[skip to content]

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology

MA History of Art and Architecture of the Islamic Middle East

Duration: One calendar year (full-time) Two or three years (part-time, daytime only)


Featured events

Minimum Entry Requirements: Minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent)

Start of programme: September intake only

Mode of Attendance: Full Time or Part Time

The Department of Art and Archaeology at SOAS provides a uniquely broad range of courses in the history of art, architecture and material culture of Africa and Asia, from their origins to modern times. The regions covered include China, Japan, Korea, the Islamic world, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, and Africa (including the African Diaspora). Our aim is to enable students to investigate the cultures of this immensely diverse area, while giving them the opportunity to specialise in fields of their choice.

The Islamic Middle East has given rise to an impressive material culture in the past, and it is one that continues in the present.  The degree covers an area stretching from Islamic Spain through the Arab countries, Turkey, Iran, and Central Asia in diverse historical periods.  It offers courses dealing with particular regions or categories of art such as Fatimid art and architecture, Arab, Persian, and Turkish painting, Mamluk architecture, and applied arts and architecture of Ottoman Egypt and Syria. Various archaeological issues of the Islamic Middle East are also covered. In addition, the degree engages with trans-regional topics that extend beyond the Middle East, such as the illumination of the Qur'an, and cultural and artistic relationships between the Islamic Middle East and Europe.

Complementary courses are sometimes available on the non-Islamic traditions of the Middle East, as well as on the Islamic traditions of other regions. Students select at least two units (or four half units) from among MA courses that are designated as belonging to the Art and Architecture of the Islamic Middle East programme.

In addition to the three taught courses, the fourth component of the degree is a 10,000 word dissertation. Students undertake independent research on a topic of their own choosing, generally related to the area of one of their taught courses, and supervised by a member of the department.

The MA has two main purposes. First, it can be used as a training programme for those who hope to go on to higher independent research (for a PhD), especially if their BA background lies in another field (such as the History of Western Art, or Asian/African area/language studies). For such students, the MA provides the necessary grounding in the material and techniques in the study of Asian and African art or archaeology. Secondly, for those who already have some background in this field, it provides an opportunity to broaden or deepen their knowledge at a higher level.

Email: em4@soas.ac.uk

Phone: 020 7898 4450


Students must complete three units (or 0.5 unit equivalent) of taught MA courses in addition to the compulsory Dissertation. A minimum of two units must be selected from the MA courses available within the History of Art & Archaeology Department. No more than one unit (or equivalent) may be selected from the minor MA options available from other SOAS Departments. 

Near & Middle East
Minor Options in Other Departments
Media Studies
Study of Religions
Near & Middle East

Teaching & Learning

Teaching & Learning

Lectures and Seminars

Teaching consists of a combination of lectures and seminars. Classes are normally between two and three hours per week for each course. Teaching methods include lectures with discussion, seminars and museum visits.

Students at all levels are expected to take an active part in class presentation. A particularly important element is the training of the student's visual memory.

In addition to their studies on the MA programme, students at SOAS are able to participate in a wide range of research seminars, lectures and conferences that regularly take place in the School and in the University of London.


The 10,000-word dissertation on an approved topic linked with one of the taught courses.

Learning Resources
SOAS Library

SOAS Library is one of the world's most important academic libraries for the study of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, attracting scholars from all over the world. The Library houses over 1.2 million volumes, together with significant archival holdings, special collections and a growing network of electronic resources.


Students of MA Art and Architecture of the Islamic Middle East will develop a portfolio of widely transferable skills which employers seek including research skills; written and oral communication skills; visual awareness; and specialist subject knowledge of the art of the Islamic Middle East.

Art and Archaeology postgraduates very often continue to work in arts, culture and heritage roles and also forge careers in a wide range of fields across the world, including international development, diplomacy, banking and finance, language services, the legal sector, education and policy research. A postgraduate degree is a valuable experience that provides students with a body of work and a diverse range of skills that they can use to market themselves with when they graduate.

For more information about Graduate Destinations from this department, please visit the Careers Service website.

A Student's Perspective

Studying Islamic Art History at SOAS has been one of the most engrossing, pleasurable and rewarding pursuits I have undertaken.The SOAS academics I encountered are exemplary. Their scholarship, first hand experiences and enthralling anecdotes brought their subjects to life. Within this rich and rigorous environment, also supported by access to other SOAS departments and the numerous co-curricular resources available in London, it is inevitable that students strive for excellence.

Elizabeth Kelly