[skip to content]

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Key Facts

  • 14 BA programmes (single or combined), nine taught MA programmes, Research Degrees and Certificates
  • UK’s largest university department specialising in the languages and culture of the Middle East
  • An intensive programme of language instruction with students spending the third year of their studies at a university in the Arab Middle East

Our Strengths

At SOAS we offer a unique combination of world-class teaching and research on 5,000 years of culture, from cuneiform and ziggurats to Arabic and Islamic revolution. There are programmes of study available here that are not offered at any other UK university. With our unrivalled linguistic expertise, study abroad options and central London campus location which allows our students to take advantage of the capital’s many Middle East cultural centres, the Near and Middle East Department sits at the very forefront of the study of the languages and culture of this fascinating region.

Facts and Figures

  • Ranked 1st in the UK (NSS 2013/14)
  • 91% satisfaction for teaching (NSS 2013/14)
  • Excellent staff/student ratio
  • SOAS possesses one of the country's best research libraries in Assyriology and related subjects
  • Members of staff have been awarded major grants by funding bodies such as the British Academy and the Leverhulme Trust (More about our research)

UG Student Profile

Mia Eskelund Pedersen

The atmosphere at SOAS is incredibly stimulating, and learning in an environment with such a diverse group of engaged students has really made for a very unique learning experience.

Mia Eskelund Pedersen, BA Arabic and Development Studies
Read Mia's full profile

Bactrian Projects

Bactrian belongs to the Iranian sub-branch of the Indo-European family and, until the end of the 20th century, it was virtually unknown. Professor Nicholas Sims-Williams has achieved a remarkable success in securing external funding for a succession of research projects on Bactrian, making it possible to decipher the cursive script and to compare it to other Middle Iranian languages. This research has shed light on a little-known period of Central Asian history and culture. See SOAS’ research into this lost Iranian language.

PG Student Profile

Mohammad Mirbashiri

SOAS is a truly great institution that provides a stimulating learning environment with extensive resources and outstanding teaching staff. My course is structured in a way that has given me the opportunity to study course units exploring the history; politics and cultures of the Middle East region, drawing upon the expertise of renowned academics from different disciplines.

Mohammad Mirbashiri, MA Near and Middle Eastern Studies
Mohammad's full profile

Our Head of Department says

Our department is truly a department of firsts. We are the first and only UK department that offers the opportunity to study Hittite (the oldest known Indo-European language); we were the first to appoint a Professor in Israeli Studies and are now home for the European Association of Israeli Studies; we were the first to offer both MA Israeli Studies and MA Palestine Studies concurrently, and we are the only department in the UK which allow students to study Georgian as part of a BA degree. Our Arabic programmes are second to none.

In addition to these ground-breaking academic innovations, we are one of the very few British universities that offer the study of Akkadian and Sumerian languages, as well as the comprehensive study of modern and classical Persian and Turkish language and literature at full degree level. Needless to say, we are a department that prides itself on challenging conventional thinking and aspires to be different.

The wide range of subjects studied within the Department of Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East reflects not only the present economic and political importance of the region, but also the diversity and historical depth of culture within an area that stretches from North Africa to the borders of China and includes some of the most ancient cradles of civilisation and the birth-places of several of the world’s great religions. I invite you to come and join one of our programmes where you will be part of a vibrant department that has received excellent ratings for both teaching and research.

Leverhulme Network

A new research project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, on Economic integration and social change in the Islamic world system, 800-1000 CE is being set up by Professor Hugh Kennedy and Dr Fanny Bessard. This project will investigate the economic structures of the Muslim world from the end of the eighth to the beginning of the eleventh centuries. It aims to bring a new understanding of the construction and development of the Islamic economy as a world system, stretching from Central Asia to the Atlantic.

Forthcoming Events