 use palaeography, where relevant.

Throughout their studies, students take classes and receive instruction in Arabic. The period abroad further promotes active engagement with the language and native speakers of it. Both skills are assessed by class and home exercises, tests and degree examinations (including oral and aural examination). Likewise, the core research and presentational skills (3-6) are fostered throughout the degree programme and are tested in coursework and examinations, especially the final year dissertation. Skills 7 and 8 are acquired where the precise programme of study necessitates it.

Programme structure and features

Full details of the degree programme and structure can be found at: http://www.drps.ed.ac.uk/16-17/dpt/drps_llc.htm

Courses are taught through a combination of lectures and tutorials.

Details of courses can be found at: http://www.drps.ed.ac.uk/16-17/dpt/cx_colhss.htm

Entrance Requirements: http://www.ed.ac.uk/studying/undergraduate/degrees

Progression Requirements: Students are normally expected to have gained 120 credits from each year of study.

Students who do not progress into Honours may graduate after three years of full-time study, or a longer prescribed period of part-time study, with a B.A. in Arts, Humanities and Social Science.

Teaching and learning methods and strategies

Teaching and Learning strategies employed at the University of Edinburgh consist of a variety of different methods appropriate to the programme aims.  The graduate attributes listed above are met through a teaching and learning framework (detailed below) which is appropriate to the level and content of the course.

Teaching and Learning Activities

In Year 1



In Year 2



In Year 3

Year Abroad Work


In Year 4




Group Work


Festival of Creative Learning The University of Edinburgh Festival of Creative Learning is scheduled in Week 6 of Semester 2. During this week ‘normal’ teaching is suspended which provides space outwith the curriculum for staff and students to explore new learning activities.

Teaching and learning workload

You will learn through a mixture of scheduled teaching and independent study. Some programmes also offer work placements.

At Edinburgh we use a range of teaching and learning methods including lectures, tutorials, practical laboratory sessions, technical workshops and studio critiques.

The typical workload for a student on this programme is outlined in the table below, however the actual time you spend on each type of activity will depend on what courses you choose to study.

The typical workload for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearTime in scheduled teaching (%)Time in independant study (%)Time on placement (%)
Year 123770
Year 222780
Year 323266
Year 417830

Assessment methods and strategies

Courses can be assessed by a diverse range of methods and often takes the form of formative work which provided the student with on-going feedback as well as summative assessment which is submitted for assessment.

In Year 1

Written Examinations

Coursework Essays

Coursework Exercises

Oral Examinations

In Year 2

Written Examinations

Coursework Essays

Coursework Exercises

Oral Examinations

In Year 3

Year Abroad Work


Independent Study

In Year 4

Written Examinations

Coursework Essays

Oral Examination

Aural Examination


Assessment method balance

You will be assessed through a variety of methods. These might include written or practical exams or coursework such as essays, projects, group work or presentations.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme are outlined below, however the balance between written exams, practical exams and coursework will vary depending on what courses you choose to study.

The typical assessment methods for a student on this programme for each year of study
Start yearAssessment by written exams (%)Assessment by practical exams (%)Assessment by coursework (%)
Year 1501139
Year 259932
Year 300100
Year 4211267

Career opportunities

The Middle East is one of the UK’s major trading partners so there is a high demand for graduates who speak Arabic. The degree programme will also prepare you for careers in the Diplomatic Service, the Civil Service or non-government organisations. Graduates also enter teaching, museum work, the media or continue with postgraduate study.

Other items

1. All students are assigned a Personal Tutor on admission to the degree programme, who oversees the course of the student’s degree programme, offers advice on academic matters and should be the student’s first point of contact for course-related worries or concerns.

2. The School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures has a student support office, where students can go for advice on degree transfers, course changes, authorised interruption of studies, confirmation letters and general support. Information can be found at:


3. Student opinion is actively sought through participation in Staff-Student Liaison Committees, through the election of class- and tutorial-representatives, and by the wide circulation and review of detailed student questionnaires each semester.

4. Arabic may be combined with other subjects in a Joint Honours degree.  These joint degrees currently include:

Arabic and Ancient Greek

Arabic and Business Studies

Arabic and Economics

Arabic and French

Arabic and History of Art

Arabic and Persian

Arabic and Politics

Arabic and Social Anthropology

Arabic and Spanish

5. More detailed information on these programmes, and the department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, can be found at: