SOAS University of London

Department of Politics and International Studies

MSc Politics of the Middle East (2021 entry)

Select year of entry: 2022 2021

  • Q&A
  • Structure
  • Teaching and Learning
  • Employment


Overview and entry requirements

SOAS has been the leading institution for the study of the Middle East for decades and the Department of Politics is world-renowned for its scholars’ combination of regional and disciplinary expertise.

The MSc Politics of the Middle East is further distinguished by its tutors’ critical perspectives and the cutting-edge modules on offer. The content balances historical and theoretical rigour with coverage of up-to-the-minute regional and global developments.

Students choose from modules covering the politics of resistance, religion, and solidarity, alongside urban politics, infrastructure, migration, artificial intelligence and human security.

The programme trains students in disciplinary approaches — political sociology, political economy, and international relations — while encouraging them to think and write across these disciplinary boundaries.

See Department of Politics and International Studies 

Why study MSc Politics of the Middle East at SOAS

We’re ranked 5th in the UK for Politics (QS World University Rankings 2021). 

SOAS itself is unique — our global student body, multi-disciplinary approach, critical and questioning attitude moves well beyond the focus on basic ‘skills training’ found in so many other programmes.

On this MSc, students’ learning and research are enhanced by access to the world-leading specialist SOAS Library, the opportunity to take a language module, and the vibrant programme of academic and student-run events on the Middle East at SOAS.


Start of programme: September intake only

Mode of Attendance: Full-time or Part-time

Who is this programme for?:

The MSc Politics of the Middle East is one of the Politics Department’s longest running and most popular programmes.

It attracts students who wish to build on their academic or professional connections with the Middle East, and to develop transferable skills for employment in a variety of fields.

Entry requirements

  • We will consider all applications with 2:ii (or international equivalent) or higher. In addition to degree classification we take into account other elements of the application including supporting statement and references.

Featured events

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



Introducing Middle East Politics

From international interventions and conflict to mass migration and uprisings, Middle East affairs influence the lives of millions around the world. Reem Abou-El-Fadl is Senior Lecturer in the Comparative Politics of the Middle East at SOAS, and co-convenor of the MSc Politics of the Middle East. She explains here how the programme helps students get to grips with these themes and connections.

Reem Abou el Fadl

What does this degree cover and what is special about it?

Our programme is unique in the UK and Europe for its rigour, depth, and cutting-edge content. First, it guarantees particularly thorough core training, offering two compulsory modules not one: these survey the politics of state and society in the region, and cover crucial research methods. Second, students enjoy a rich selection of optional modules, designed by scholars drawing on their own specialised research agendas. This ensures substantial engagement with the latest critical work in the field. Indeed SOAS Politics is home to the Cambridge Global Middle East series, founded by Professor Arshin Adib-Moghaddam. Finally, many of the MSc modules engage contemporary issues that are set to dominate Middle East politics for the foreseeable future. We teach well-established courses on the political sociology of Islam, political violence, and the politics of resistance, alongside popular new modules on urban politics, and the politics of infrastructure, transnational solidarity, prisons and borders, human security and artificial intelligence.

Students get to read widely in Middle East scholarship, and write presentations and extended essays of their own that improve their communication, research, and analytical skills. The dissertation is the assignment where this all comes together: as a deep engagement with a topic of personal interest, completing it is often particularly rewarding for our students. For a detailed look at the MSc programme’s aims, learning outcomes, and methods of assessment, you can check out the Programme Specification.

We have the great advantage to be based in Bloomsbury, London, a short walk from the British Library and British Museum, and within a hub of arts centres and galleries celebrating the Middle East through regular programmes of events. Many of us collaborate with such venues on their panels and exhibitions. We are of course also well aware of our setting in a former colonial metropolis and major world capital: our staff and students are often the first to comment on global and Middle East affairs, whether in the news and social media, or on campus.

What resources are available?

As an MSc student, you will have access to SOAS Library, one of the world's leading academic libraries for the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East. It has books and journals in every language of the region, including electronic resources, and an exciting archive of manuscripts and rare books which you can consult. One of my students this year used the SOAS Special Collections to write a fantastic online piece on Cuban-Arab political solidarity.

Alongside your Politics modules, you will be able to select a Middle East language, or Middle East related options from other SOAS departments. Such interdisciplinarity helps improve your grasp of the politics of the region, and in time, can allow you to use primary sources in your research.

Last but not least, you will be plugged into an almost dizzying network of political, cultural, and social events centred on the Middle East at SOAS, often coordinated by the SOAS Middle East Institute, and its Centres for Iranian and Palestine Studies, and by the Students Union. These are enhanced by and connected with the wider Middle East events scene in London. I can guarantee that you will be spoilt for choice!

What kind of students will this programme appeal to?

If you are intellectually curious and keen to be challenged, you will find yourself at home on the course. We welcome students with a variety of backgrounds – academically, most have studied the social sciences or humanities, and many have studied the languages of the region before joining us, but these are not prerequisites. Our students may also have professional backgrounds connected to the region through business or diplomacy for example. SOAS has a particularly high intake of students from the Middle East itself, and they enrich the programme with their insights and experiences.

Can you recommend good readings on Middle East Politics?

The region is so complex, and the scholarship on it in the English language alone so sophisticated, that it is hard to produce definite list. However, a great place to start are two online platforms for Middle East current affairs analysis, as they are run and written by academics, with first-hand cultural and linguistic knowledge of the region: Middle East Report and Jadaliyya e-zine. They feature historically informed and critical commentary on regional politics, with short pieces that are a perfect introduction to the wider research of their authors. I would also encourage you to take a look at the latest publications of our academic staff! This will give you a flavour of the research that informs our teaching, and the kinds of questions we will be asking together.

What do students do after graduating?

Our graduates excel in an array of fields and venues: media and publishing, political parties and national government, human rights and development NGOs, political consultancy for think-tanks, and regional and international organisations. Of course many also stay on for PhDs, often at SOAS, and we are always excited at the opportunity to keep working with them.

If you would like to find out more, or to ask a current student about their experience of studying at SOAS, please get in touch!



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.

Students take taught modules to the value of 120 credits PLUS a 10,000 word dissertation (15PPOC999) worth 60 credits.

Credits must be taken in the following combination;

  • Dissertation (15PPOC999) (60 credits) – must be on some aspect of Middle East Politics
  • Methodology in the Social Science (15PPOH060) (15 credits)
  • A minimum of 15 credits from List A
  • A minimum of 45 credits from List B (if not already chosen from List A)
  • A maximum of 45 credits from List C
Module Code Credits Term
Dissertation in Politics and International Studies 15PPOC999 60 Full Year
Core Modules
Module Code Credits Term
Methodology in the Social Sciences 15PPOH060 15 Term 1


  • At least 15 credits from List A
  • At least 45 credits from List B
  • A maximum of 45 credits from List C
List A

A minimum of 15 credits from List A

Module Code Credits Term
State and Transformation in the Middle East 15PPOH011 15 Term 1
Political Society in the Middle East 15PPOH008 15 Term 2
List B

A minimum of 45 credits from List B (if not already chosen from List A)

Module Code Credits Term
State and Transformation in the Middle East 15PPOH011 15 Term 1
International Politics of the Middle East 15PPOH047 15 Term 1
Market Politics: Political Economies of a Globalizing Middle East 15PPOH075 15 Term 1
Islam and Politics 15PPOH006 15 Term 2
Political Society in the Middle East 15PPOH008 15 Term 2
Infrastructures, Conflict and Struggle 15PPOH041 15 Term 2
Urban Politics in the Middle East 15PPOH042 15 Term 2
Artificial Intelligence and Human Security 15PPOH048 15 Term 1
Theorising Prisons, Borders and Walls 15PPOH074 15 Term 2
List C

A maximum of 45 credits from List C (including language options)

Module Code Credits Term
Geopolitics and Security in Central Asia and the Caucasus 15PPOH023 15 Term 2
Political Thought on the Just Rebellion 15PPOH030 15 Term 2
Gender, Protest, and Revolution in the Middle East 15PGNH001 15 Term 1
Empire and Reform in the Modern Middle East, 1789-1914 15PHIH031 15 Term 1
Critical Perspectives on Palestine Studies I: History and Politics 15PNMH006 15 Term 1
Foreign Policy Analysis 15PPOH013 15 Term 2
State Violence: Theories of the Leviathan and Beyond 15PPOH034 15 Term 2
Introduction to Quantitative Methods in Social Research 15PPOH035 15 Term 2
Queer Politics in Asia, Africa and the Middle East 15PGNH007 15 Term 2
Nationalism and Revolution in the Modern Middle East, 1914-1979 15PHIH032 15 Term 2
Mediated Culture in the Middle East: Politics and Communications 15PMSH003 15 Term 2
Critical Perspectives on Palestine Studies II: Culture and Society 15PNMH007 15 Term 2
Islamic Law (MA/LLM) 15PLAC121 30 Full Year
Iran: History, Culture, Politics 15PNMC405 30 Full Year
Persian 1 A (PG) 15PNMH016 15 Term 1
Persian 1 B (PG) 15PNMH017 15 Term 2
Turkish 1 A (PG) 15PNMH014 15 Term 1
Turkish 1B (PG) 15PNMH015 15 Term 2
Arabic 1 A (PG) 15PNMH029 15 Term 1
Arabic 1 B (PG) 15PNMH028 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

Modules are taught by a combination of methods, principally lectures, tutorial classes, seminars and supervised individual study projects.

The MSc programme consists of three taught modules (corresponding to three examination papers) and a dissertation.


Most modules involve a 50-minute lecture as a key component with linked tutorial classes.


At Masters level there is particular emphasis on seminar work taking place in two-hour sessions. Students make full-scale presentations for each unit that they take, and are expected to write papers that often require significant independent work.


A quarter of the work for the degree is given over to the writing of an adequately researched 10,000-word dissertation. Students are encouraged to take up topics which relate the study of a particular region to a body of theory.

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.



SOAS Politics and International Relations students leave SOAS not only with a knowledge and understanding of the complex political and cultural issues of our time, but also with a portfolio of widely transferable skills which employers seek in many professional and management careers.

Recent graduates from the Department of Politics and International Studies have been hired by:

  • BBC World Service
  • Bloomberg
  • British Red Cross
  • British Council
  • Center for International Peace Operations
  • Channel 4
  • Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA)
  • Department for International Development (DfID)
  • Eversheds LLP
  • Financial Times
  • Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO)
  • Global Policy Institute
  • Go East Consulting
  • Grassroot Diplomat
  • Palestine Red Crescent Association
  • Save the Children
  • UNICEF Ethiopia
  • United Nations

Find out about our Careers Service.

A Student's Perspective

With some of the West’s leading experts on Taiwan’s political economy, SOAS was the ideal place for me to study cross-Strait relations

Daniel Mojahedi

Find out more