Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2018/2019

MA (Hons) in Arabic & Social Anthropology

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 & Social Anthropology
UCAS code: LT66
Relevant QAA subject benchmarking group(s): ‘Languages’, ‘Area Studies’ and ‘Anthropology’
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. Given the importance of the Arab world as the immediate neighbour of Europe on the southern and eastern sides of the Mediterranean, Arabic & Social Anthropology makes an excellent degree combination.

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.

Social anthropology is the comparative study of human behaviour and ideas in their social contexts. Societies around the world vary enormously in their social, cultural, religious, and political forms, and their individual members also display a corresponding diversity of ideas and behaviour. The study of these variations, and the common humanity that underlies them and renders them intelligible to sympathetic outsiders lies at the heart of social anthropology. Much of this knowledge is gained through the distinctive method of ‘participant observation’, which often involves anthropologists living with the people they are researching and sharing their experiences for extended periods. While the subject matter overlaps with that of sociology, human geography, and development studies, social anthropology is also closely linked to history and philosophy. At Edinburgh students will have the opportunity to learn from researchers who are international leaders in their field, and will also engage in original anthropological research, which may be library based or involve fieldwork.

Educational aims of programme

The MA Honours Arabic & Social Anthropology 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, religion and politics.

They will develop:

  • a broad knowledge of the major fields of study in social and cultural anthropology;
  • substantive knowledge of a range of social and cultural  contexts, institutions, processes and ideas;
  • the ability to understand, evaluate and use a range of theoretical frameworks in the study of social and cultural anthropology;
  • the capacity to develop research proposals, and to carry out and, and write up an independent research project within an achievable time frame
  • the capacity to apply knowledge and skills to the understanding and evaluation of issues and problems in the contemporary world;
  • key generic skills in critical thinking and oral and written communication of information and argument;
The degree offers society the resource of intellectually trained individuals with a thorough grounding both in the Arabic language and in Social Anthropology, who are capable of acting as bridges of understanding and conduits of knowledge between cultures. Graduates enter employment in many different fields, including public agencies like the NHS, private sector companies, , NGOs, the civil service and education.

Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

Graduates from the Arabic & Social Anthropology 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  key methods and concepts of linguistic, literary and historical analysis;

6  demonstrate knowledge and understanding  of different social and                                                            

cultural contexts, institutions, processes and ideas;

7 evaluate alternative explanation of particular social contexts, processes and events;

8  demonstrate awareness of different theoretical, conceptual , and key methodological approaches used in anthropological analysis;

9 demonstrate an understanding of the social and historical processes that influence the objects of anthropological study;

10 demonstrate an understanding of the methods and value of cross cultural comparative analysis and the ability to comprehend, evaluate and communicate ethnographic information;

11 demonstrate an understanding of the nature of explanation and interpretation in social anthropology and nature of evidence in such accounts;

12 demonstrate alertness to the potential applications of anthropological knowledge, and their ethical implications in a variety of contexts.

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 3-12 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 (1-12), assessed coursework in the form of exercises (1-2) or essays (3-12), oral and aural examinations (1-2), and a dissertation (1-12).

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

Arabic & Social Anthropology graduates will be able to:

  1. retrieve, sift, select and analyse and interpret information from texts and other media in Arabic and English;
  2. reason critically and cogently, assessing and applying critical methods, including some of those for historical, literary, cultural, political and religious analysis;
  3. identify and solve problems, especially in the field of Arabic, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies;
  4. apply different theories to the interpretation and explanation of human conduct and patterns of behaviour; recognise and account for the use of such theories by others
  5. judge the value and relevance of empirical evidence and theoretical argument and interpretation in social science;
  6. identify and design ways of solving problems with a social and cultural dimension;
  7. question cultural assumptions;
  8. apply anthropological knowledge to a variety of situations;
  9. assess the ethical implications of anthropological research and enquiry.

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 (1-9) 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, 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 Social Anthropology 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 fields of Arabic, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (including history, literature, culture, politics and religion) and in Social Anthropology, taking into account ethical and professional issues;
  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;
  6. possessed of teamwork skills developed in small-group practical teaching;
  7. possessed of oral and visual presentation skills developed in project presentations as well as presentations linked to lecture courses;
  8. able to respond effectively to unfamiliar problems in unfamiliar contexts;
  9. able to develop a personal vision and goals and be able to work towards these in a sustainable way.

1-9 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. 2-9 are also developed throughout the programme. Formative and summative assessment is used to develop, consolidate and evaluate these skills. All nine are particularly developed by the final-year Dissertation.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

Graduates in Arabic and Social Anthropology will be able to:

  1. process, structure and communicate ideas effectively and at an advanced level of proficiency, both orally and in written form in both Arabic and English;
  2. communicate clearly and accurately, constructing cogent arguments;
  3. recognise the benefits of communicating with those beyond their immediate environments
  4. participate constructively in group discussions, assessing and responding effectively to the ideas of others; and
  5. communicate effectively in English to inform others about aspects of Arabic 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 Social Anthropology will be able to:

  1. work autonomously, setting their own goals, self-motivating, organising their own learning, forward planning, and reflecting on their learning strategies;
  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;
  6. confidently interact with, and think about, cultural difference;
  7. make critical and constructive judgements;
  8. summarise information concisely and present reports;
  9. apply theoretical and conceptual knowledge to practical situations;
  10. understand and appreciate the significance of new ideas;
  11. understand and promote effectively the values of diversity and equity, while also recognizing possible trade-offs between these
  12. able to learn in a variety of modes.

All skills (1-12) are acquired throughout the degree programme. Skills 3-6 and 11 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 language is by far the most important technical skill acquired in the course of the Arabic and Social Anthropology degree. Students will be able to:

  • read, write and speak Arabic at a high level of proficiency;
  • translate from and into Arabic.

In addition, graduates will also develop:

1. Computing skills:

  • the ability to use computers for word-processing, information storage and for retrieving information from the world wide web, e.g. word- processing, power point, statistical packages, graphics packages and databases;
  • the ability to summarise information concisely and present reports; and
  • the ability to apply theoretical and conceptual knowledge to practical situations.

2. Use of libraries

  • the ability to use libraries for the recovery of information, and related research skills, including the ability to discriminate between different sources of information, suggested readings, and so on.

3. Numeracy and data skills.

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

  • Lectures
  • Tutorials

In Year 2

  • Lectures
  • Tutorials

In Year 3

  • Year Abroad Work
  • Dissertation

In Year 4

  • Seminars
  • Lectures
  • Presentations
  • Group Work
  • Dissertation

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 122780
Year 222780
Year 32098
Year 419810

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
  • Dissertation
  • Independent Study

In Year 4

  • Written Examinations
  • Coursework Essays
  • Oral Examination
  • Aural Examination
  • Dissertation

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 160733
Year 231564
Year 300100
Year 421574

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 skills you learn throughout your course will equip you for careers in the Civil Service, foreign affairs or political and parliamentary research, teaching or the media. Some graduates choose to take postgraduate degrees with a view to pursuing an academic career

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 taken on its own as a Single Honours degree or may be combined with other subjects in a Joint Honours degree.  The other joint degrees currently include:

Arabic and Ancient Greek

Arabic and Economics

Arabic and French

Arabic and History

Arabic and History of Art

Arabic and Persian

Arabic and Politics

Arabic and Spanish

5. More detailed information on these programmes, and the department of Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, can be found at: http://www.imes.ed.ac.uk/

6. More information on the department of Social Anthropology can be found at: http://www.san.ed.ac.uk/