Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2018/2019

MA (Hons) Arabic and Persian

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: N/A
Final award: MA (Hons)
Programme title: Arabic and Persian
UCAS code: T621
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s): ‘Languages’ and  ‘Area Studies’
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. Persian is the main language of over 120 million people and is among the world’s most widely spoken languages. Apart from opening the door to a fascinating and varied region, knowledge of Persian and the Middle East provides access to the rich intellectual heritage of Islam. To study Persian is to enter into a rich and diverse culture.

The Department of Islamic & Middle Eastern Studies in Edinburgh’s School of Literatures, Languages and Cultures is recognised in the UK and internationally as a leading institution for research and study of Arabic, Islam, the Middle East, and other related subjects.

The MA Honours Arabic and Persian degree programme at Edinburgh is designed to give students a thorough grounding in both classical and modern Arabic and Persian, enabling them to communicate in both languages and access a wide range of original materials. Alongside knowledge of the written and spoken languages, students will also acquire a good knowledge of the literature, culture, history, religion and politics of relevant regions in the world. A year spent studying Arabic and Persian abroad provides complete immersion in both languages and cultures.

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.

Educational aims of programme

The MA Honours Arabic and Persian 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, from pre-Islamic poetry and Islamic religious texts to Arabic novels and television. Alongside knowledge of the written and spoken language, students will also develop their interest in, and knowledge of, the Arabic-speaking world, past and present, including its language, literature, culture, history and politics.The programme also aims to provide students with an understanding of the Persian speaking world particularly that of Iran through the study of language, literature, history and culture. Language acquisition, including oral and aural instruction, plays an important role in allowing students to have a deeper understanding of Persian literature and culture through their direct engagement with primary sources as well as of contemporary Iran. The programme will enable students to have a subject expertise on the classical and modern periods of Iran with the option courses allowing those interested to expand their knowledge to that of pre-Islamic Iran.

Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

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

1  Arabic and Persian (written and spoken);

2  the linguistic structures of Arabic and Persian;

3  the literature, history and culture of the Arabic-speaking world and Persian Literature, past and present;

4  the position of 3 in a world context;

5  key methods and concepts of linguistic, literary and historical analysis.

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 3-5 is through a combination of lectures/classes and tutorials in Years 1 and 2, and subsequently developed through small-group teaching in Years 3 and 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.

Testing and consolidation of the knowledge base is through a combination of unseen written examinations (1-5), assessed coursework in the form of exercises (1-2) or essays (3-5), oral and aural examinations (1-2), and a dissertation (1-5).

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

Arabic graduates will be able to:

  • retrieve, sift, select and analyse and interpret information from texts and other media in Arabic and English and Persian and English;
  • reason critically and cogently, assessing and applying critical methods, including those for historical, literary, cultural, political and religious analysis;
  • identify and solve problems, especially in the field of Arabic, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies and of Persian Studies;
  • 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 of Persian Studies.

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 (1-4) 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 4), 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 Persian will be:

1. able to work independently and be self-reliant;

2. open to new ideas, methods and ways of thinking;

3. intellectually curious and able to sustain intellectual interest;

4. able to demonstrate and exercise independence of mind and creativity in thought, especially in the field of Arabic, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies and Persian Studies (including history, literature, culture, politics and religion);

5. able to assess and respond to the ideas of others, constructing cogent arguments through critical reasoning and the application of linguistic, literary, historical and social concepts.

1-5 are all fostered throughout the curriculum. 1 is learned through the extensive independent study and self-discipline required in both language learning and the Humanities and Social Sciences. 2, 3, 4 and 5 are also developed throughout the programme. 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 Persian 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 and Persian and English;
  • communicate clearly and accurately, constructing cogent arguments;
  • participate constructively in group discussions, assessing and responding effectively to the ideas of others; and
  • communicate effectively in English to inform others about aspects of Arabic and Persian language, culture, history, politics and literature.

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 Persian 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. confidently rely on their own intellectual capacities;

5. exercise sensitivity to ambiguity and multiplicity of meanings; and

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

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

Programme outcomes: Technical/practical skills

Expertise in the Arabic and Persian languages is by far the most important technical skills acquired in the course of the Arabic and Persian degree. Students will be able to:

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

2. translate from and into Arabic and Persian;

In addition, graduates will also develop:

1. IT skills—the ability to use computers for word-processing, information storage and for retrieving information from the worldwide web; and

2. library skills—the ability to use libraries for the recovery of information, and related research skills, including the ability to discriminate between different types of information.

Throughout their studies, students take classes and receive instruction in Arabic and Persian. The period abroad further promotes active engagement with the languages and native speakers of them. Both skills are assessed by class and home exercises, tests and degree examinations (including oral and aural examination). Likewise IT and library skills are fostered throughout the degree programme and are tested in coursework and examinations, especially the final year dissertation.

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 126740
Year 224760
Year 321682
Year 427730

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 1661420
Year 2611128
Year 300100
Year 4461638

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 and Persian. The degree programme will also prepare you for careers in the Diplomatic Service, the Civil Service or non-government organisations. Graduates also enter teaching, 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. More detailed information on the department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, and the degrees offered can be found at: http://www.imes.ed.ac.uk/