Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

Degree Programme Specification 2020/2021

MA Honours Persian and 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:
Final award: MA Hons
Programme title: Persian and Social Anthropology
UCAS code: TL66
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

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, Persian, 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 programme aims to provide students with an understanding of the Middle Eastern world particularly that of Iran through the study of language, literature, history and culture of the region. 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 as well as that of the wider region of the Middle East with the option courses allowing those interested to expand their knowledge further. Time spent studying Persian abroad provides complete immersion in Persian language and culture.

Programme outcomes: Knowledge and understanding

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

  1. Persian (written and spoken);
  2. the linguistic structures of Persian;
  3. Persian literature, past and present;
  4. the history and culture of the Middle East;
  5. the position of Persian literature and its history and culture in the world context;
  6. key methods and concepts of linguistic, literary and historical analysis;

They will also develop:

  1. A broad knowledge of the major fields of study in social and cultural anthropology;
  2. substantive knowledge of a range of social and cultural contexts, institutions, processes and ideas;
  3. the ability to understand, evaluate and a range of theoretical frameworks in the study of social and cultural anthropology;
  4. the capacity to apply knowledge and skills to the understanding and evaluation of issues and problems in the contemporary world;
  5. general transferable intellectual and study skills which will equip graduates to make a valuable contribution both within their chosen career path and in the wider community and to encourage a positive attitude to continuing development and lifelong learning.

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. Acquisition of 3-11 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.

Assessment Testing of the knowledge base is through a combination of unseen written examinations (1-11), assessed coursework in the form of exercises (1-2) or essays (3-11), oral and aural examinations (1-2), and a dissertation (1-11).

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

Persian and Social Anthropology graduates will be able to:

  1. retrieve, sift, select and analyse and interpret information from texts and other media in Persian and English;
  2. reason critically and cogently, assessing and applying critical methods, including those for historical, literary, cultural, political and religious analysis;
  3. identify and solve problems, especially in the field of Persian, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies;
  4. work independently to plan, undertake and (in a scholarly and literate fashion) compose an extended piece of bibliographically-based research on aspects of Persian, Islam and the Middle East;
  5. evaluate and critique other scholars’ deployment of methods of literary and critical analysis; formulate questions and structure an argument to express resolutions to these questions critically and analytically.

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 (1-6) 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 4-6), although they are constantly demonstrated also throughout their other work.

The degree offers society the resource of intellectually trained individuals with a thorough grounding both in the Persian 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 industry, commerce, NGOs, the civil service and education.

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

Graduates in Persian 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. be intellectually curious and open to new ideas, methods and ways of thinking;
  5. able to demonstrate and exercise independence of mind and creativity in thought, especially in the field of Persian, Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (including history, literature, culture, politics and religion); and in Politics, taking into account ethical and professional issues;
  6. 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;
  7. possessed of teamwork skills developed in small-group practical teaching;
  8. possessed of oral and visual presentation skills developed in project presentations as well as presentations linked to lecture courses;
  9. be able to respond effectively to unfamiliar problems in unfamiliar contexts;
  10. have to develop a personal vision and goals and be able to work towards these in a sustainable way.

1-10 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. 2-10 are also developed throughout the programme. Formative and summative assessment is used to develop, consolidate and evaluate these skills. 1-6 and 9-10 are particularly developed by the final-year Dissertation.

Programme outcomes: Graduate attributes - Skills and abilities in communication

Graduates in Persian 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 Persian and English;
  2. communicate clearly and accurately, constructing cogent arguments;
  3. participate constructively in group discussions, assessing and responding effectively to the ideas of others; and
  4. communicate effectively in English to inform others about aspects of 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 Persian and Social Anthropology 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 Persian language one of the most important technical skill acquired in the course of the Persian and Social Anthropology degree. Students will be able to:

  1. read, write and speak Persian at a high level of proficiency;
  2. translate from and into 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 Persian.  Language 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 122780
Year 219810
Year 315850
Year 423770

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 Examinations


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 159635
Year 230664
Year 382072
Year 4481933

Career opportunities

The Middle East is one of the UK’s major trading partners so there is a high demand for graduates who speak Persian. There are a variety of careers open to Persian and Social Anthropology graduates. The research and analytical skills you will develop throughout the course can be used in any research-based career. These skills can also be applied to careers including journalism, museum or heritage work, public relations, arts, administration, the Diplomatic Service, teaching, or a media-related career like PR, media production or advertising. Previous graduates have also gone on to work in the finance, law, business sectors or local government. There are opportunities for postgraduate study at the University of Edinburgh or you may choose to continue studying at another university.

Other items

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.

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: http://www.ed.ac.uk/schools-departments/literatures-languages-cultures/current-students/undergraduate-support

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.

In addition to having Persian as a single honours degree, Persian may be combined with other subjects in a Joint Honours degree.  These joint degrees currently include:

Arabic and Persian

Persian and Anthropology

Persian and Politics

Persian Studies and English Literature

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/

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