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

BA Arabic and Islamic Studies

Programme Code: QT96 BA/ArlslSt Duration: 4 Years


2016 Entry Requirements

  • A Levels: AAB - ABB
  • A Level language preferred
  • IB: 35 (6/6/5)
  • Access to HE: Minimum of 30 Level 3 Credits at Distinction
  • Scottish Highers: AAABB
  • Scottish Advanced Highers: AAB
  • Irish LC: 340 points from 5 Higher level subjects at grade C1 or above
  • Advanced Placement: 4 4 5 (Two semesters - UCAS Group A) plus US HSGD with GPA 3.0
  • Euro Bacc: 80%
  • French Bacc: 14/20
  • German Abitur: 2.0
  • Italy DES: 80/100
  • Austria Mat: 2.0
  • Polish Mat: Overall 75% including 3 extended level subjects

Minimum Entry Requirements: Languages at SOAS are taught ab initio, and no prior knowledge of Arabic is required.

Subjects Preferred: A good pass in a foreign language at A-level, or equivalent, is preferred

Interview Policy: Candidates with "non-standard" qualifications may be invited for interview

This four-year programme is intended to give students a solid grounding in Modern Standard and classical Arabic, familiarity with the core textual tradition of Islam, a broad knowledge of Islamic history and some insight into the methodology of religious studies. The third year is spent at a university in the Middle East.

Course Information

Modern language teaching involves class work, language-laboratory teaching, computer-assisted learning (CALL) and independent study. Introductory and intermediate courses in Arabic language use a wide variety of learning experiences and techniques in large and small groups. Most other units are taught in small classes. Assessment is by a combination of written examination, oral examination (where appropriate) and coursework.


Learn a language as part of this programme

Degree programmes at SOAS - including this one - can include language courses in more than forty African and Asian languages. It is SOAS students’ command of an African or Asian language which sets SOAS apart from other universities.

In the first year the programme's major component is the intensive study of Modern Standard Arabic; an introductory course in the study of Islam makes up the year.

The second year continues the study of Modern Standard Arabic and at the same time introduces the student to Islamic texts. A third course is taken in Islamic studies and a fourth chosen from the option lists and approved open options.

The third year of the course is spent at an Arab university or Language Institute in the Middle East, where students study the colloquial language as well as Modern Standard Arabic, and write an extended essay in Arabic.

View the prize-winning essays (with English abstract) written by students during the academic year 2014-15

In the final year language study is continued at the advanced level. To continue the first-hand experience of the primary sources the choice of one of two units in Islamic text-reading is compulsory. The third and fourth units are selected from the list of options; students who wish to specialize in Islamic studies are able to opt for further text-reading courses in this field. There is also an opportunity to write an extended essay (ISP).

NB: Language units at a more advanced level are available to students with the appropriate background.


Year 1
1. Core Module

Must be passed to proceed to the following year of study

  • Arabic 1 - 155900896 (3 Unit) - Full Year
2. Compulsory Module

Choose one of the following modules:

Year 2
1. Core Module
  • Arabic 2 - 155900897 (1 Unit) - Full Year
2. Compulsory Modules
3. Optional Module

Choose modules to the value of one unit from List A or another approved open option unit at an appropriate level

Year 3

Please click the "Teaching & Learning" tab above for more information on the Arabic Year Abroad.

Year 4

Students who wish to specialise in Islamic studies are able to opt for further text-reading courses in this field. There is also an opportunity to write an extended essay (ISP).

1. Core Module
  • Arabic 4 - 155900899 (1 Unit) - Full Year
2. Compulsory Modules

Choose one of the following

3. Optional Modules

Choose modules to the value of two units from the list above and/or List B (Year 4 Arabic related options) OR List C. You may choose one unit from the open option list

List A: Second Year Options
List B: Year 4 Arabic and Islamic Related Options
List C: Other Approved Options

Programme Specification


Teaching & Learning

Year abroad

SOAS Arabic Language Year Abroad

Students have the choice to spend the Arabic Language Year Abroad at one of the following four institutions:

  1. The Alexandria School of Languages (ACL) in Alexandria, Egypt (Alexandria course dates 2016/17)
  2. An-Najah University in Nablus, Occupied West Bank (Al-Najah University briefing paper)
  3. The Alif Institute in Fez, Morocco
  4. The Qasid Institute in Amman, Jordan

Courses run from September to May of the following year and involve 18 to 20 hours of instruction per week. While the syllabus differs somewhat from one institution to the other, the prime focus throughout is on enhancing the students’ reading, writing, speaking and listening skills in Modern Standard Arabic as well as on imparting an advanced level of competence in the local form of Colloquial Arabic. 

Towards the end of their stay students are expected to write an Arabic ISP (Independent Study Project) in Arabic of some 3000-3500 words on a subject of their choice. Supervision and guidance will be supplied by designated staff at the year abroad institution. To get an impression of the standard students have achieved and the type of topic they can tackle view the prize-winning essays (with English abstract) written by students during the academic year 2014-15.

In order to be admitted to the final year of their degree students will need to have passed the final language examinations at the year abroad institution and to have submitted their ISP by the specified deadline. The ISPs will be marked by the year abroad institution and reviewed by members of the SOAS Arabic Section. The best ISP from each location will be published on the SOAS website.

Students who fail the year abroad examinations or fail to submit their ISPs are deemed to have failed the year abroad. In order to be admitted to the final year of their degree they will need to repeat the language year abroad programme in one of the four designated locations.

For general advice on tuition fees, travel arrangements, health and insurance issues see the SOAS Registry guidelines on the Language Year Abroad.

The SOAS Arabic Section arranges year abroad meetings and briefing sessions where second year students are informed in detail about the year abroad locations and have the chance to meet and consult with returning students.

In determining the safety of year abroad locations SOAS is guided by the relevant Travel Advice published by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. During their stay abroad it is recommended that students subscribe to the relevant FCO website

Approximate living costs (rent, plus food and travel) will typically be between £350 and £500 per month.


As a student specialising in Arabic and Islamic, you will gain competency in language skills and intercultural awareness and understanding. Familiarity with the region will have been developed through a combination of the study of language, literature and culture (which can include literature, film, music, art and religion) of various parts of the Middle East.

Graduates leave SOAS not only with linguistic and cultural expertise, but also with a portfolio of widely transferable skills which employers seek in many professional and management careers in both business and the public sector. These include written and oral communication skills, attention to detail, analytical and problem-solving skills, and the ability to research, amass and order information from a variety of sources.

Students graduating with this degree have opportunities to work in further research in Arabic or Islamic Studies, Education, the Arab and Islamic media, Islamic centres, the BBC, in the Press, the Civil Service and non-governmental organisations.

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

A Student's Perspective

The best advice I can give is to just dive into the experience without any hesitation. Going into my study abroad experience, I didn’t expect to travel to Morocco and have the opportunity to see Roman ruins or eat chip butties (chips on a bun with sauce), but I did.

Suzanne Jacobson, Hamilton College