Politics and international relations in the Middle East display many of the characteristic features of the modern world. Contentious legacies of imperial map-making fuel frontier disputes and throw into question the legitimacy of the territorial nation state. Governments have been repeatedly challenged by populations tired of the old rationales for authoritarian rule and angered by its repressive effects. The politics of national identity, sometimes bound up with ideas of religious identity, have been given new urgency by class conflict, by military occupation and by the growth of the security state. Meanwhile, the long history of external intervention in the states of the region has heightened domestic and regional tensions.
The degree offers students an opportunity to study politics in the region through a number of disciplinary approaches, such as political sociology (class, gender, ethnicity and sect), comparative politics (state power, political economy of development, democratic openings and nationalism), and international politics (war, international political economy, regionalism and dependency). At the same time, it provides thematic courses that encourage students to look at political processes in the region from distinct perspectives, such as the study of political violence, the examination of the politics of resistance and the understanding of Islamic political ideologies and political movements.
At Masters level there is particular emphasis on seminar work. Students are expected to read extensively, to make a number of presentations and to engage actively in seminar discussions. They are also expected to write substantial papers, guided by their course tutors, but requiring significant independent work.
Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings
Start of programme: September intake only
Mode of Attendance: Full-time or Part-time
- The qualification for entry is normally a first or upper-second class honours degree (or equivalent) in Politics or International Relations, or a related social science discipline. Applicants without such a background may be considered for admission depending on their academic training and undergraduate performance.
- One calendar year (full-time)
Two or three years (part-time, daytime only)
- UK/EU fees:
- Overseas fees:
Fees for 2020/21 entrants. This is a Band 3 fee. The fees are per academic year. Please note that fees go up each year. Further details can be found in the Fees and Funding tab on this page or in the Registry Postgraduate Tuition Fees page
Introducing Middle East Politics
The Middle East’s strategic location, the complexity of its geopolitical relations, the variety of its socioeconomic contexts, and uprisings, wars, and revolutions all make the region a frequent feature of nightly news. Professor Laleh Khalili, Professor of Middle East Politics, discusses how the MSc in Middle East Politics helps students go beyond the headlines to understand the region’s politics.
What does the course involve?
The course requires that students learn broadly – via core courses that cover the politics, economics and political societies of the whole region – and go deep on subjects of their own interest and our expertise. These subjects include (but are not limited to) the political sociology of Islam, urban politics, the politics of infrastructure, political violence, the politics of law and violence, Islamic ideologies, international politics of the region, anticolonial politics, and so on. The students will read and write intensively and will have the chance to present their work and have scholarly discussions and debates in the classroom. A dissertation will give the students the opportunity to pick a subject about which they are passionate, and conduct extensive and focussed research on it.
What kind of students will the course appeal to?
The course appeals to intellectually curious students who want to learn more about what is happening in a region that seems to rarely leave the news. Students from social science backgrounds, or who have studied history, or the cultures and language of the region during their undergraduate education will find the course amenable. We also have a significant number of students who return to the academy after a period of professional work, in order to deepen their knowledge of the region, and bring with them the diversity and depth of their experiences. We have an extraordinarily diverse student body, with many of our students from the region, and we believe this diversity enhances both the social and learning experience of our students.
What facilities are available?
SOAS Library is one of the world’s most important specialist libraries for material pertaining to the politics of the region, in both English and the languages of the region (as well as other world languages). Our students are encouraged to take language modules alongside their discursive courses to further enhance their skills and abilities. SOAS is also one of the most important places in London for events related to the arts, culture, and politics of the Middle East.
What is special about the programme at SOAS?
Our programme is unique in the UK, even in Europe, in its depth and coverage. The combination of our lecturers’ expertise and scholarly backgrounds and approaches give the students access to an exciting range of thematic subjects and country focus. All of us draw on our research to shape the modules we teach, and as such the material in our courses are fresh, up to date and engage with a broad range of the most recent theories and cases. On many of the modules, students are encouraged to conduct first-hand research on the subjects which interests them.
Additionally, the students have access to the events and modules of a number of regional centres, including the Centre for Iranian Studies, Centre for Palestine Studies, and within the London Middle East Institute. We also encourage our students to broaden their knowledge by taking relevant courses in other departments of the school.
We are also incredibly lucky to be located in London and within walking distance of the British Library and a number of museums, which often have exciting programmes of events pertaining to the Middle East. Many of us also collaborate regularly with galleries and other venues to put on events related to the Middle East, and appear regularly on television and radio shows to comment on the region’s politics.
Can you recommend good resources on Middle East Politics?
The region is so varied in its politics that it is difficult to choose a single book to cover it, but one of the best places to start learning about the region’s politics is Middle East Report. Middle East Report is a magazine that regularly contains sharp, lucid, and clearly written non-academic pieces by some of the most respected scholars of the region. It is always a brilliant place to start learning about what is going on in the region – and of course to discover who are the people doing some of the most exciting research on the region.
What do students do after graduating?
Our students have gone on to work as journalists, editors, political analysts and researchers for think-tanks and industry, risk analysts, and for national governments. Many work in the fields of international development or human rights. Some work for the United Nations and other international organisations. A significant proportion of our Masters students also go on to study for doctorates.
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 must take 180 credits comprised of 120 taught credits (including core and option modules) and a 60 credit dissertation.
Dissertation MUST be on some aspect of Middle East Politics.
Choose one module to the value of 15 credits from List A below.
- 75 credits from List B below and
- 30 credits from List D below
- 45 credits from List B below and
- 30 credits from List C below and
- 30 credits from List D below
List of modules (subject to availability)
List B: Regional Politics Modules
Modules already selected under A cannot be selected again.
List C: Disciplinary Politics Modules
List D: Modules from other departments
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 & Learning
Modules are taught by a combination of methods, principally lectures, tutorial classes, seminars and supervised individual study projects.
The MSc programme consists of four taught modules (corresponding to four 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. 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 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.
Full details of postgraduate tuition fees can be found on the Registry's Postgraduate Tuition Fees page.
This is a Band 3 tuition fee.
Fees for 2020/21 entrants. The fees below are per academic year. Fees go up each year, therefore, your tuition fee in your second & subsequent years of study will be higher. Our continuing students, on the same degree programme, are protected from annual increases higher than 5%.
||Part-time 2 Years
||Part-time 3 Years
For further details and information on external scholarships visit the Scholarships section
SOAS MSc Middle East Politics students leave SOAS not only with a knowledge and understanding of the complex political and cultural issues of international politics, but also with a portfolio of widely transferable skills which employers seek in many professional and management careers, both in business and in the public sector.
For more information about Graduate Destinations from this department, please visit the Careers Service website.
A Student's Perspective
Like a jigsaw puzzle, everyone has a place here at SOAS; fitting together to make this wonderful university wonderful.