Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (AMES) covers the major languages and civilisations of Asia, from the Middle East (Arabic, Persian and Hebrew) to the Far East (Japanese and Chinese). This is a broad ranging course that includes the opportunity to study the language, culture, history and politics of your chosen subject. Intensive language training provides a key to discovering these exciting cultures. 

Students for Asian and Middle Eastern Studies follow one of three pathways

  • East Asian Studies: Students choose either Chinese or Japanese language.
  • Middle Eastern Studies: Students choose either Arabic, Hebrew or Persian as a single subject or a combination of two of these languages.
  • Middle Eastern Studies with a modern language: Students choose either Arabic, Hebrew or Persian in combination with one language offered by the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages (MML).

Students studying Asian & Middle Eastern Studies attain a high level of competence in the language and a thorough grounding in the culture of the area(s) studied.

All the courses in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies are four-year courses including a Year Abroad. The whole third year of the four-year course is spent abroad in a relevant country to improve fluency in the chosen language and knowledge of the culture.

Academic Requirements:

No particular subjects at A level (or equivalent) are required for the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies course. A language at A level is not essential, however we do look for evidence of ability to learn languages, since this is such a central part of our courses. 

All languages are taught from scratch, so there is no requirement for any previous knowledge of them. Our courses may not be suitable for people who already have a thorough knowledge of the language in both its spoken and written forms. However, this should in no way discourage potential applicants from spending some time in the relevant country, and/or learning some of the language.

See also Entrance requirements for additional advice about general requirements for entry, qualifications and offers.

What we are looking for:

Candidates will need a clear head for grammar, the recognition of linguistic patterns and the learning of vocabulary. Although an experience of language learning is extremely useful, several students have excelled in this Tripos despite differing backgrounds.

Apart from language learning all available subjects involve essay writing on a wide range of topics. An independent approach for learning together with evidence of wide reading will be expected. Enthusiasm is also essential, as is the ability to work in small groups.


Candidates who are invited to interview will be asked to submit two marked essays or other written work. This should be in a related discipline which the candidate is studying/ has studied. No prior knowledge of the subject will either be expected or required.

Candidates will be asked to sit a written assessment on the day of their interview. At present, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies applicants receive two or three interviews (depending on choice of subject) on the same day, with either two or three interviewers. Interviews are intended to inform us of your motivation and your overall ability and potential. One will be with the Director of Studies, usually joined by a specialist in the candidate’s chosen subject.

Director of Studies: Dr Sally Church

Find out more about AMES on the faculty website and the University Undergraduate Prospectus. Specific information on the available courses within AMES can be found on the specific subject sites: Chinese Studies, Japanese Studies, Arabic Studies and Persian Studies, Hebrew Studies.

Student profile:

Kylie Moore-Gilbert

"The Asian and Middle Eastern Studies degree at Cambridge is truly one of a kind, and if you are thinking about taking up this varied and challenging tripos there is no better place to base yourself than Wolfson. Aside from the fact that Wolfson is situated a mere 3 minutes walk from the AMES faculty, meaning you are literally able to roll out of bed with 5 minutes to spare and still make it to lectures on time, Wolfson provides the perfect environment for stress free academic success, with all the generosity and flexibility required by such a unique and demanding subject.

As a student of Arabic and Hebrew the bulk of your time is spent on language acquisition, and being a small faculty you are given an incredible amount of individual attention- small class sizes and private ‘two on one’ supervisions ensure you make the best possible progress with what to some are immensely challenging languages. In addition to language studies, there really is a huge variety of subject options available to further your knowledge of the cultural, linguistic and historical nature of the region- in your first year you take lectures on topics as diverse as the origins of the 1979 Iranian Revolution to the socio-linguistics of Semitic languages, with scope to expand and deepen your interests even further in the following years.

If you are considering this tripos - either with a focus on the Middle East or the Far East - I would really encourage you to give it a go, and as a mature undergraduate there really is nowhere quite like Wolfson."

Kylie has since graduated and is currently a PhD candidate in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne, Australia.