SOAS University of London

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

MA Iranian Studies and Intensive Persian (2018 entry)

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Among all universities in Europe and North America, SOAS host the biggest concentration of research and teaching staff working on Iranian history, politics, economics, religions, art and archeology, linguistics, Persian language and literature, media, film, anthropology and music. SOAS has the resources to offer a comprehensive, critical perspective on a variety of aspects of Iranian society and culture and go beyond the contemporary public debates around this country.

The MA in Iranian Studies enables students to critically assess the historical development of Iranian society, economics and culture within the context of the wider west Asian area and to appreciate the complexity of the history and cultural make up of Iran.

The flexible study programme and interdisciplinary curriculum will enrich students knowledge about the religious and politico-cultural influences affecting contemporary Iran and the region it is embedded in. Students will develop a critical understanding of the literature and/or of Iran and the diaspora and gain an understanding of Iran in the context of the Middle East with respect to gender, politics, Islam, music, and migration (minor module options).

This is an intensive language programme and, as a result, a large bulk of the module credits are assigned to the language component of the degree. The programme also involves a compulsory opportunity to study abroad and a dissertation on a chosen area of specialism.

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings

Start of programme: September

Mode of Attendance: Full-time or Part-time

Entry requirements

  • Minimum upper second class honours degree (or equivalent)

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Introducing MA Iranian Studies

Arshin Adib-Moghaddam

With a growing demand for experts in Iranian affairs, Professor Arshin Adib-Moghaddam provides an overview of the MA Iranian Studies programme.

What does the course involve?

The course is unique in its approach. It provides an in-depth analysis of contemporary Iranian affairs from an inter-disciplinary perspective that exposes students to the full depth of expertise in Iranian Studies at SOAS. In addition, the course introduces students to the region that Iran is embedded in. The core course is team taught, which gives students the unique opportunity to work with several world-leading scholars.

Who will the course appeal to?

The course will appeal to a wide range of students interested in contemporary Iranian politics, international affairs, economics, culture and history. There is no language requirement to enter the course and the wide-ranging courses on offer ensure that students will not be "limited" to Iranian Studies.  

What facilities are available?

The course is embedded in a generous inter-departmental structure that gives students the opportunity to choose from a variety of courses in the Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East and the Department of Politics and International Studies. While the language component is not a prerequisite to study on this course, SOAS is world-renowned for its language courses. When we first conceived of the MA and wrote the core course, we made sure it was flanked by the Centre for Iranian Studies, which I have been chairing since 2013. The Centre also administers the generous Kamran Djam scholarships, which have supported some of our students in the past.

What is special about the programme at SOAS?

There is no university in the world that can boast such a concentration of scholarship about Iran. At SOAS, colleagues specialise in Iran's economy, religions, culture, poetry, literature, politics, languages and international relations. There is then, the unique opportunity to understand the mosaic complexity of this country from several perspectives. This is one of the reasons why the SOAS MA in Iranian Studies has grown into one of the biggest in the world in a very short period of time.

Can you recommend a good book to read on MA Iranian Studies?

Ervand Abrahamian's A History of Modern Iran is a good start. The new book series "The Global Middle East" by Cambridge University Press has been publishing several useful books about Iran and the region as well.

What do students do after graduating?

There is growing demand for experts in Iranian affairs, and West Asia and North Africa more generally. Our students have moved into careers in consultancy, academia, think-tanks, global business, and international diplomacy. 


Students must take 315 credits in total, comprised of 255 taught credits (45 of which are taught abroad as part of a Summer School) and a 60-credit dissertation as outlined below.

In their first year, students on the two-year Intensive Language programmes take 60 credits of intensive language instruction and 60 credits in the discipline. During the summer, they participate in a Summer School abroad. In the second year, they take another 30 language credits as well as 60 credits in the discipline; they also complete their dissertation in the discipline. 

For information on the programme structure for the four-year part-time version of the programme, please see the pdf programme specification at the bottom of this page.

Year 1

(2 years full-time)

Core Module

Students select 30 credits of Persian Language modules at an appropriate level plus the core module.

Module Code Credits Term
Iran: History, Culture, Politics 15PNMC405 30 Full Year

Year 1 (four years part-time)

30 credits of Persian language modules at an appropriate level plus one of the following compulsory modules below, plus an additional 15 credits from the open options list.

At the end of year one students participate in an Intensive Persian Language Summer Abroad (15PNMC145)

Choose one of the following compulsory 15 credits below, plus 30 credits from List A or List B and an additional 15 credits from the open options list
Module Code Credits Term
Intensive Persian Language 15PNMC415 60 Full Year
This degree programme can also be taken part-time over 4 years
Core Module

Students select 30 credits of Persian Language modules at an appropriate level plus the core module.

(2 years full-time)

Choose one of the compulsory 15 credits below, plus 30 credits from 'List A' or 'List B' and an additional 15 credits from the open options list

Choose one of the following compulsory 15 credits below, plus 30 credits from List A or List B and an additional 15 credits from the open options list
Module Code Credits Term
Persian 3 (PG) 15PNMC408 30 Full Year
Module Code Credits Term
Dissertation in Iranian Studies 15PNMC998 60 Full Year
List of modules (subject to availability)
Development Studies
Module Code Credits Term
Zoroastrianism: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives 15PSRC052 30 Full Year
Classical Persian Poetry: Texts and Traditions (PG) 15PNMC401 15 Term 1
Avestan I 15PSRC033 30 Full Year
Middle Persian 15PSRC034 30 Full Year
Gender Studies
Module Code Credits Term
Modern Trends in Islam 15PNMC228 30 Full Year
Gender, Protest, and Revolution in the Middle East 15PGNH001 15 Term 1
International Politics of the Middle East 15PPOH047 15 Term 2
Islam and political ideologies 15PPOH007 15 Term 2
750C Ethnographic Locations: Near and Middle East 15PANH067 15
Problems of Development in the Middle East and North Africa 15PDSH019 15 Term 2


Programme Specification

Important notice

The information on the programme page reflects the intended programme structure against the given academic session. If you are a current student you can find structure information on the previous year link at the top of the page or through your Department. Please read the important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules.

Teaching and Learning

Teaching & Learning

Contact Hours

One-year Masters programmes consist of 180 credits. 120 credits are taught in modules of 30 credits (taught over 20 weeks) or 15 credits (taught over 10 weeks); the dissertation makes up the remaining 60 units. The programme structure shows which modules are compulsory and which optional.

As a rough guide, 1 credit equals approximately 10 hours of work. Most of this will be independent study, including reading and research, preparing coursework and revising for examinations. It will also include class time, which may include lectures, seminars and other classes. Some subjects, such as learning a language, have more class time than others. At SOAS, most postgraduate modules have a one hour lecture and a one hour seminar every week, but this does vary. 

More information is on the page for each module.

Learning Outcomes

  • Acquire specific factual knowledge about modern Iranian history and politics, religion and society, arts, literature, media, economics.
  • Appreciate the diversity and complexity of contemporary Iranian society and culture.
  • In the intensive language pathway, students will furthermore be able to study a language to a certain level of proficiency, thus immersing them in the language of the region.
Intellectual (thinking) skills
  • Critically assess the historical development of Iranian society, economics and culture within the context of the wider west Asian area.
  • Analyse Iran in accordance with an interdisciplinary curriculum and a flexible study programme encompassing the full range of historical, cultural and socio-economic aspects of the country in past and present.
  • Students will learn how to assess data and evidence critically from a variety of sources and how to resolve problems of conflicting sources and conflicting interpretations.
  • Students will learn the strengths and disciplines of particular disciplinary and theoretical approaches, cultivating their ability to draw on a variety of such approaches.
  • Students will learn how to design and manage an independent research project, formulating the problem to be addressed, identifying the data to be analysed, and synthesizing the findings to present well-supported conclusions.
Subject-based practical skills
  • Learn to use Iran-related reference materials and research tools, the most recent research in various areas of Iranian studies presented in the core module and in the optional units.
  • Students will learn how to read critically, to participate effectively in seminar discussions, and to present their work in both oral and written form.
  • More specific skills will depend on the particular modules taken.
Transferrable skills
  • The ability to organise research, formulate arguments, gather and evaluate data, formulate conclusions and present these in a coherent and clear manner.
  • Students will learn how to access and evaluate electronic and other data effectively and efficiently.
  • Students will learn how to solve complex problems, for example concerning economic development, historical causation, literary interpretation, or political decision-making.
  • Students will learn how to communicate effectively in a variety of settings and formats.


As a postgraduate student specialising in Iranian Studies, 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.

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

A Student's Perspective

It’s a global experience and, thankfully, everyone is included, no matter what their colour, religion, or ‘class’.

Mysa Kafil-Hussain

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