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

MA Islamic Societies and Cultures

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


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

Subjects Preferred: Applicants are not required to have previous academic experience of this subject, although a strong interest in Islamic societies and cultures is of course expected.

Start of programme: September intake only

This MA programme studies many aspects of the world of Islam, from its early development to its modern trends. Its primary objective is to approach the study of Islam through a variety of disciplines, cultural contexts and periods. The programme examines Islamic tradition, law and art, as well as the place of Islam in modern politics and alongside other religions. The degree may be considered as a preparation for research or as a way of completing a liberal education.


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.

Candidates will take three taught courses (one major and two minor) and write a dissertation of 10,000 words. The major must be a course from List A, each of which treats subjects of general interest throughout the Islamic world.

The MA Islamic Societies and Cultures is an interdisciplinary (multi-subject) degree.  Therefore applicants must choose their Major in a subject different from their Minors.  Both Minors may be in the same subject, but not the same subject as the Major.  Students may not take more than one language course, and may not take a language course as their Major.  The subjects available are:  Development Studies, Economics, Gender Studies,  History, History of Art/Archaeology, Islamic Studies, Language, Law, Music and Politics. '

All courses will be taught subject to availability. Courses in relevant languages can be taken as an integral part of the MA where appropriate. This Masters degree may be considered either as a preparation for research or as a way of completing a liberal education.

When applying, applicants are asked to specify their preferred major, and asked to give alternative choices. Once enrolled, students have one week to finalise their choice of subjects and have the opportunity of sampling a variety of subjects through attending lectures etc.

For further information on the courses listed, applicants are advised to consult the Course Descriptions on the website. For more information on the departments which offer the subjects, see the Departments section.

Major Options (List A)
Minor Options (List B)
Near and Middle East
Central Asia
South Asia
Languages- Only one language option can be chosen

N.B. all courses designated ‘PG’ require the student to attend an extra series of lectures and to write an essay or, for more advanced courses, possibly prepare a translation with commentary to count for 30% of the overall mark for the course

Programme Specification


Teaching & Learning

Teaching & Learning

Students take three taught courses (one major and two minor) and write a dissertation of 10,000 words. Each course has its own series of classes and seminars, and in addition students attend general lectures and seminars organised by the Middle East Centre. In most courses there is one two-hour class each week. This may be an informal lecture followed by a discussion or a student presentation. At Masters level there is particular emphasis on seminar work where students may be expected to make full-scale presentations for units they take. The dissertation is on an approved topic linked to one of the taught courses. For further details on the structure of the programme and the courses available, see the menu at left.

Learning resources

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.


Graduates in MA Near and Middle Eastern Studies have entered various professions after leaving the School. Some have been able to pursue careers directly related to their study area while others have made use of the general intellectual training provided by the advanced study of cultures for involvement in analysing and solving many of the problems contemporary societies now face. Among a variety of professions, career paths may include academia, charity work, community, government, NGOs, media and publishing, UN agencies SOAS Careers Services The School has a careers service available to all SOAS students while they are at the school, free of charge. This office helps with job listings, interviews during "milk rounds", putting together CVs, and even organising postgraduate study.

A Student's Perspective

Before I came to SOAS, I knew that my grade would depend on either one or two large assignments and I was apprehensive about that—almost scared, however I am glad as I got to learn a lot about myself as a student. I became more independent academically and got to see what I can really accomplished without teachers “coddling” me along the way. Extremely refreshing!

Tamara Bah, American University, Washington